By Jim Donovan

By Jim Donovan

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — If you like to stay connected while you fly, the skies are about to become a little more friendly. 3 On Your Side Consumer Reporter Jim Donovan tells us that the Federal Aviation Administration is loosening its rules on the use of portable electronic devices. During take-offs and landings passengers will soon be able to read e-books or play games and watch movies on tablets. But no phone calls, those are still off limits.

According to Michael Huerta, FAA administrator, “Airlines can safely expand passenger use of portable electronic devices during all phases of flight.”
How fast the change is implemented will vary by airline. Some carriers will have to conduct additional interference testing and update flight crew training manuals. Huerta says, “In some instances, of low visibility, about 1-percent of all flights, some landing systems will not be able to tolerate the interference.”

It’s important to note that connecting with the internet, texting and downloading data under ten thousand feet will still be prohibited. Airlines could start to implement the changes before the busy holiday travel season.

By the way, regulatory authority over phone calls belongs to the Federal Communications Commission, not the FAA. Calls are prohibited not because of a concern that they could interfere with the plane’s navigation equipment, but because it could hinder cell phone service to users on the ground. As the phones try to connect with towers while going hundreds of miles an hour it allegedly puts strains on the cell provider network.

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