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F.A.A. reconsidering no-gadget policy during airplane taxi, take-off, and landing

An iPad on an airplane

A spokesperson at the Federal Aviation Administration said they are reconsidering the requirement to turn off your gadgets on the plane while landing and taking off.  The F.A.A.'s deputy assistant administrator for public affairs said:

“With the advent of new and evolving electronic technology, and because the airlines have not conducted the testing necessary to approve the use of new devices, the FAA is taking a fresh look at the use of personal electronic devices, other than cellphones, on aircraft.”

Odds are a lot of you have heard the tired phrase "please turn off all electronics prior to take off and landing" when taking a flight.  The idea here is that they may interfere with the pilot's equipment. Of course, with the growing popularity of tablets like the iPad, there's been a significant amount of public push-back on this policy, since air travel is one of the best use cases for these kinds of devices.

The problem is, every individual tablet model has to be tested on an empty plane in flight, and repeated for each different model of aircraft that it wants to be certified for. As you can imagine, this can quickly become an expensive affair for airlines. It's worth noting that the F.A.A. isn't showing any interest in updating their policy for smartphone usage While it certainly makes sense for Apple to be getting friendly with investors by dishing out dividends, maybe they could spend some of that money to get iPads approved at least on U.S. flights.

Not that it needs any help, but it would be a huge selling point if the iPad was one of the few tablets you could use through the entire duration of a flight. It's too bad that the reconsideration isn't including smartphones, since the only real difference between them and tablets at this point is size.

Source: NY Times

Simon Sage

Editor-at-very-large at Mobile Nations, gamer, giant.

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There are 25 comments. Add yours.

squirble says:

This topic is just ridiculous. If there is the slightest chance that electronic devices can interfere with pilot equipment then the device should be turned off for those 10-20 minutes during take off and landing. Is the extra time you get to use your device worth risking the rest of your life for?

Peter says:

Shut up, that's a stupid comment! Do you have any idea how many people leave their electronics on anyway without any issues... might as well let us use them!

squirble says:

Stupid?!?! If the FAA is not 100% certain that the devices will NOT cause interference then those precautions should still be in place. Whether or not people abide by them is separate issue.

Jeff says:

Hey Peter! Remind me not to fly on a plane with you!

Blue says:

How many times do you hear "Plane crashes because of iPad"? None? Okay!

squirble says:

@Blue
Pre 9/11 how many times did you hear "Plane hi-jacked by terrorist and flown into a building"? None? Just because it hasn't happened doesn't mean you should rule it out. I know that is a bit of an extreme example but it's perfect one.
I know everyone uses a different scale when balancing risk vs gains but if all I have to do to turn that slight chance into "no chance" is turn my device off for 20 minutes, to me it's a no brainer. Until it is thoroughly tested I will continue to turn my devices off.

claustin says:

All modern airplanes' electronics are shielded. There's no risk of interference from electronic devices. I always leave mine on. They can't even tell. If a plane could be taken down by a cell phone, nobody would fly. The plane wouldn't even get off the ground with all the radio signals they have to go through. Common sense isn't something any government agencies take into account when they come up with this stuff.

TJ says:

I agree. Do you realize how many people leave their electronics on during a flight (albeit stowed away)?? On the contrary to your comment, any plane that might be affected by this should not be carrying passengers!
As the FAA is admitting, there is probably no reason why we cant be reading our tablets during take offs and landings and they are willing to let airlines test to prove it.

wormeyman says:

Hey James if electronic devices DID cause interference they would screen for them and confiscate them during takeoff and hand them back when they landed.

xultar says:

Let's be serious here. If all it took to cause a plane to fall from the sky was a cellphone planes would be falling from the sky 24/7.
I can't tell you how many times I've heard phones ringing in the overhead bins because people forgot they put them in their bag before putting it away.
People also sneak and use their phones and stuff all the time.
The rule may have been necessary back in the day but now it is not necessary.

TumnusMr says:

No one is saying that these mobile devices WILL cause planes to drop out of the sky, but the fact remains that the radio signals emanating from them CAN induce currents on electrical cabling and many planes were designed and built before a lot of these devices even existed.
Sure, even older planes will have shielding on electrical components and cabling, and the fly-by-wire ones definitely will, but they still haven't been tested with hundreds of mobile devices all being on at the same time, hunting for signals from a tin can in the middle of an airfield.
Just one stray signal making it past the shielding could cause an erroneous signal in the plane's controls that might not be recoverable at take-off or landing. Yes, some people leave their devices on, but that still pales in comparison to hundreds of passengers all leaving their devices on so it is better to be safe than sorry.
Those planes that have WiFi on board or even pico cells will have been specifically tested with a wide range of devices and since the base stations are on board, the devices will use a low power signal so it potentially makes them safer, but that is still not cheap to do.
In the end it is probably just financially and practically infeasible to either test all devices on all planes or certify and allow only certain models for use by the general public.

wormeyman says:

Simon you are thinking the same thing i was thinking, that companies like apple,samsung, and amazon. Would cover the cost to get their individual devices certified for the airlines. Although enforcing it would be a real pain could you imagine the flight attendants having to hand out a list of approved devices or reading it out loud. Not to mention that they might not know the difference between an an approved device and a not approved device if they aren't tech savvy.

ccostel says:

Didn't some airline start putting their flight manuals on ipads? Those devises would be in the cockpit of the airplane with the pilots and the equipment that they are worried about interfering with?

CP says:

That 'airline' is the United States Air Force.

FLskydiver says:

Alaska Airlines was approved first, than American and United. Unofficially, a great many pilots for all airlines and all carriers have been and continue to use them regularly.
I have to believe the resolution of the retina display iPad 3 will bring a swift death to the era of paper flight manuals, maps and plates (which are infinitely less user friendly than electronic versions). Why buy pounds and pounds of expiring paper when electronic versions can be updated at will, as needed, without the need to print, stock, and ship entirely new editions when just a small percentage of the data has changed?
Not to mention that when combined with a $100 gps accessory they can provide a stunning amount of data which can be of enormous benefit should primary systems fail. Can't imagine any pilot who wouldn't appreciate having an iPad with a few stategic apps and a handheld transceiver in his flight bag.

Jon says:

I agree, if you've flown commercial in the past 5 or so years there is a 100% chance you've been on a flight with active electronics or even cell phones during flight and your plan did not crash.
There is a difference between the FAA not knowing if it could happen 1/1,000,000 times or it actually being ok in practice. They are the government they have to test everything 100 times to evaluate the risk. this does not mean they are thus unsafe because they have not been proven in testing as safe yet.

jarettp says:

i for one wouldn't want to be on a plane where a cell phone could take it down. the only thing interfering with pilots are these flight control workers falling asleep... my ipad on airplane mode with my noise cancelling headphones isn't going to an RC plane let alone a commercial jetliner. we need to get it together on this, no one wants to sit there with the crying kid till the plane reaches 10,000 feet.

jamend81 says:

Makes me wonder how people used to fly before tablets and smartphones.

talkin73 says:

LOL, best reply yet! It's crazy, isn't it... to imagine a strange, bizarre world with airplanes that don't have tablets and cell phones on them. People might actually have to read a book made of actual paper, do a crossword puzzle, or (dare I say it?!?!?) talk to another human being. I'm also delighted to see a wealth of info posted in these comments from obvious epidemiologists, statisticians, and other researchers. Clearly their own personal experiences, anecdotes and opinions can be extrapolated and taken as scientific fact. And I'm sure that absolutely none of these people who are talking about big, bad, evil government separating them from their little digital buddies would EVER even dream of blaming and suing the heck out of the airline if there was a bad outcome on a plane caused by something that hadn't been tested and retested over again... "I can't believe they didn't test for this?!?!? We should sue!!!" Common sense isn't common but we definitely live in a culture where "It's all about me, baby!"

as400man says:

I'm a Private Pilot who uses an my iPad (3rd Gen) as an Electronic Flight Bag. I have my powered on during the entire flight. 99% of my flights are below 10,000ft. Corporate flight departments, even airlines (American) are starting to embrace iPads in the cockpit. I provide support to our pilots in our flight department if they have questions about their device, or the apps we provide them.
The FAA is making a smart decision by re-evaluating their policy.

marktaylor#AC says:

The reason that "law" remains in effect can be summed up with one word, and I am sure that Apple understands it well - lawsuit.

Owen says:

I'm surprised the FAA is willing to look at this issue. Most electronic devices are perfectly safe, but from a passenger evacuation stand point. The FAA and NTSB are very strict/concerned when it comes to passenger evacuation. Hence why your carry-on must be pushed in ALL the way under the seat in front of you. If you're busy playing some game on the iPad and there is an emergency, people are going to want to take the iPad with them so save it, therefore occupying one or both of their hands making it harder for them (and the people around them) to evacuate.
I'd LOVE to see the FAA change the rules don't get me wrong, but i'm surprised that during the critical phases of flight (take off and landing) they'd be willing to let people divert their attention and hands to something other than saving their own bacon.

Satuja says:

Delta is also currently using iPads for Charts. I don't see what this has to do with the FAA at all - Isn't it the responsibility of the FCC certification to make sure the electronic devices do not emit harmful radiation or interference?

dharrisonrand says:

I never have a problem with my Kindle. On my last flight I was sitting across from the flight attendants during landing and they were both reading on their Kindles too!

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