FAA To Allow Use of Electronic Devices During Takeoff, Landing?

Flickr user ShaneRobinson

Alec Baldwin and other gadget-addicted fliers may be getting some good news later this year, as the Federal Aviation Administration will likely reverse its ban on using most portable electronic devices during takeoff and landing.

An advisory panel of government and industry experts will issue its recommendation to end the ban in September, according to Wall Street Journal reporter Andy Pasztor, who obtained a draft of the study. The move comes just months after reports the FAA was being heavily pressured by both consumers and Congress.

The panel was recently given a two-month extension by the FAA to further study potential safety ramifications of eliminating the ban, which has been in place since the 1960s.

While the use of laptop computers and tablets will likely be allowed during low altitudes, the current ban on cell phone calls will likely remain in effect.

The FAA “recognizes consumers are intensely interested in the use of personal electronics aboard aircraft,” an agency spokesperson told Pasztor, “that is why we tasked a government-industry group to examine the safety issues and the feasibility of changing the current restrictions.”

The proposed move comes months after Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) threatened to introduce a bill eliminating the ban if the FAA failed to do it on its own.

“It’s good to see the FAA may be on the verge of acknowledging what the traveling public has suspected for years-that current rules are arbitrary and lack real justification,” McCaskill said in a statement shortly after the news leaked. “In the meantime, I’ll continue my effort to have these regulations rigorously examined until scientific evidence has been presented to justify them, or the rules are altered.”

Earlier this year, the DePaul University Chaddick Institute for Metropolitan Development estimated the electronic device ban costs U.S. industry more than 105 million hours of productivity annually.