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SPECIAL COVERAGE: Living With Wildfires: San Diego Firestorm 10 Years Later

FAA May Soon Stop Making You Power Off Those Electronics

Photo by Leonardo Patrizi

An expert FAA advisory committee has recommended that airline passengers be allowed to use most personal electronic devices below 10,000 feet.

It's news many airline passengers have waited to hear: The Federal Aviation Administration may soon allow smart phones, tablets, and other personal electronic devices to be used throughout an entire flight -- including takeoff and landing.

Barbara Reilly, a health care consultant from Atlanta, is like many airline passengers: She boards her flights with a laptop, an iPad and a cell phone, and "I used them all ... continuously, until the very moment I had to turn them off. And the second I could turn them back on, they were all back on," she says.

Reilly says she would love to see the rule requiring the powering down of all electronic devices during takeoff and landing go away. The frequent flier may soon get her wish.

Today, an advisory committee made up of pilots, mechanics, engineers, airline executives and other industry experts recommended that the federal government change its rules to allow many electronics to be used during an entire flight.

While this will be welcome news to passengers deep in a book on their e-reader or lost in video or music on their tablet or smart phone, there are limitations. Sending and receiving texts and e-mails or using Wi-Fi during takeoffs and landings would still be prohibited under these recommendations, says Henry Harteveldt, a travel industry analyst, as will talking on cell phones during flight.

Some flights attendants are less enthusiastic than many passengers about the recommended changes. They're concerned that customers glued to their devices won't be able to hear important announcements during an emergency.

And don't count on powering up your tablet right away. A spokesman for the FAA says the recommendations are now under review. If the agency agrees to change the rules, it might not be until next year.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit www.npr.org.

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