Ban on electronic devices aboard planes may be eased


(CBS News) A Federal Aviation Administration advisory panel is expected to recommend a significant rollback of restrictions on the use by passengers of electronic devices on planes, according to the New York Times.

In a statement, the FAA said it had "tasked a government-industry group to examine the safety issues and the feasibility of changing the current restrictions."

The panel is meeting this week and is expected to submit recommendations by the end of the month, the FAA said.

According to the Times, which cited anonymous panel members, the suggested guidelines would allow the reading of e-books and other publications, watching videos and listening to podcasts.

Former chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board Mark Rosenker, a CBS News national transportation safety expert, said on "CBS This Morning," "I think you're going to see a liberalization of the usage of these electronic devices. You're going to be able to use them from gate to gate. And we'll be looking forward to seeing how the new rules are going to be implemented."

But the ban on making phone calls, e-mailing, texting and using Wi-Fi is likely to continue.

Rosenker said, "(Cell phones), that really is an issue, not just because potentially it could create interference with navigational devices, but we do know, according to the FCC, that it could interfere with cell phone towers when they're in the air."

"The coming change represents a cultural milestone of sorts for the digital age, the moment when mass travel and mass communication finally meet," the Times observes.

Regulators, says the newspaper, "have never been able to establish conclusively that electronic devices interfered with flight instruments." In addition, passengers frequently forget to turn off their devices, or simply ignore the ban on their use, which has frustrated many of them.

On Monday, Boeing said it supported the FAA's efforts to look at easing rules on certain electronic devices but cautioned against relaxing cell phone regulations.

"Boeing still believes that cell phones have the potential for electronic interference with airplane systems, unless an onboard cell phone system is installed," the company said in a statement. "When the committee issues its final report, Boeing will act accordingly in support of its airline customers."