Airplane passengers might soon be able to watch movies, type documents and read e-books on as planes take off and land, as an advisory panel of the Federal Aviation Administration will issue a report to the agency on Monday calling to remove the ban against using electronic devices during flights.
The FAA's current guidelines prohibit the use of any electronic devices until planes reach an altitude of 10,000 feet, from a traditional concern that it could interfere with the plane's wireless navigation equipment. During a closed door meeting on Thursday evening, the advisory group known as the Portable Electronic Devices Aviation Rulemaking Committee decided that the time had come to lift that ban and will issue a report on Monday to the FAA with that recommendation, according to The Associated Press.
If the FAA agrees with the panel's recommendations then passengers would have more freedom to use mobile devices and other electronics during landings and takeoff, when the planes are below an altitude of 10,000 feet, industry officials familiar with the advisory panel told The Associated Press. Phone calls, downloading data and Internet use would still be off limits until planes reach cruising altitude as the panel recommends that devices be switched to "airplane mode," with the wireless signal turned off.
The personal device advisory panel was created "to make recommendations to further clarify and provide guidance on allowing additional [personal electronic devices] without compromising the continued safe operation of the aircraft," according to the agency website.
"The FAA expects to get the report on Monday," says Les Dorr, spokesperson for the FAA.
Airplanes are more advanced and resistant to most interference, while next-generation mobile devices send out weaker signals, according to critics of the age-old ban on electronic devices. In a letter sent to FAA Administrator Michael Huerta in August, Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., and Sen. Timothy Scott, R-S.C., urged the agency to lift the ban to account for these technological advancements.
"Assuming safety concerns are addressed, additional use of [personal electronic devices] would add significant productivity and convenience for passengers and flight attendants alike, and should be implemented without further delay," the senators said in the letter.
It's unclear whether the FAA will lift the ban in early 2014 or whether it will take a full year, but tech companies such as Amazon are encouraged by the step toward lifting the ban.
"We've been fighting for our customers on this issue for years – testing an airplane packed full of Kindles, working with the FAA, and serving as the device manufacturer on this committee," Amazon spokesman Drew Herdener said in a statement to The Associated Press. "This is a big win for customers and, frankly, it's about time."