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FAA to allow portable electronics use on flights

The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is set to end a ban on airline passengers using electronic devices throughout the duration of flights. Mobile phone use, however, will remain restricted.

The FAA announced Thursday it was ending its five-decade old ban on the use of electronic devices during taxiing, takeoff and landing. The changes are set to take effect on most airlines by the end of this year.

"I am pleased to announce that airlines can safely expand passenger use of portable electronic devices during all phases of flight," FAA administrator Michael Huerta told a news conference at Washington's Reagan National Airport.

Mobile phone usage will continue to be banned during flight, however passengers will be able to use smartphones, tablets and e-readers when set in "airplane mode."

Committee ruling

The changes come after a committee convened last year to study the affects of electronics use on airliners. Pilots, passengers, flight attendants, aviation manufacturers and mobile technology industry experts all provided input.

"The committee determined that most commercial airplanes can tolerate radio interference from portable electronic devices," Huerta said. "It is safe to read downloaded materials like e-books and calenderers, and also to play games."

He added that in approximately 1 percent of flights, passengers may be asked to turn off their electronic devices because of low visibility or poor weather.

"Some landing systems may not be proven to tolerate this interference," Huerta said. "If the captain asks you to shut off the device, it is for a good reason."

The changes affect carriers under the regulatory authority of the FAA, meaning the domestic and international flights of US carriers, said Huerta.

The new guidelines will not apply to European carriers, which are regulated by the Cologne-based European Aviation Safety Agency.

Most international carriers continue to ban the use of electronics during taxiing, takeoff and landing and flights operated by foreign airlines coming into the US will not be affected by the FAA's new ruling.

dr/ipj (AFP, AP, Reuters, dpa)