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Flying high with gadgets, coming soon?

RNC chairman Reince Priebus (L) looks on as Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney works on his iPad aboard his campaign plane on October 29, 2012.

The Federal Aviation Administration issued rules on gadgets in flight when cellphones first became popular. There were fears they could interfere with planes’ navigational systems. So passengers are told to turn off their electronic devices at the beginning and end of a flight. But today’s gadgets have weaker signals. So, some experts say, interference should be less of a problem.

The FAA has asked a government-industry group to look into relaxing the rules. Its final report is due this fall. If most of the restrictions are lifted, could it be a boon for the airlines? Or possibly for manufacturers -- who’d get lots of business retrofitting planes? Not according to airline analyst Darryl Jenkins.

“This is not the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow," he says. "Ultimately, if anything comes from this, it will be modifications to the aircraft, and I doubt the modifications are going to be that expensive.”

Jenkins says that’s because most airlines upgraded their fleets over the past ten years. Everybody’s flying pretty new planes, and many with Wi-Fi systems.

The study commissioned by the FAA isn't looking into allowing cellphone conversations during flights. Jenkins says airlines are afraid passengers would complain about that.

About the author

Nancy Marshall-Genzer is a senior reporter for Marketplace based in Washington, D.C. covering daily news.
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Still hoping cell phones will always remain banned on flights! I'll take a screaming baby instead any day. : )

Just because a gadget is on doesn't mean we're doing business. Kicking back with my music and babycrying, er, noise-cancelling headphones would make life better in my 31" pitch cell.

Maybe someday I can do that without being considered a terrorist hell-bent on bringing down planes.

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