Federal regulators are closer to letting airline passengers use their smartphones, tablets, e-readers and other electronic gadgets during takeoffs and landings.
The 28-member FAA advisory committee voted to recommend the change during a closed-door meeting this week, said AP.
The recommendation will next be sent to the Federal Aviation Administration, which has final say on whether to ease current restrictions on the use of personal electronic devices on planes.
If the panel's advice is followed, passengers would have greater opportunity to use most devices below an altitude of 10,000 feet, although some devices would have to be switched to airplane mode. Downloading data, surfing the Web and talking on the phone would remain prohibited, said AP.
Passengers are currently required to turn off phones and other electronic devices while planes are below 10,000 feet to prevent interference with sensitive cockpit equipment. Takeoffs and landings are the most critical phases of flight. But newer aircraft are better equipped to prevent electronic interference, and critics long have complained that the safety concerns behind the regulations are groundless, said AP.
However, Delta Airlines said in a letter to the FAA last year that out of 2.3 million flights over two years, the airline received 27 reports from pilots and maintenance crews of possible device interference. None of the reports could be confirmed, the letter said.
It's up to FAA officials whether to follow the committee's recommendations. The agency created the committee, put several of its employees on the panel and was closely involved in the deliberations, so it's expected that all or most of the recommendations will be implemented. How long that will take is unclear.
Airline passengers could see restrictions lifted as soon as early 2014 if the agency chooses a faster implementation track, or the process could drag on for a year or more if airlines have to apply, carrier by carrier, to have their planes approved as safe for use of the devices, AP said.