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iPads on Planes? In-Flight Ban on Portable Electronic Devices Under Review

By SHANNON KELLY

The dream of using your smartphone or iPad on planes to browse the Web during long runway delays could become a reality—at least in the U.S—as the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reviews aircraft policies on portable electronic devices.

Do Wi-Fi and Bluetooth really interfere with aircraft communications during takeoff and landing? That’s one of the issues the FAA is looking at. Already it seems that the answer—at least for more modern aircraft—is no. The FAA’s report says “newer aircraft…have sufficient protection to continue to operate safely when exposed to spurious emissions of PEDs [portable electronic devices].” Additionally, the New York Times reports that many pilots use iPads on planes in place of older paper flight manuals.

Due to the many variations in aircraft technology and portable electronic devices out there, however, a definitive ruling on which devices can and can’t be used is likely a long time coming. The FAA’s “think tank” of portable electronics and aircraft manufacturers, flight attendants and pilots will issue its initial report in six months. One topic not up for discussion: in-flight cellphone calls, which will remain verboten.

To give the FAA your two cents, e-mail PEDcomment@faa.gov or add a comment online, referencing docket #FAA-2012-0752.

Here in Canada, we’re still working on getting in-flight Wi-Fi access at any point during a flight, 10,000 feet above ground or otherwise. But Wi-Fi in Canadian skies may soon be available via U.S. company Gogo.

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