The Federal Aviation Administration may change the rules allowing the use of smartphones and tablets during takeoff and landing while still banning the use of cellphones. The new rules could be announced by the end of the year.
The FAA has been studying the changes via an industry working group to study the use of portable devices on planes, the New York Times reports.
An unidentified member of the group and an official of the FAA told the Times that "the agency was under tremendous pressure to let people use reading devices on planes, or to provide solid scientific evidence why they cannot."
Travelers are told to turn off their iPads and Kindles for takeoff and landing, yet there is no proof that these devices affect a plane's avionics. The FAA permits passengers to use electric razors and audio recorders during all phases of flight, even though those give off more electronic emissions than reading tablets, according to the Times.
The FAA did not comment outside of stating last year that the agency put together the working group to study the issue. The group, which first met in January, includes people from various industries, including Amazon, the Consumer Electronics Association, Boeing, the Association of Flight Attendants, the Federal Communications Commission and aircraft makers. The group plans to introduce its findings by July 31, the Times reports.
To guarantee that the FAA follows through with its promise to relax the rules, U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, a Missouri Democrat, said she planned to introduce legislation, according to the Times. She told the paper she has grown frustrated with the FAA's stance on devices after she learned that the agency now allows iPads as flight manuals in the cockpit and has subsequently given out devices to some flight attendants with information on flight procedures.
"So it's O.K. to have iPads in the cockpit; it's O.K. for flight attendants — and they are not in a panic — yet it's not O.K. for the traveling public," she said. "A flying copy of 'War and Peace' is more dangerous than a Kindle."
FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski has recently sent a letter to the F.A.A. urging it to allow more electronics on planes, something that airline pilots unions, travel coalitions and travel agencies have also done.