In-flight movies and TV shows could get some competition from iPads and cellphones depending on how a Federal Aviation Administration-launched inquiry pans out.
The FAA will study whether and how it needs to change its rules on the use of portable electronic devices (PEDs), and how flight crews determine when those devices can be used safely, the agency says.
To do that, it will create a government-industry group to study the issue. It will begin meeting this fall and meet for six months. The group will then report back to the FCC. It will be looking at data, rather than the use of those devices for voice communications.
The group's study will include consideration of whether plane designs should be changed to accommodate PED emissions.
Also up for discussion:
*"Development of consumer electronics industry standards for aircraft-friendly PEDs, or aircraft-compatible modes of operation;
*"Required publication of aircraft operators' PED policies;
*"Restriction of PED use during takeoff, approach, landing and abnormal conditions to avoid distracting passengers during safety briefings and prevent possible injury to passengers;
*"Development of standards for systems that actively detect potentially hazardous PED emissions; and
*"Technical challenges associated with further PED usage, and support from PED manufacturers to commercial aircraft operators;
*With so many different types of devices available, we recognize that this is an issue of consumer interest," said Transportation secretary Ray LaHood. "Safety is our highest priority, and we must set appropriate standards as we help the industry consider when passengers can use the latest technologies safely during a flight."
FCC chairman Julius Genachowski praised the move. "I am pleased that the FAA is taking a fresh look at the use of personal electronic devices on commercial aircraft, such as tablets and e-readers," he said in a statement. "These devices are increasingly interwoven into our everyday lives, empowering millions of Americans to stay informed and connected with friends and family, and enable businesses to be more productive and efficient. Dramatic changes in technology and society make it both appropriate and timely for the FAA to review whether updates to their rules are needed."
Will the FCC be represented on that committee? "It would be premature to speculate on who will be part of that committee, which has not been formed yet," an FCC spokesperson said.