Agency reconsiders the use of gadgets on flights

Apple's iPad. (REUTERS FILE PHOTO/Luke MacGregor)

Apple's iPad. (REUTERS FILE PHOTO/Luke MacGregor)

Sherry Noik, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:40 PM ET

You may never again be told to turn off your iPad during a flight if a U.S. agency finds it's safe to operate tablets and other gadgets on board.

The Federal Aviation Administration announced Monday it will reassess its policies around the in-flight use of electronic devices, with the aim of loosening the rules.

And, depending on what the FAA finds, Transport Canada told QMI Agency it may follow suit.

"We're looking for information to help air carriers and operators decide if they can allow more widespread use of electronic devices in today's aircraft," acting FAA administrator Michael Huerta said in a news release.

Because cellphones and tablets can use different power levels and different frequencies - not necessarily tailored to aviation standards - their effects are difficult to gauge.

The FAA wants to find out which gadgets passengers can safely use on board, and when, and establish a standard set of guidelines. Current FAA regulations put it in the hands of the airlines to make those determinations.

A study group, which will include wireless companies, airlines, pilots and flight attendants, airplane manufacturers and consumer groups, will meet for six months starting this fall before submitting its recommendations to the FAA.

Transport Canada is watching closely but has no immediate plans to revise its rules.

At the moment, passengers are allowed to use mobile devices during the taxi-in phase only, spokesperson Kelly James said in an e-mail.

However, Air Canada has conducted trials on the use of Wi-Fi on two Airbus 319 planes, and "the result of Air Canada's trial, as well as the findings of the FAA's working group, will help the department assess potential future regulatory change."


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