FAA ready to power down paranoia over devices?

By this time next year, aviation authorities may actually allow reading devices to stay on for the duration of a flight.

iPad in cockpit
This is OK, and yet I can't finish "50 Shades of Grey" on landing? Alaska Airlines

Your Kindle could finally be liberated during take-off and landing on flights in the U.S. by this time next year.

Many of us have had the experience of doing a double-take when the flight attendant asks us to power down an e-reader, even when it's already in airplane mode. My old-school Kindle isn't even backlit -- there are probably more emissions coming through the fillings in my teeth; perhaps I should stow those under the seat in front of me as well?

I'm guessing that might freak out the federal air marshal aboard my next flight.

But it appears that a day of reckoning is coming for the ban on e-readers during those critical periods of a flight, you know the take-off and landing periods when the crew members in many planes are reviewing flight manuals on their completely legal iPads and other electronic devices in the cockpit.

According to a pair of anonymous Federal Aviation Administration and industry sources who spoke with the New York Times, the FAA is hoping to announce by the end of the year that reading devices will finally be allowed to stay turned on for the duration of a flight, so long as they're in airplane mode. The rule change would reportedly not apply to cell phones, even those super big-screened Samsung phones -- sorry, Galaxy Note fans.

Last year, the Federal Communications Commission and the electronics and aviation industries teamed up to launch a study on the use of devices on planes. The group's findings are set to be announced this summer.

The FAA has been receiving more pressure in the last year, from Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) and members of the FCC , among others, to re-evaluate the electronics policy, which originated many years ago when pilots reported apparent interference with equipment in the cockpit from wireless devices in the cabin. In the intervening years, a plethora of new electronic devices with an even wider list of uses and varying degrees of electronic emissions have begun to make their way onto flights, including wearable health monitoring devices, and e-readers.

The emergence of smart watches and technology like Google Glass is likely to only complicate things further and lead to more confrontations between flight crew enforcing federal rules and passengers making a stand against what seems increasingly like bureaucratic nonsense.

McCaskill has said that if the FAA fails to act, lawmakers could introduce legislation to force a change. And one day I'll read all about it out of the corner of my eye using our Pocket app for Google Glass while taking off on a flight back to Albuquerque.

It's time to update that old song: The future's looking so bright, I've gotta order sunglass inserts.

 

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