It's been slow coming but the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has finally lifted the unpopular ban on using electronic devices during airplane take-offs and landings.
FAA Administrator Michael Huerta announced on October 31st that "airlines can safely expand passenger use of Portable Electronic Devices (PEDs) during all phases of flight, and is immediately providing the airlines with implementation guidance."
Don't flip on your Nexus 7 or iPad the second you next settle into your airline seat. It's not quite legal yet.
The FAA explained that, "Due to differences among fleets and operations, the implementation will vary among airlines, but the agency expects many carriers will prove to the FAA that their planes allow passengers to safely use their devices in airplane mode, gate-to-gate, by the end of the year."
Even then there will be some restrictions. The main one is that you still can't use cell phones to make calls during flights. Voice communications fall under the jurisdiction of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), not the FAA. As someone who'd just as soon not listen to someone else's conversation, they can keep that restriction forever as far as I'm concerned.
The upshot of this is that you can only use your smartphone in airplane mode or with its cellular connection disabled. You may use your device's Wi-Fi connection if the plane has Wi-Fi and the airline allows its use. You can also use short-range Bluetooth accessories such as wireless keyboards and headsets.
These new rules are meant for airlines in the US. They will apply to both domestic and international flights. Foreign airlines follow their own country's civil aviation rules. Since the FAA shares information and works with the international civil aviation authorities to harmonize requirements as much as possible, it seems likely these airlines will follow suit.
During the actual takeoff and landing roll, you will not be able to use your devices, but that appears to be the only other hard and fast restriction. I'm looking forward to being able to listen my music and read my e-book from gate to gate.