The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is said to be about to relax the ban on some types of personal electronic devices aboard commercial airliners at low altitudes, maybe even during landing and take-off.
The Wall Street Journal says the details are still being debated within the FAA but says there's an emerging consensus that the rules now in effect are out of touch with the times.
The rules prohibiting the use of cell phones and other devices that emit radio signals go back to the 1960s, when practically no one had such a thing. The few portable radio transmitters that did exist tended to use much higher power, making them more likely to interfere with aircraft navigation and communications systems.
Airlines are currently allowed to set their own rules but most have chosen to simply follow the FAA's guidance and have prohibited the use of all devices at altitudes of less than 10,000 feet.
An FAA advisory group has warned the agency that unless it updates its rules, airlines may adopt a "nonstandard system" of patchwork rules that "could further confuse the public."
If the FAA sticks with the current draft version of the new rules, devices like Kindles and other e-readers could be used during all phases of flight while others, like tablets and laptops, might still be restricted to 10,000 feet.
The current draft doesn't propose any changes to cellphone usage, which isn't allowed at anytime on U.S. flights, although some international carriers allow it.
The advisory panel said it will provide a separate draft on that topic that the FAA can address if it feels it can withstand the turbulence that could result.