America's FAA could be the first aviation authority to allow for the return of tablets and eReaders to aircraft during takeoff and landing if reports coming out of the US are to be believed.
At the moment, as frequent flyers will happily agree, pretty much every airline asks you to switch off every electronic device you have on board while the plane is on the ground.
For some, as we anecdotally found out this week on a recent BA flight, even flight mode isn't enough, and they ask you to keep your smartphone turned off during the entirety of the flight.
But tablets and eReaders could make a triumphant return to the hands of bored passengers waiting to take off.
According to the New York Times, the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) is under pressure to show proper scientific evidence as to why passengers cannot use portable devices during takeoff and landing, if kept in flight mode, especially as it has recently approved the cockpit to be allowed to use iPads and other tablets as flight manuals.
That pressure, which has been mounting since July last year, follows moves by another US government agency - the Federal Communications Commission - to let airlines let passengers use tablets and eBook readers throughout the flight.
Julius Genachowski, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission said in a letter - obtained by The Hill, a Washington D.C based newspaper covering the political stories around Capitol Hill in the US - the FAA should “enable greater use of tablets, e-readers, and other portable devices” during flights.
Democrat Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri has now threatened the FAA with with formal action if it doesn't comply.
In a phone interview with the New York Times, Ms McCaskill said she had grown frustrated with the FAA’s stance on devices after she learnt that the agency now allows iPads as flight manuals in the cockpit and has subsequently given out devices to some flight attendants with information on flight procedures.
“So it’s OK to have iPads in the cockpit; it’s OK for flight attendants — and they are not in a panic — yet it’s not OK for the traveling public,” she said. “A flying copy of ‘War and Peace’ is more dangerous than a Kindle.”
If things do change, the BAA should follow suit shortly after, meaning passengers flying to and from the UK could use tablets and eReaders while still on the runway.
Bizarrely, you can use electronic razors and recording devices during the whole of a flight, both of which give off more electronic emissions than tablets.
The article goes on to raise fears we have in how cabin crew will be able to monitor whether devices are on or off if you are wearing them. With popularity growing for smart watches and smart glasses, it will be interesting to see how the airlines attempt to deal with Project Glass and the Pebble, for example.