By: Gigaom
August 27, 2012 at 16:19 PM EDT
Want to use your iPad during takeoff? Tell the FAA
Sick of staring at the seat in front of you during your flight's takeoff and landing because all you have is a book on an e-reader? Well, the FAA is asking whether or not portable electronic devices might be okay to use during the entire flight.

The Federal Aviation Administration is asking for opinions on the use of portable electronic devices on flights — including during an airplane’s take off and landing. The agency released a document today asking the public and other interested parties to comment on the use of devices that might include iPads, Kindles (a amzn) and other gadgets — a topic that has become more pressing as more people rely on such devices while traveling.

The FAA is seeking comment from passengers, airlines, flight attendants and the makers of electronic devices on a variety of topics such as procedures for testing and gathering data about how portable electronic devices interact with aircraft systems, how to build avionics systems and aircraft that don’t react to Kindles or iPads, and how to build gadget that wouldn’t cause such interference. The agency also wants passengers to weigh in on topics like whether or not voice calls on aircraft would be distracting or staring at your e-reader might make you less likely to pay attention to the safety briefings at the beginning of each flight.

There were a few notes in the filing that surprised me like the fact that along with pacemakers and hearing aids, one can apparently use an electronic shaver during flights. Also, it turns out many makers of aircraft system have already certified their equipment works when portable electronic devices are turned on. In that case the FAA wants to know if these manufacturers should provide that data to the airline operators.

Don’t think this means the FAA is going to soften its stance in the near term — or maybe even ever. Safety is still the agency’s main concern — no matter how much you want to finish that game of Words with Friends. From the FAA’s filing:

In today’s avionics, there are various systems—global positioning, traffic collision and avoidance, transponder, automatic flight guidance and control, and many other advanced avionics systems— that depend on signals transmitted from the ground, other aircraft, and satellites for proper operation. In addition, there are advanced flight management systems that use these avionics as a critical component for performing precision operational procedures. Many of these systems are also essential to realize the capabilities and operational improvements envisioned in the Next Generation airspace system. As such, harmful interference from PEDs cannot be tolerated.

So for those who want to comments, the FAA also tells you how to do it. Send comments identified by docket number FAA-2012-0752 using any of the following methods:

  • Email: Submit your comments via email to PEDcomment@faa.gov.
  • Federal eRulemaking Portal: Go to http://www.regulations.gov and follow the online instructions for sending your comments electronically.
  • Mail: Send comments to Docket Operations, M-30; U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), 1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE, Room W12-140, West Building Ground Floor, Washington, DC 20590-0001.
  • Fax: Fax comments to Docket Operations at 202-493-2251.

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