There may come a day when airline passengers can use Google‘s (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android, Apple‘s (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPad, Sony‘s (NYSE:SNE) VAIO and myriad other brands of portable electronic devices (PEDs) during an entire flight.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is forming a group to study its current policies and procedures regarding consumer use of PEDs during flights.
Currently, airline travelers are permitted to use PEDs during most flights, but are required to flip the switch during takeoff and landing. Many passengers gripe about the requirements, but the FAA is concerned that signals from PEDs could interfere with electronic devices in the cockpit when the plane is traveling below 10,000 feet.
“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 press release. “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.”
The government-industry group being set up by the FAA will examine a variety of issues, including the testing methods aircraft operators use to determine which new technologies passengers can safely use aboard aircraft and when they can use them. The use of cell phones for voice communications during flights will not be examined.
“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,” Acting FAA Administrator Michael Huerta said in a statement. “We also want solid safety data to make sure tomorrow’s aircraft designs are protected from interference.”
Whatever decision will be made about PEDs, one thing is certain … the FAA will not be drawing conclusions anytime soon.
The research committee will be formally established this fall and will meet for at least six months and then submit a recommendation to the FAA. The FAA will then deliberate — a process that could take another six months or longer — before reaching a verdict.