Another day, another delay, as a computer outage caused United Airlines to cancel nine flights and delay 580 others for two-and-a-half hours on Tuesday. But for passengers trapped in electronic limbo between the tarmac and takeoff, the Federal Aviation Administration is considering making air travel slightly more enjoyable after revealing plans to review the use of personal electronic devices during flight.
Announced on Monday, the agency intends to form a study group consisting of airlines, mobile and aviation technology manufacturers, pilot and aircrew groups, and passenger associations to determine whether devices like laptops, mobile phones, and tablets can be safely used while the aircraft is in operation, even during takeoff and landing. However, the FAA will not consider allowing passengers to make calls on their cell phones (which is OK with us because no one wants to hear you say sweet nothings to your significant other throughout the flight).
While the administration does not explicitly ban the use of such devices, it requires the airlines to prove the gadgets do not interfere with aircraft navigation and communication systems, testing that few carriers have done. Despite this, pilots have been cleared to use iPads in cockpits by the FAA since December 2011.
The group will present its findings in six months, but, for air travelers, the ruling cannot come soon enough. Under the current guidelines, passengers are not allowed to use their devices until the plane reaches 10,000 feet. Even being stranded at the gate means that you only have the in-flight magazine to keep you company. If the changes are enacted, passengers could potentially log on to Facebook or play Angry Birds from the moment they board the aircraft.
While that’s great and all, how about some free Wi-Fi onboard to actually do these sorts of things?