Remember when that 757 aircraft
came crashing down midway through takeoff, killing everyone on board all because a passenger's handheld media player interfered with the plane's onboard electronics? You don't
remember reading about that or seeing it on the news? That's because it never happened, nor is it likely to, yet passengers are always asked to turn off their electronic devices during takeoff and landing. It's a rule that's been in place and unchanged since 1966 when experts feared electromagnetic interference could disrupt onboard navigation equipment.
According to a report in The Wall Street Journal
, the Federal Aviation Administration
(FAA) is working on loosening restrictions on personal electronic devices at low altitudes, meaning you may not have to turn off your Nintendo 3DS or PlayStation Vita during takeoff or landing.
The problem the FAA faces is that there are so many different types and models of mobile
devices in the wild today. It would take an enormous amount of resources (time and money) to test and certify each one for use at low altitudes, so rather than do that, airlines simply ban all electronic devices until a plane reaches 10,000 feet.
There's a draft in place that would relax these rules on certain devices, including e-readers, which could be used for the duration of the flight. The FAA is also aware that people often ignore the rules and leave their devices on, calling into question what kind of hazard they truly present.
An FAA spokeswoman said in a statement that the agency "recognizes consumers are intensely interested in the use of personal electronics aboard aircraft, that is why we tasked a government-industry group to examine the safety issues and the feasibility of changing the current restrictions. At the group's request, the FAA has granted the two-month extension to complete the additional work necessary for the safety assessment."
So, while you're still not allowed to use mobile devices during takeoff and landing, that's very likely to change by the end of the year.