The days of powering down your e-reader or tablet during airplane take-offs and landings may soon be a thing of the past. Yesterday FCC chairman Julius Genachowski sent a letter to the head of the FAA, asking him to “enable greater use of tablets, e-readers, and other portable devices” during flights, saying that the devices “are increasingly interwoven in our daily lives.”
Currently, electronics must be powered down when an airplane is below 10,000 feet. The FAA doesn’t have to listen to Genachowski’s plea, but the agency is currently reviewing whether or not to relax the current restrictions on in-flight electronics use.
The last official testing of gadget use in-flight was conducted all the way back in 2006, long before e-readers and iPads hit the market, the New York Times reported earlier this year. Pilots can already use tablets in the cockpit, even during take-off and landing.
Even if the FAA does give in to Genachowski’s plea, don’t expect to start whipping out your e-readers in-flight in time for holiday travel. Earlier this year, a Virgin America representative told the Times that airlines would need to test each version of each device it wants to certify for in-flight use, each on its own flight with no passengers onboard, and for each model of aircraft the airline uses. And that isn’t for an entire range of devices, but rather individual models; for example, the Kindle, Kindle Paperwhite, Kindle Fire, and Kindle Fire HD would all need to be tested separately.
It’s still a promising step in the right direction for the FAA. Just don’t expect to start chatting it up with your grandma during a transcontinental trip; the FAA has no plans to ease the current restrictions on voice calls or smartphones.