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Originally published Thursday, October 24, 2013 at 4:36 PM

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Decision on passenger texting, email ‘coming soon’

FAA will soon unveil expanded rule on use of electronic devices during flights.


Bloomberg News

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A rule expanding airline passengers’ ability to use electronic devices on flights, delayed by the partial government shutdown, will be unveiled “very quickly,” the U.S. chief aviation regulator said.

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration is still recovering from the 16-day funding dispute and is focused on safety priorities before turning its attention to an advisory panel’s suggestions for use of iPods, Kindles and other devices on aircraft, Administrator Michael Huerta said Thursday.

Huerta, in his first public comments since the agency was partially shuttered, said aviation leaders need to identify the government’s financial priorities — and what should be cut — to avoid future funding crises that are threatening the U.S. industry’s leadership position worldwide.

“Short-term, stop-gap funding is no way to run a government or an aviation system,” Huerta said in a speech at the Aero Club of Washington and attended by airline officials, union groups and others in the industry.

The FAA faces hundreds of millions of dollars in additional cuts next year if no action is taken by Congress, he said.

The FAA furloughed one-third of its 46,000 employees on Oct. 1 after an impasse in Congress and the White House over the 2010 Affordable Care Act and the debt ceiling forced a partial government shutdown.

The furloughing of FAA workers delayed release of proposed new standards for when passengers may text and email during airline flights.

The agency’s advisory panel recommended allowing use of e- books, sending email and browsing websites throughout flights, including during landing and takeoff, a person familiar with the report said.

Mobile-phone calls and texting would remain forbidden. They are banned separately by the U.S. Federal Communications Commission. Use of nearly all electronic devices are currently prohibited below 10,000 feet.

“We do have the report,” Huerta told reporters after his speech in Washington. “Naturally with the shutdown we lost a lot of momentum on that.”

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