FAA Acts On Personal Electronic Devices

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The FAA is providing airlines with implementation guidance to expand passenger use of portable electronic devices during all phases of flight, FAA Administrator Michael Huerta said Thursday, but there will be restrictions. The FAA was advised by a committee, which determined that the effects of electronic devices not operating via WiFi or cell tower posed little threat. According to Huerta, landing systems involved in about 1 percent of all flights may not be proven to tolerate interference and in those cases passengers may be asked to turn off their portables. Airlines may now submit the results of tolerance tests to the FAA for approval, and some already have. Internet connections and cellphone calls are another matter.

Delta has submitted paperwork for approval, with a spokesman telling USA Today that all of the carrier's aircraft had been subjected to the required tolerance tests already. JetBlue, which operates fewer aircraft, is also hoping for a competitively early start. The FAA’s decision was influenced by the committee’s determination that “most commercial airplanes can tolerate radio interference from portable electronic devices,” Huerta said.  The FAA will request that airlines ask passengers to store heavier items during critical phases of flight. Cellular telephone use is not affected by the new rules, so consumers may see no changes there. And use of WiFi devices will remain approved only at altitudes above 10,000 feet.