East Hawaii News

Airlines Can Allow More Use of Electronic Devices

October 31, 2013, 10:39 AM HST
* Updated October 31, 10:43 AM
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The Federal Aviation Administration is relaxing rules regarding the use of electronic devices on aircraft from gate to gate – but is leaving it up to airlines to determine whether they can be safely used on their flights.

The FAA said airlines also must first demonstrate to the agency that their aircraft can safely handle radio interference from portable electronic devices or PEDs before allowing their use.

However, the devices must be used in “airplane mode” except when above 10,000 feet.

Airplane mode is a setting on mobile phones and similar devices that suspends many of the signal transmitting functions.

That means the devices can be used to listen to music or read e-books but not to make phone calls.

And there could be exceptions to the new rules, the FAA said.

“At certain times — for example, a landing in reduced visibility — the captain may tell passengers to turn off their devices to make absolutely sure they don’t interfere with onboard communications and navigation equipment,” the agency said in a FAQ section on its website.

The FAA said it anticipates the changes to take place within several months.

Under current rules, passengers are required to turn off their smartphones and other devices when a plane’s door closes and during descents for landing, but are usually allowed to use them once the aircraft reaches an altitude of 10,000 feet.

The previous rules were based on “reports of suspected interference to communication and navigation systems” from PEDs, the agency said, and the new rules are designed to minimize possible interference.

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