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Friday, June 21, 2013

F.A.A. Set to Relax Rules for Devices on Planes

An industry working group assigned by the Federal Aviation Administration to research the use of electronics on airplanes is expected to recommend relaxing the ban on portable electronic devices during takeoff and landing.

One member of the group, who asked for anonymity because they were not allowed to speak publicly about internal discussions, said the panel is currently drafting a document that will recommend a wider use of devices, including tablets and smartphones used only for data like e-mail but not talking, during takeoff and landing.

One of the recommendations under consideration in the document would be to allow “gate-to-gate usage” of electronics, meaning that devces could be left on, in a limited “airplane mode,” from the moment the gate door closes on the tarmac until the plane arrives at the gate of its destination.

But the person who has seen a draft of the report said there are still concerns about the use of electronics during landing, where the use of flight instruments is paramount, indicating the recommendation could still change.

The advisory group was supposed to deliver its findings by July 31, but the source said the group, has asked for an extension until September.

The F.A.A. did not respond to a request for comment about the filing extension or the current draft of the working group document.

Last year, the F.A.A. announced the creation of the working group to study the use of electronics during takeoff and landing. The group, which first met in January, comprises people from various industries, including Amazon, the Consumer Electronics Association, Boeing, the Association of Flight Attendants, the Federal Communications Commission and aircraft makers.

The group has several goals beyond determining the safety of electronics on planes, including ensuring that whatever rules the agency announces apply to devices that are not on the market today.

Last year, the F.A.A. began approving the use of iPads in the cockpit for pilots in lieu of paper navigation charts and manuals.