FAA expands portable electronic device use on US planes

Stow that stuffy old newspaper and pick up your e-reader for take-off

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The use of portable electronic devices will soon be allowed on US aeroplanes during all phases of flight, the US aviation authority has announced.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) will now permit passengers to use gadgets such as tablet computers and e-readers during take-off and landing.

Many airlines are expected to adopt the new guidelines by the end of the year.

Aviation and mobile technology experts had advised the FAA the rule change would be safe.

For America's frequent flyers, it is one of the great frustrations of modern life - being ordered to turn off their e-readers, tablets and electronic games lest they interfere with communication equipment on take-off or landing.

But for those who fear reading a book, old-fashioned newspaper or even the in-flight magazine, relief is at hand.

Happily, for those who enjoy in-flight respite from everybody else's one-sided conversation, making phone calls will still be strictly prohibited.

"These guidelines reflect input from passengers, pilots, manufacturers, and flight attendants," Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx wrote in a statement.

"We believe today's decision honors both our commitment to safety and consumer's increasing desire to use their electronic devices during all phases of their flights."

A review committee recently determined that most commercial aircraft can tolerate radio interference signals from such devices, the FAA said.

Covered under the rule change are lightweight, electrically powered devices including music players, gaming consoles and smart phones - with the mobile telephone service disabled.

Phone calls from mobile phones remain prohibited throughout flights under separate regulations of the Federal Communications Commission.

Individual airlines will have to assess whether their planes can handle the additional radio interference from the devices.

"There is one thing that won't change," FAA Administrator Michael Huerta told reporters at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport near Washington DC on Thursday.

"Passengers must take a break from their devices, their reading material, their music, whatever they are doing, and listen to the safety briefing before each flight. It is information that can save your life."

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