The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is considering getting rid of a ban on using electronic devices when an aircraft is below 10,000 feet. According to this PDF file from the U.S. Department of Transportation, the agency has announced a "request for comments" about the issue from the public and experts.
The rule was put in place to keep electronic devices used by passengers from interfering with sensitive aircraft instruments. But many experts say that the science behind the rule is false and that most electronic devices such as laptops, cellphones, and hand-held entertainment devices (like gaming devices) do not interfere with the aforementioned equipment. From the PDF:
"The FAA seeks comments on current policy, guidance, and procedures that aircraft operators (ranging from pilots of general aviation aircraft up to and including air carrier certificate holders at the major airlines) use when determining if passenger use of portable electronic devices (PEDs) may be allowed during any phase of flight on their aircraft. Current FAA regulations generally prohibit the use of all PEDs during flight, with the exception of portable voice recorders, hearing aids, heart pacemakers, and electric shavers. These regulations also provide an exception for any other PED that the aircraft operator has determined will not cause interference with the navigation or communication systems on the aircraft. To better effectuate the safety purposes of these regulations, this notice requests comments about key areas of policy and guidance that are used by aircraft operators when making these determinations.
It also requests comments about other technical challenges for addressing the problems associated with determining if and when PEDs can be used. The desired outcome of this solicitation is to have sufficient information to allow operators to better assess whether more widespread use of PEDs during flight is appropriate, while maintaining the highest levels of safety to passengers and aircraft. The Agency stresses that the existing regulations allow the operator to authorize the use of PEDs, and that no specific FAA approval is required.
The aircraft operator is responsible for assuring that the interference from PEDs does not pose a flight risk. Once all the comments have been collected, the FAA intends to establish an Aviation Rulemaking Committee (ARC) to review the comments and provide recommendations that might permit the more widespread use of PEDs during flight while maintaining the highest levels of safety for the passengers and aircraft."
The announcement goes on to say that the FAA will work closely with the FCC and with airlines to "explore broader use of PEDS in flight." To put your two cents in, email PEDcomment@faa.gov or visit the Federal eRulemaking Portal (www.regulations.gov) and "follow the online instructions for sending your comments electronically."