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Gadgets Could Be Allowed on Planes Soon

FAA exploring options to permit mobile device use on planes.

Friday, June 21, 2013 - 01:47 PM

Marketplace

The Federal Aviation Administration issued rules on gadgets in flight when cellphones first became popular. There were fears they could interfere with planes’ navigational systems. So passengers are told to turn off their electronic devices at the beginning and end of a flight. But today’s gadgets have weaker signals. So, some experts say, interference should be less of a problem.

The FAA has asked a government-industry group to look into relaxing the rules. Its final report is due this fall. If most of the restrictions are lifted, could it be a boon for the airlines? Or possibly for manufacturers -- who’d get lots of business retrofitting planes? Not according to airline analyst Darryl Jenkins.

“This is not the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow," he says. "Ultimately, if anything comes from this, it will be modifications to the aircraft, and I doubt the modifications are going to be that expensive.”

Jenkins says that’s because most airlines upgraded their fleets over the past ten years. Everybody’s flying pretty new planes, and many with Wi-Fi systems.

The study commissioned by the FAA isn't looking into allowing cellphone conversations during flights. Jenkins says airlines are afraid passengers would complain about that.

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