FCC Urges FAA To Be Lenient With Passenger Use of Electronic Devices During Take-Off And Landing

By Alexandra Burlacu | Dec 08, 2012 12:29 PM EST

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Yes, you read that right: one U.S. government agency is telling another U.S. government agency to allow devices on airplanes during takeoff and landing.

Julius Genachowski, the chairman of the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC), has sent a letter to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on Thursday, Dec. 6, urging the agency to allow more electronics on airplanes.

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"[The FAA should] enable greater use of tablets, e-readers, and other portable devices" during flights, Genachowski suggested in his letter, which was first obtained by The Hill. Addressed to FAA acting administrator Michael Huerta, the letter further highlighted the importance of allowing travelers to use their devices on planes, as people are increasingly relying on their devices for both work and pleasure.

"They empower people to stay informed and connected with friends and family, and they enable both large and small businesses to be more productive and efficient, helping drive economic growth and boost U.S. competitiveness," explained Genachowski.

Although it has not been proven that devices such as e-readers or tablets interfere with an airplane's avionics, the FAA has strict rules about such devices, and requires passengers to turn off their gadgets during take-off or landing.

Back in August, after repeated pressure from the public and media outlets insisting that electronics did not cause any interference, the FAA said it would be reviewing it policies regarding electronic devices in all phases of flight, including take-off and landing. That review process, however, has proved quite slow.

"This review comes at a time of tremendous innovation, as mobile devices are increasingly interwoven in our daily lives," Genachowski added in the letter. The last testing process to review gadgets on planes was conducted back in 2006, long before most smartphones, tablets, and e-readers even existed. During that study back in 2006, the FAA found no evidence that such devices can or cannot interfere with a plane, so it chose to enforce strict rules.

Not everyone, however, has been required to put their gadgets away. Earlier this year, the FAA approved iPads for use in the cockpit, serving as an electronic alternative to paper flight manuals for pilots. It's just passengers who can't use devices during take-off and landing.

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