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FAA panel formally recommends loosening in-flight electronics restrictions

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Earlier this week, anonymous sources told The New York Times that a special United States Federal Aviation Administration panel would recommend to the agency that it loosen its restrictions on passengers using electronic devices during takeoff and landing. Now, according to the AP, that panel officially recommended to the FAA that it let airline passengers use their smartphones, e-readers, tablets, laptops, and other electronic devices essentially uninterrupted during flight. As reported earlier, electronic devices could be freely used as long as they were in airplane mode with Wi-Fi turned off during takeoff and landing — so no phone calls and no internet, but otherwise all of the restrictions that exist today would be eliminated.

The 28-member committee agreed on the proposal today and plans to deliver its report to FAA officials early next week. From there, there's no telling if or when its recommendations will be implemented. As the AP notes, the FAA did create this committee and has several members on it, so they probably won't just ignore the recommendations wholesale. If the report is accepted, the changes could be in place by sometime in 2014 if the FAA works quickly — but another situation could see the approvals drag out for a year or longer. Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO), a longtime advocate of dropping the FAA's restrictions, said she'll introduce legislation to force the FAA to move forward — "I will know it if I see that they're stalling," she said.