Thanks to the proliferation of mobile gadgets like the iPad, the Federal Aviation Administration is revisiting issues surrounding when airline passengers can make use of their portable electronic devices.
The FAA is forming a government-industry group that will assess policies and procedures airlines use to decide when devices can be used safely during a flight and which new devices can be safely used.
The government agency said it is not looking into whether cell phones can be used to talk during flights. Still, one of the questions the FCC has asked is whether voice communications using alternative technologies like voice over IP should be limited or restricted. A spokesman for the FAA could not be immediately reached late Tuesday to comment on the FAA's current VoIP policies.
Acknowledging the widespread use of mobile devices for business and personal uses, the FAA is entertaining the idea of making it easier for passengers to use them.
"While FCC regulations allow aircraft operators to demonstrate when and which PEDs can be safely used, few aircraft operators have allowed use of devices during critical phases of flight (e.g., takeoff and landing)," the FAA stated in a public notice seeking comment on use of wireless devices on aircraft. "Recognizing that some passengers may wish to use their devices throughout a flight, the FAA is requesting comments regarding the FAA's policies, guidance, and procedures that aircraft operators use to determine whether to allow a particular PED for usage during flight."
The government-industry group will be established this fall and meet for six months, then make recommendations to the FAA. It will include representatives from the airlines, mobile technology and aviation manufacturing industries, pilot and flight attendant groups and passenger associations.
Meantime, the FAA is soliciting comments on a variety of issues, including the operational, safety and security challenges associated with expanding use of portable electronic devices.
“We’re looking for information to help air carriers and operators decide if they can allow more widespread use of electronic devices in today’s aircraft," said Acting FAA Administrator Michael Huerta in a statement. “We also want solid safety data to make sure tomorrow’s aircraft designs are protected from interference."