FAA may soon ease limits on devices on planes

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An advisory panel has recommended to the FAA that many of the restrictions on the use of electronic consumer devices on airplanes be dropped.

Under the recommendations, some functions involving communication would remain forbidden — phone calls, for instance, and web-surfing. But playing games, watching downloaded movies and reading on tablets or e-readers would be permissible at any time, from gate to gate.

Amazon spokesman Drew Herdener said the changes are overdue.

"We've been fighting for our customers on this issue for years," he said, "testing an airplane packed full of Kindles, working with the FAA, and serving as the device manufacturer on this committee. This is a big win for customers and, frankly, it's about time."

From an NPR report:

Airline passengers could see restrictions lifted as soon as early 2014 if the agency chooses a faster implementation track. The process could drag on a year or more if airlines have to apply carrier by carrier to have their planes approved, industry officials said.

Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., a prominent critic of the current restrictions, said ... that if the FAA doesn't "act swiftly" to implement the recommendations, she'll introduce legislation to force its hand.

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The Daily Circuit looks at the proposed rule changes and other recent trends and developments in the airline industry.

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FAA to weigh easing limits on electronic device use on airplanes
"You will not be able to play 'Words With Friends,' you will not be able to shop, you will not be able to surf websites or send email," said Henry Harteveldt, an airline and travel industry analyst with Hudson Crossing who was reacting to word of the recommended change. "You will be able to read or work on what's stored on the device," he said. "You want to edit that PowerPoint? Great. You want to watch 'Breaking Bad' and you have it downloaded to your smartphone or your tablet? You can continue to do that." (Dallas News)

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Planes flew too close to each other 4,394 times last year — more than doubling the previous record from 2011, the Federal Aviation Administration announced [last month]. But in a new report, the agency drew no conclusions about whether skies are less safe because the incidents grew from greater voluntary reporting by air-traffic controllers and better radar detection that was fully deployed last year. (USA Today)