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Fondling slabs during takeoff WON'T end in a fireball of death - report

Unless, of course, you happen to be the pilot

An aeroplane, credit: WikiCommons

The Federal Aviation Administration's advisory committee reckons it's safe for air passengers to read ebooks and use tablets during takeoff and landing – as long as the built-in radios remain switched off.

The US governmental body in charge of air transport isn't obliged to follow the recommendation of the 28-member committee, but it is likely to approve a change to the rules. The proposed amendment could permit flight-safe-mode electronics to be used during takeoff and landing by early next year, as the Associated Press reports.

Flight-safe mode will still be needed for the first 10,000ft (3,000m) as the radios on mobile devices are still a concern, and phones soaring over cellular base stations are a right pain for the network operators, anyway. But anyone wanting to read an ebook, edit some PowerPoint or play a round of Candy Crush will be free to do so – as long as they don't need to go online to do it.

Current rules don't allow the use of any device below 3,000m for fear that it will interfere with flight instruments. Above that height some airlines have Wi-Fi available, and a few run a GSM base station to enable (hugely expensive, satellite-backhauled) cellular roaming, but for the majority it's still flight mode all the way.

While it seems sensible to let a passenger read their Kindle as the plane taxies to the runway we'd have to question how advisable it is to allow the businessman with a 15-inch laptop squeezed into his economy seating to use his – what's the point of folding up the tray tables when there's two-and-a-half kilos of aluminium and glass poised to crash around the cabin?

Which will be the next problem, assuming the FCC (communication regulator) agrees with the FAA (aviation regulator) and the whole thing gets fast-tracked through.

But for those of us with lighter hardware it will mean a little less enforced relaxation and a little more time to work on that presentation. ®

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