Australia relaxes in-flight device use rules

Take-off switch-off nears end-of-life

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Australia is following the US in eliminating the air-flight ritual of switching off electronic devices during take-off and landing.

If, however, you're the kind who dreads listening to an hour of someone else's life between Sydney and Melbourne, don't worry: voice and data communications with the outside world will still be verboten.

The new CASA regulations, issued at the end of May, still stipulate that mobile phones or tablets can't go online while in an aeroplane, but as long as they're in flight mode, users won't have to power-down, and will be able to continue playing games, reading e-books and so on.

The regulations will only apply to aircraft new enough that CASA believes they're shielded against interference, but that's most of Australia's fleet. Also, CASA has limited the directive to devices 1kg or less, for reasons of general cabin safety rather than interference.

As Crikey's Plane Talking blog notes, the transition won't be instant: Australia's airlines will still have to go through the business of certifying the aircraft in their fleets as suitable for personal electronic device (PED) use during take-off and landing.

Crikey also points out that the CASA directive lays down training requirements for cabin crew to deal with battery fires in devices.

Even if CASA decides that switching on 3G or 4G transmitters is allowable during flights, El Reg would note that airlines are unlikely to give up the huge mark-ups they add to in-flight connectivity. Also, telcos don't usually configure cellular base stations to propagate upwards. ®

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