Following up on promises made earlier this year, the Federal Aviation Administration today announced it will be forming a committee to study current policies regarding the use of personal electronics on planes. The group will examine a variety of issues, according to the FAA, including the controversial testing methods aircraft operators use to decide which new technologies are safe for usage aboard airplanes and when they can be used. New York Times writer Nick Bilton brought this issue back to the forefront last year when he published data indicating that popular portable devices pose no threat to a safe flight.

"With so many different types of devices available, we recognize that this is an issue of consumer interest," said US Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood of the newly-announced effort. FAA Administrator Michael Huerta delivered a similar message, saying "We’re looking for information to help air carriers and operators decide if they can allow more widespread use of electronic devices in today’s aircraft. One topic that won't be under review is airborne use of cellular phones for voice communications.

Unfortunately, the FAA expects this to be a time-intensive process. The committee's research likely won't be completed until March, so you (and Alec Baldwin) will need to continue stowing away those gadgets during takeoff and landing — at least for the immediate future. Thankfully you've also got the chance to sound off on the FAA's current regulations. The agency is seeking public comment on a number of issues pertaining to on-board use of electronics, and you'll find the full details at the FAA's site below. Still, unless the group can uniformly agree that its longtime stance is flawed, we wouldn't be surprised to see things stay just the way they are.