Just when you thought those new and exciting gadgets-on-airplanes rules from the Federal Aviation Association were all set for September — already a delay from the agency's July deadline — gate-to-gate use of iPads and other devices is stuck in testing, meaning you're going to be stuck with SkyMall for take-off and landing, maybe through the holidays and beyond. After getting fliers' hopes up on Friday with a leaked FAA board report featuring relaxed guidelines that were mere months away, The Wall Street Journal's Andy Pasztor now cautions tech obsessives that implementation of the new rules will include "months of stepped up testing to identify individual aircraft models most vulnerable to potential electromagnetic interference from personal electronics in the cabin," Pasztor writes. "The report doesn't sketch out a specific timeline for easing current in-flight restrictions affecting devices."
The elongated timeline of regulation settings and subsequent interference testing should go something like this: The FAA will approve the new rules, outlined here, around September. As those new guidelines stand, the FAA will allow certain flights to include gate-to-gate approval of certain devices. However, Apple iPads and Amazon Kindles could still be completely barred from all landings, a source tells Nick Bilton, The New York Times's resident onboard-gadget crusader. Once the overall guidelines get hammered out, that will motivate even more "safety assessments," which could take more "months," writes Pasztor at the Journal. Even though pilots get to use their iPads willy-nilly, that's different than unlimited passenger use, claims the FAA. Thus, pretty much each type of technology has to be tested on each type of airplane before getting approval, which as you can imagine will take a very long time. The WiFi test, by the way, is "the most difficult test to get through," says Kent Statler, who who heads up the commercial business for the aerospace company Rockwell Collins.
But the delays don't stop there: After device-by-device approval, the FAA will require crew training to enforce it, plus "broad public education efforts" and then attempted coordination with foreign regulators. And that whole process will be "phased in gradually," meaning that by the time you can use the latest iPad on an airplane, a newer version will probably be out, which will then have to go through months of testing. But, hey, at least that "public education" will tell you not to bring your favorite travel gadget in the first place, lest the TSA or a flight attendant force you to put it away, right?
Despite the wait, the FAA assures that it wants change. There is a "consensus" on the need to push for these new regulations, sources tell Pasztor. Of course, leave it up to the bureaucracy to slow down that process.
- Technology & Electronics