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Wireless group wants fliers to switch on after takeoff

Trade group says radio transmitter could be shut off, while larger device remained on for gaming, other functions.

Airline passengers may no longer have to switch off their wireless devices while in flight, if the Consumer Electronics Association has its way.

Rules for disabling wireless devices are designed to prevent radio interference with airplane functions. Since it's often hard to tell when the radio in a wireless device has been deactivated, the entire machine gets shut off.

The CEA announced a project Thursday to create a method of easily determining when the radio has been disabled, so other features, such as gaming, can still be used.

"Many wireless devices can operate without transmitting, such as the use of a game player on a mobile phone, or the use of a personal organizer on a wireless PDA," said Douglas Johnson, senior director for technology policy at the CEA. "In these and similar cases, we expect it will be useful for airline passengers and others to know and be able to verify whether the wireless part of their device is enabled or disabled."

The group is working on a way to let users easily disable and enable the transmitter and is looking to develop a readily identifiable symbol for incorporation into devices that would show when the radio has been switched off. The CEA is also encouraging the airline and technology industries to use a consistent terminology in regard to wireless devices.

Representatives of wireless device makers, component manufacturers, airlines, pilots and flight attendants are working on a recommended practice, which should be completed by the fall, the CEA said.

The Consumer Electronics Association is a trade association made up of 1,500 member companies promoting the growth of consumer technologies. It sponsors and manages the CES confab.