FAA Taking ‘Fresh Look’ at Gadget Policy? Sort Of.

Mar 19, 2012 2:34pm

 

It’s the dreaded moment on many a traveler’s journey: The flight attendant announces that everyone on  board must turn off their electronic devices. “Power down anything with an on or off switch,” is one of the least-liked statements among frequent fliers.

Mostly, it’s so annoying because they don’t believe there’s any reason to do so.

“There’s absolutely no evidence that any electronics aboard airlines interfere or have interfered in any way, ” said John Nance, aviation consultant and retired commercial airline pilot, in an email to ABCNews.com.  ”All the claimed incidents – and I do mean all – have been unsubstantiated anecdotal stories.”

However, Kevin Hiatt, CEO of the Flight Safety Foundation, tells Jim Avila, ABC News senior national corrospondant, “We really have to have a little more definitive data to say proof positive that your iPad, or your Kindle or whatever device we’re talking about will not interfere.”

Over the weekend the FAA said in a statement  it would take a “fresh look” at the policy after an article  in The New York Times claimed as much. Today, however, in a new statement, the FAA has toned down its language on the matter, saying it is exploring ways to bring together all stakeholders:

“As with any regulation, safety is always our top priority, and no changes will be made until we are certain they will not impact safety and security.  For some time, the FAA’s rules have permitted an airline to allow passenger use of PEDs if the airline demonstrates the devices will not interfere with aircraft avionics.  The FAA is exploring ways to bring together all of the key stakeholders involved, but, ultimately, testing is the responsibility of each airline.  We recognize that this is an area of consumer interest, and our goal is to bring together these key stakeholders to help facilitate a discussion as we have in the past.”

Airlines for America said, “”The safety of our passengers and crews remains our top priority and our members will work cooperatively with the FAA on any opportunities to evaluate personal electronic devices to ensure customers can use these products safely during flight.”

Nance said it’s the responsibility of the FAA — not the airlines or FCC — to make scientifically-sound decisions on this matter.

With reporting by ABC News’ Matt Hosford and Jim Avila.

 

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