The Federal Aviation Administration announced this week it will reconsider its restrictions on passengers' use of electronic devices during flights.
Under current FAA rules, passengers must shut off electronic devices when the plane is below 10,000 feet because of worries that signals emitted by the devices will interfere with electronics in the cockpit. To be approved for use, a device must be tested and proved not to cause interference with the plane's electronics. That rule has not been updated since 2006, and critics call it outdated.
Agency officials are quick to point out that allowing cellphones is not up for discussion. But to passengers who'd like to look over an e-book while their plane waits on line to reach the runway, a rule change would be a big help.
"Reading is reading, and it shouldn’t make a difference whether I bought a book or newspaper at Hudson News or downloaded the same content while waiting to board my flight," Jot Carpenter, an executive with wireless industry association CTIA, wrote on the site's blog.
To allow passengers like Carpenter to keep their devices on would require more than a simple rule change. Testing each device would be a task worthy of Sisyphus. However, the FAA could decide that entire categories of devices are permissible.
Loosening the ban could allow passengers to squeeze out a bit more time on their iPads , e-readers and laptops. But don't get your hopes up for your holiday travels: The recommendation from the FAA is not due until March 2013.