Air authority may follow US change on use of tablets

Under the change, devices still must be switched to aircraft mode at all times. Photo / Thinkstock
Under the change, devices still must be switched to aircraft mode at all times. Photo / Thinkstock

New Zealand's aviation authority will consider allowing use of electronic devices during takeoff and landing, after its United States counterpart announced a change in regulations for commercial flights.

But the Civil Aviation Authority said it must be "absolutely certain" the move was safe before adopting it here.

The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) yesterday said it would begin allowing the use of e-readers, tablets and game consoles during takeoff and landing.

Current rules allow use of the devices only while in the air.

Under the change, devices still must be switched to aircraft mode at all times.

The decision currently only applies to US airspace, and airlines will have to prove their fleet is capable of withstanding radio interference from personal electronic devices before they are given the go-ahead.

However, while the FAA said it was now satisfied that most commercial aircraft could "tolerate" such interference, New Zealand's Civil Aviation Authority was not so sure.

It had received 11 reports since 2000 from pilots who had experienced interference with their planes' navigational systems, which had "most probably" been due to such hand-held devices.

The CAA said it would investigate the FAA report and consider if it could be applied to New Zealand, but its primary concern was the safety and security of Kiwis.

"We will be maintaining the current rules and regulations that prohibit the use of some devices until we can be absolutely certain that use during takeoff and landing is safe in this country," it said. The CAA said it had been "monitoring developments" in this area for some time.

Air New Zealand said it was likely a rule change similar to the one in the US would be made here in the future.

The FAA's relaxed regulations will allow use of Wi-Fi and short-range Bluetooth accessories. A ban on making mobile phone calls still applies.

- APNZ

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