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FAA rules to change, may allow iPad, e-reader use pre-flight

Users of Apple's iPad and other mobile gadgets soon may not have to stow away their devices during takeoff and landing, as the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration is set to relax the rules covering the use of such technology.

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The FAA will soon relax the rules governing the use of personal electronic devices at low altitudes, The Wall Street Journal reported on Friday. The revised rules may allow users to use iPads and other devices during taxiing, takeoffs, and landings.

Devices like e-readers may see the rules relaxed to the point where they are usable throughout a flight. However, cell phones are expected to remain off limits, as the commission tasked with examining the issue was not cleared to look at the use of phones.

According to airline industry research, roughly a third of airline passengers reported that, at least once, they left a device active throughout a flight.

Airliners that pass rigorous testing would be permitted to allow passengers "expanded gate to gate use" of personal electronic devices, according to the FAA's draft rules. That would mean that passengers would at no time have to deactivate their devices.

The rule change may also result in different safety announcements regarding gadgets before a flight. Planes with limited protection from device interference would be asked to power down their devices until given the all-clear, as is the case in flights now. Those with medium protection would allow certain devices like e-readers to be left on from gate to gate, and those with high protection would have an announcement alerting passengers that the aircraft tolerates emissions from electrical devices for all phases of flight.

The use of devices on planes has spawned action from lawmakers, who castigated FAA officials over their slowness to act. The agency's decision was reportedly delayed due to attempts to develop a single, concise, and — most importantly — future-proof set of regulations governing device use.

The FAA's draft rule revisions are still subject to debate both by the group that proposed them and within the FAA. This means they could see significant changes before a final release.