I kid, of course; the entirely #FirstWorldProblem of having to turn off my iPod during takeoff and landing hardly qualifies as even a lite life scourge. If, however, you’ve ever flown and wondered about the very apparent pointlessness of the flight attendant tapping you on the shoulder and insisting that you must completely power down your non-radio/cell signal-emitting electronic device — particularly when it is clearly not important enough that they should actually try to enforce the often ignored and/or accidentally violated rule with any kind of surety — wonder no longer.

Even over-the-top cautiousness is probably appropriate when it comes to aviation safety, but the federal government has been particularly slow to address the evident obsoleteness of the Zero Electronics Below 10,000 Feet rule and they’re only just making moves at altering the rule amidst the growing chorus of complaints in an increasingly digital age. Via the NYT:

This week, an F.A.A. advisory panel will meet to complete its recommendations to relax most of the restrictions. The guidelines are expected to allow reading e-books or other publications, listening to podcasts, and watching videos, according to several of the panel’s members who requested anonymity because they could not comment on the recommendations. …

Last year, the F.A.A. created the advisory panel of industry experts to update the rule. It was supposed to report back in July but requested an extension until the end of September to sort out some technical materials, an indication of just how complicated the deliberation has been. …

The panel wants to be able to present a single policy from “gate to gate” that would apply to all airlines, and all types of airplanes, according to several of its members who requested anonymity because the discussions were private. Instead of testing devices, the F.A.A. will ask that the airlines certify that their planes can tolerate interferences — something they have done when installing Wi-Fi on board, for instance. Once that is done, the airlines can allow electronic devices, perhaps by next year. …

Today’s most popular devices, aviation experts said, use so little power that they are unable to interfere with a plane’s aeronautics.

The prohibitions on Wi-Fi during takeoff and landing and on making any cell phone calls whatsoever will definitely stay in place — mobile voice communications are prohibited by the FCC because they can interfere with transmissions between cell towers on the ground — but otherwise, it sounds like the feds are slowly but surely moving toward modernization on this one.