The U.S. aviation authority said on Thursday (October 31) it will allow airlines to expand the use of portable electronic devices in flight to include smart phones, tablets and e-readers, ending a long-standing ban.

"Most commercial airlines can tolerate radio interference from portable electronic devices," Federal Aviation Administrator Michael Huerta said at a news conference at Reagan National Airport near Washington, D.C.

"It's safe to read downloaded materials, like e-books, calendars and to play games."

These activities are expected to be permitted during all phases of flight, including take-off and landing, on the vast majority of U.S. flights, he said.

In-flight mobile phone talking is not approved, Huerta said, noting that this continues to be governed by the Federal Communications Commission.

However, passengers will be able to connect with an airline's WiFi network and can use Bluetooth accessories, such as wireless mouse and headphones.

As a practical matter, mobile phones should be kept in airline mode during flight, he said. Without this setting, the phones would continue to search vainly for a signal while aloft, draining batteries.

Huerta said the guidance applies to U.S. airlines throughout their domestic and international routes. The next step is for airlines to submit plans for implementation after testing to make sure aircraft can tolerate this kind of radio interference.

Presented by Adam Justice