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03/25/2013

Airlines to let us keep gadgets running during takeoff?

Could it be time for airlines to let us use devices during takeoff? If reports are correct, the FAA could be gearing up to allow just that.

The New York Times reports that the Authority - which is responsible for regulating US airspace - could be preparing to loosen its traditionally tight grip on our Kindles, iPads, and smartphones.

Last year, the FAA set up a group to study the use of electronic devices before takeoff. At the end of July, it will reveal its findings. In the meantime, US lawmakers are drafting legislation to force the Authority to lighten up on in-flight gadgets, in case it doesn't change its policy voluntarily.

Currently, flight attendants ask passengers to power down anything with a screen during takeoff. This restriction is partly to cover smartphones or anything with a radio transmitter, which they say can interfere with the aircraft during flight. That said, pilots have been known to use iPads during all stages of flight.

Today, passenger restrictions also include Kindle devices that don't even use electricity unless you're turning a digital 'page' (and even then, the electricity consumption is very low).

New rules could see a lifting of the restriction on ereaders, although many of these devices also have built-in WiFi or cellular connectivity.

If the FAA did pass new rules, they wouldn't affect passengers taking off in Canada, but those on flights returning from the US would probably enjoy the benefits. And it's likely that where the US goes in terms of flight rules, Canada will happily follow. 

How manageable or policeable could a looser restriction be? Could we see attendants asking us to put our smartphones into flight mode rather than powering them down altogether? And how would the attendant check that?

Perhaps the more important question is: are we really so wedded to our electronic devices that we can't deal with turning them off for 15 minutes, and reading the in-flight magazine, or - heaven forbid - talking to the person sitting next to us?

 Danny Bradbury, MSN Tech & Gadgets 

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Danny BradburyDanny Bradbury

Danny Bradbury is a technology journalist with 20 years' experience. He writes regularly for publications including the Guardian, the Financial Times, the Financial Post, and Backbone magazine. Danny also writes and directs documentaries.

Maurice CachoMaurice Cacho

Maurice Cacho is a Toronto-based journalist mixing his love for tech with a passion for news. He's also CP24's Web Journalist and appears daily on CP24 Breakfast and weekly on the channel's tech show, Webnation, discussing tech news and trends.

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