FCC chairman urges FAA to allow use of tablets during takeoff and landing

FCC chairman urges FAA to allow use of tablets during takeoff and landing

One of the great annoyances and confusions of flying is the ban on use of any and all portable electronic devices below 10,000 feet. While we're honestly perfectly fine with the use of cell phones being banned in such extended-period close quarters, devices like tablets, ereaders, and the like aren't really of great concern. I'll admit to having left my tablet and cell phone turned on (in airplane mode) during takeoff and landing, and the plane did not come crashing out of the sky, and there's little doubt that at least a few of your fellow passengers are doing the same on every flight.

Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Julius Genachowski is now urging the Federal Aviaition Administration (FAA) to "enable greater use of tablets, e-readers, and other portable devices" during all phases of flight, according to a report by The Hill. Genachowski's letter to acting FAA director Michael Huerta noted the economic benefits of these gadgets we use, though one has to question how much additional utility can be gained from working in the ~30 minutes between the gate and 10,000 feet (and in reverse when returning to the ground). Then again, extra time on the tablet is extra time on the tablet.

Genachowski pledged in the letter to work with the FAA, airlines, and device manufacturers on completing a review of the safety of these devices during the take-off and landing phases of flight. The FAA has been studying the question of gadgets during these phases for some time, stating in March that they were reconsidering the policy and forming a committee in August to study their current policies, though no recommendations have yet been made.

While we're all for extended gadget time during flights, we also want this to be done right. There are legitimate reasons behind the not-below-10,000-feet rule, and if the studies and committees determine that there's even a small chance that turning on that iPad could knock your plane out of the sky, then we'd rather people not be doing that. Airplanes are overengineered for a reason - just one mistake, one error, one failure can be seriously when you're with a hundred other people in a pressurized metal tube hurtling through the sky at five hundred miles per hour and thirty thousand feet over the ground. We'd all prefer that playing X-Plane on our iPad not be the cause of that failure.

Source: The Hill

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Derek Kessler

Managing Editor of Mobile Nations, occasional web designer, Army musician, armchair pundit, news addict, all-around nerd, professional ranter, and user of many phones.

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Reader comments

FCC chairman urges FAA to allow use of tablets during takeoff and landing


I thought the ban was because there distracting for passengers should there be an emergency. Hence the whole tray up, windows open.

No study needed. Pilots are now using tablets instead of flight books. Devices of all kinds, including cell phones, are used during all phases of flight on private aircraft. And you can sure bet wireless networked devices are used aboard the president's plane and military aircraft.

The tablets themselves aren't connected to any wireless networks and the ones that are being used have been thoroughly tested by the FAA. Interferences with instruments and other safety devices is rare but does happen. I fly for a regional airline and we had a few incidents where the baggage smoke warning light would flicker but not stay illuminated and where there was no fire or smoke. . The company investigated the cause and there were a couple of seats on the airplane, where a cell phone, particular a GSM(AT&T, T-Mobile, etc) was causing the erroneous illuminations.

Another reason is like tomhoward said, so people will pay attention in case of an emergency. Who would you want in the emergency exit row? Somebody who paid attention to the briefing and read their briefing card or somebody who was reading or playing on their tablet the whole time?

I flew for a commuter and am now corporate. I have notices the buzzing in the headsets with GSM, or at the commuter days TDMA phones. We had baggage smoke warnings, the company determined were cell phones left on in the baggage compartment. I have never personally experienced this. We are now using iPads as essential flight equipment in the cockpit. Our charts, flight manuals, and Opperations manuals are all on the iPads and are readily available. This, ironically, makes for a safer, more organized cockpit. Ther is no longer a concern of missing approach plates from doing the wrong revision. I do turn off the cellular feature, but get real time weather via onboard wifi access to the Internet. The aircraft uses a cellphone (AirCell or GoGo Inflight) to get that data.


The baggage compartment issue sounds like one that needs to be looked into but none of the FAA rules and regulations would have any impact of this. Additionally, the baggage compartment doesn't have nearly the shielding that the passenger compartment has so that's a different argument all together.

My issue with the radio argument is that while you may have noticed some interference in your radios it sounds like it was simply because someone decided to just stow their device without bothering to do *any* of the options they had to make them safer. Most, if not all, smartphones have an airplane mode. This would eliminate that static but still allow me the ability to use my device. And let's be serious now, who hasn't heard the safety speech a few thousand times and could probably recite it themselves? I agree with the emergency exit row comment but then again I also know the flight crew makes sure to talk to those people individually and face to face which guarantees you they are listening and know their responsibilities.

Well to be honest Lufthansa in Europe offers free wi-fi on their planes ( most of them ) during flight so that kinda proves it...

As a pilot who uses Foreflight on an iPad, in the cockpit, I can say without doubt that using such devices on a plane causes zero interference. Its about time the FAA came around. We are not in the 50s anymore.


Take off and landing are the most critical moments of a flight, therefore:

1. It is important that people are not distracted and able to react to staff instructions should an emergency occur. You don't want people lost in their games or movies, or even worse wearing headsets, that are unresponsive to instructions.

2. It is the worst possible time for interference to occur. Even if let's say the iPads have been tested not to cause interference, it's practically impossible to test all existing devices. If let's say some devices would be tested and allowed, it would still be impossible for the flight crew to quickly determine whether someone is using an allowed or not device.

3. Even if some people leave their devices turned on in their pockets, devices are more likely to cause interference when used rather than when idle - trying to connect to GSM or WiFi due to your using apps. Making sure that all people use airplane mode is even less practical than the previous point.

So, such a measure would create a risk with seriously, no reward - well, other than small entertainment value.