Many of us have experienced it before: Our flight is descending or taking off, and we’re told to turn off our Kindles until we land or reach the plane’s cruising altitude. Yes, this is in the realm of first-world problems, but wouldn’t it be nice if we could keep reading on our device without fishing for material in the seatback pocket?

That’s one possible outcome from the review announced this week by the Federal Aviation Administration, establishing a group to study the use of portable electronic devices during flight.

The FAA was clear that the group won’t consider allowing the use of cell phones during flight. But the accompanying documentation specifically references e-readers as one use that will be studied.

PEDs have changed considerably in the past few decades and output a wide variety of signals. Some devices do not transmit or receive any signals but generate low-power, radio frequency emissions. Other PEDs, such as e-readers, are only active in this manner during the short time that a page is being changed. Of greater concern are intentional transmissions from PEDs. Most portable electronic devices have internet connectivity that includes transmitting and receiving signals wirelessly using radio waves, such as Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and various other cellular technologies. These devices transmit high-powered emissions and can generate spurious signals at undesired frequencies, particularly if the device is damaged.

The group will be established this fall, with representatives from the mobile technology and aviation manufacturing industries, as well as organizations representing pilots, flight attendants, airlines and passengers. They will meet over the course of six months and then make recommendations.

Is it too much to hope for uninterrupted in-flight e-reading by 2014?

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  • Kris Dahl

    If we can accidentally cause issues with avionics systems with our iPods, what does that say for the security and vulnerabilities of the avionics systems? If it is possible to take down a plane accidentally with a Kindle, how about we simply work on hardening the avionics systems against potentially weaponized electronics, rather than futz around with banning Zunes?

    • John

      bingo… The real problem here is that a portable device could output enough RF energy to cause a serious issue, if that is the case we really should work on that since people can’t be trusted to follow the rules anyway.

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