Travelers using Delta Airlines will soon be able to use their tablets, e-readers and smartphones during takeoff and landing. Delta was the first airline to jump on the opportunity to reform personal electronic device (PED) policies following an announcement by the Federal Aviation Administration on Oct. 31.

Airlines must submit plans for PED use to the FAA, before the devices can be used during entire flights. Delta reported that its plan already has been submitted, and it expects approval within just hours or days.

Laptop use still will not be allowed during takeoff and landing -- not for any wireless signal they may transmit -- but for the safety hazard their physical size creates, the FAA stated. Other smaller devices, however, such as e-readers, tablets and smartphones will be allowed during all phases of flight once the devices are placed in “airplane mode.”

The FAA says the change in policy will likely make its way across the industry by the end of the year, as individual airlines demonstrate to the agency that their fleets can operate safely under the new policy.

Previously FAA regulations required that electronic devices be completely turned off during takeoff and landing, the FAA’s explanation being that sufficient research had not been conducted to determine whether using the devices was safe. Pilots, however, regularly use PEDs during takeoff and landing. But the FAA explained that all pilot devices go through a “rigorous” six-month testing period to ensure the devices are safe for use.

Likewise, the FAA said, consumer PEDs have now been deemed safe for use on flights based on a group analysis conducted by airlines, aviation manufacturers, passenger groups, pilots associations, flight attendants, and mobile technology advocates and manufacturers.

These changes come one month after an FAA panel recommended a loosening of PED regulations.

Colin Wood  |  Staff Writer

Colin has been writing for Government Technology since 2010. He lives in Seattle with his wife and their dog. He can be reached at cwood@govtech.com