A small victory dance is in order for technology (and convenience?). The FAA announced that it would be relaxing its regulations on technology for certain gadgets (smartphones, tablets, handheld game systems) during takeoff and landing phases of flight. Traditionally, federal regulations prohibited the use of these electronics below 10,000, which was particularly annoying when you’ve finally reached the boss stage and have no save points available. Harumph!
It’s important to realize that this doesn’t mean free reign of technology on flights. Larger items, like laptops, still must be stowed during takeoff and landing. Mobile phones must also be placed in airplane mode or turned off, as there are still concerns that the cell frequencies can affect communications with control towers, which means that in-flight phone calls are still a no-no.
While there is an aggressive push for airlines to get approval to use electronic devices during all phases of flight, there are some very valid arguments against loosening the restrictions. For cellular devices, it is impossible for a flight attendant to tell whether or not a device is in airplane mode. In an emergency situation, it is possible for devices to become dangerous hazards flying around the cabin. There were also concerns that it would be difficult to get passenger compliance with stowing electronic devices during certain situations, such as low visibility environments, where reliance on radio frequencies are crucial.
We can expect to see these restrictions begin taking place as soon as year end.