The FAA says it may liberalize rules governing the use of personal electronics (not cellphones) on airliners after it tests the latest and greatest tablets and other devices. Tech blogger Nick Bilton accidentally broke the story last week when he called the FAA to complain about what he considers an antiquated rule. Instead of brushing him off, FAA spokeswoman Laura Brown told Bilton the agency is taking a "fresh look" at the current electronics ban during taxi, takeoff and landing. "With the advent of new and evolving electronic technology, and because the airlines have not conducted the testing necessary to approve the use of new devices, the FAA is taking a fresh look at the use of personal electronic devices, other than cellphones, on aircraft," Brown told Bilton.
The airlines have always had the ability to apply to the FAA for relief from the current rule but the testing requirements were so costly that they didn't bother. If an airline wanted to allow its passengers to use any or all of the hundreds of devices now available, it would have to prove they didn't disrupt aircraft systems by testing them on an empty aircraft. No airline can spare the equipment and manpower for that kind of testing so the FAA has decided to take it on. Brown told Bilton the FAA will involve "manufacturers, consumer electronic associations, aircraft and avionics manufacturers, airlines, pilots, flight attendants and passengers" in the tests but there's no word on how many versions of the iPad will have been released by the time they're done. It's been seven years since it last looked at the issue.