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FAA could reconsider electronic device policy for flights

The Federal Aviation Administration is forming an industry group to study when devices can be turned on during a flight.

tyPad on a plane
The tyPad being used on an airplane seat-back tray.
Josh Lowensohn/CNET

Airline passengers may soon be able to use their smartphones and tablets during flights with fewer interruptions.

The Federal Aviation Administration has formed a committee to reconsider its policy on when electronic devices can be turned on during a flight.

"With so many different types of devices available, we recognize that this is an issue of consumer interest," Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in a statement released today. "Safety is our highest priority, and we must set appropriate standards as we help the industry consider when passengers can use the latest technologies safely during a flight."

And, travelers who are worried that this may mean they'll have to listen to the person sitting next to them chat on the phone incessantly don't need to worry -- this policy review will not include allowing calls from cell phones during flights.

Airlines currently prohibit passengers from using devices during takeoff and landing in fear that transmissions would interferer with the airplane's equipment, but the FAA's call for comments said consumers expect a much more fluid experience. The formation of an industry group to take on the consumer desire versus safety concern issue comes after the FAA said earlier this year that it was going to research the issue.

The group -- which will includes members from the mobile industry, aviation manufacturing, as well as pilot and flight attendant groups, airlines, and passenger associations -- will begin soliciting comments from the public tomorrow.

The committee is interested in hearing from aircraft operators, flight crews, security, device manufacturers, and passengers.