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The Federal Aviation Administration said Tuesday that pilots on American Airlines flights would be allowed to use iPads instead of paper flight manuals in the cockpit starting Friday, as reported by ZDNet, even during takeoff and landing. But passengers are still required to shut down anything with the slightest electronic pulse from the moment a plane leaves the gate until it reaches an altitude of 10,000 feet.

The rule barring passengers from using a Kindle, an iPad or even a calculator were originally made to protect the electronics of an aircraft from interference. Yet pilots with iPads will be enclosed in the cockpit just a few inches from critical aviation equipment.

There is some thought that the rule forbidding devices during takeoff and landing was made to ensure that passengers paid attention. The F.A.A. has never claimed this. (If this was the case, passengers would not be allowed to have books, magazines or newspapers during takeoff and landing.)

The F.A.A.'s stance regarding devices on planes has been revised several times. Last month, in my weekly Disruptions column, I noted that the rules requiring passengers to turn off devices, like Kindles and iPads, seem outdated. At the time I spoke with Les Dorr, a spokesman for the F.A.A., who said the reason for the ban was that the agency would rather err on the side of caution when it came to allowing digital devices on planes.

Yet in a statement issued to The New York Times, the F.A.A. said that it had conducted "rigorous testing of any electronic device proposed for use in the cockpit as an electronic flight bag, in lieu of paper navigation charts and manuals."

The F.A.A. did not say why the testing that had been used for pilots could not also be used to test the area where passengers sit so they could use iPads and Kindles, too.

© American AirlinesAmerican Airlines has proudly shown how pilots will use iPads instead of paper charts.
The F.A.A. did say it had limited the number of approved devices in the cockpit to two, one for each pilot. "This involves a significantly different scenario for potential interference than unlimited passenger use, which could involve dozens or even hundreds of devices at the same time," the F.A.A. said in the statement.

Captain David Clark, manager of American Airlines connected aircraft program said in a phone interview that the airline has spent extensive months testing the iPad in the cockpit to ensure that it would not interfere with a plane's avionics.

"We conducted some very extensive testing with the Apple iPad; the device's 3G, WiFi, and Bluetooth have all been turned off, and with that, we didn't have any interference issues," he said.

When asked if the same testing could be done for passengers in the cabin, Captain Clark said the decision to allow passengers to use iPads, or other electronic reading devices on planes, would have to be decided by the F.A.A.

Last week, the American Airlines caused a kerfuffle when it ejected Alec Baldwin, a co-star on the NBC show 30 Rock, from a flight for playing a game of Words with Friends on his iPhone while the plane was parked at the gate.