Skip to main content

Want to use your iPad during takeoff and landing? The FAA may soon allow it!

You may soon be able to use your iPad on flights during takeoff and landing, as the Federal Aviation Administration is considering loosening restrictions on devices that can be powered on during those times. The list of permitted devices would not include cellphones, and would be restricted to so-called “reading devices” such as Kindles and iPads, and all devices would be required to be put in airplane mode. A working group is currently studying the issue and hopes to release its results by the end of July, according to Nick Bilton at the New York Times:

Last year, the agency announced that an industry working group would study the issue. The group, which first met in January, comprises people from various industries, including Amazon, the Consumer Electronics Association, Boeing, the Association of Flight Attendants, the Federal Communications Commission and aircraft makers. The group plans to introduce its findings by July 31.

What exactly is meant by “reading device” isn’t quite clear apart from ereaders. Is an iPad a reading device? You can certainly read on it yes, but does it qualify? Given that airplane crew members are now able to use iPads during takeoff and landing to do their jobs, it seems reasonable that iPads would be on this list. But this raises other questions: what will I be allowed to do with my device? Can I play a game, listen to music, or watch a video? Hopefully this will become clear when the group releases its report in July.

Source: The New York Times

Joseph Keller is the former Editor in Chief of iMore. An Apple user for almost 20 years, he spends his time learning the ins and outs of iOS and macOS, always finding ways of getting the most out of his iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, and Mac.

  • Dear FAA, welcome to the 21st century!
  • Given that they don't restrict "what you can do with it" now on personal electronic devices used during flights, I doubt they will try to restrict "what you can do with them" during take-off and landing, either. I expect it will just be a decision on allowing them to be on, versus the current requirement to be off. They would just be required to be in Airplane mode.
  • By them labeling it as a "reading device" just makes them seem so closed minded and dated. Looking forward to their findings!
  • If they do allow this hopefully people use common courtesy (which doesn't seem so common these days). I've seen some people being downright rude using electronics on planes.
  • As much as I fly, this would awesome. Especially if they encompass cell phones in airplane mode as well. I could listen to music all the time or watch a full movie in flight, catch up on podcasts, etc. I really hope they approve this.
  • Great! Finally something modern coming :)
  • Great! Hopefully the official announcement sheds more light on what exactly is permitted.
  • Why would they allow an iPad in airplane mode and not a cell phone in airplane mode? I don't bother shutting my phone down when in a plane. Just put it to airplane mode and essentially it's an iPod at that point.
  • Yay! They will finally "allow" what everyone does already. :)
  • Finally, only 25 years after I was yelled at for playing my cassette walkman on a plane!
  • While I was on a flight 2 months ago, a pilot was sitting beside me. We began talking while still at the gate. i noticed that he switched his iPhone over to airplane mode and put it in his pocket. I made a comment about turning it off, which I NEVER do, and he said "it is a stupid outdated rule and allows the FAA to feel like they have power" (his words, not mine). He went on to say that they use iPads in the cockpit which are never turned off and there is no proof of any "interference" from phones, iPads, iPods or any type of tablet/e reader. I say it is about time the FAA gets on board!
  • I have read several reports of false smoke detector signals (for example, in the plane's cargo hold) going off in the cockpit that were traced to a nearby GSM cell phone being left on. So, there is definitely proof of interference from certain devices, especially in older planes with old electronics and sensors. How would you like to have a flight that you were on have to make an emergency landing, at an unplanned destination, because it turned out a false alarm was caused by somebody's cell phone?
  • Several reports?
  • Yes, several. It's been a while, so I don't have links handy. Sorry.
  • I fly very often and I can say without a doubt that there have been several phones left on with no problems. Based on what you have said, it would not really matter if it were take of or landing because the "reports" you have read were smoke detectors. These are on ALL THE TIME. Therefore the devices that get turned on during flight would cause this (based on your claims). In my opinion, these "older planes" should be updated because you do not see these "reports" with newer planes! Welcome to 2013!
  • I was responding to your statement that there is no proof of interference from phones. That is incorrect. Just because it doesn't happen often, doesn't mean it doesn't happen. Do I think it will cause a plane to crash? No. Do I think it *could* cause an artificial emergency? Yes, I do think it is possible. Finally, this should not be a surprise to anybody. I've seen it happen quite often that a cell phone is left on a desk right next to a computer and when a call is about to come in, you can hear some staticy noises come through the computer speakers. So, obviously, cell phones do output electromagnetic radiation that CAN (notice, I did not say WILL) interfere with sensitive electronics that are in close proximity to the phone.
  • I fly in single engine aircraft and have used an iPad in the cockpit since the first day they came out. I have yet to have interference from it on my GPS or navigation radios. Even AOPA has come out with their own iPad based flight planning application. If interference was such a big issue, you wouldn't have WiFi on an aircraft.
  • It's about time. I've never understood this restriction. Even as a little boy this bugged me. Really? My gameboy is going to kill us all if I turn it on? I can't believe this has taken this long to finally get some logical relief on this. This might make my next flight a little more enjoyable!
  • It is about time that they allow this. They can always change the rule if there are signs that it is causing interference, but I have never believed that certain electronic devices causes interferences like this. An iPad is one of them.
  • Hey, that's exactly like my beautiful iPad! I'd love to use that baby more often on a plane!
  • Thank The Lord. This is an outdated and unnecessary rule. I are passengers on planes secretly keeping their smartphones and tablets powered on and connected to wireless networks during takeoff all the time. They just hide the devices when the attendants walk by. And of the ten or so flights I've taken in the last year, not one of them was affected.
  • Ok so they will allow these devices, but wasn't part of the issue with the ban that people needed to be paying attention to what's going on during takeoff and landing, not just the issue with supposed signal interference? People can still be "not paying attention" with a magazine or newspaper or book just the same but the let me have and use those while we're taking off. *shrug*
  • the main idea of not using electronic devices during take off and landing is because we pay a lot less attention to our surrondings. In case of emergency if your playing a game or hearing music it's more likely that you don't hear the announcements made by flight attendants.
  • To be honest, I don't understand why some people are so happy about this. Is it that difficult for you to not use your gadgets for that 10 minutes during landing/take off?
  • You must not fly that often. I've been on flights where you are stuck on the runway for an hour or two waiting to take off due to weather or other delays and you can't use your electronic devices at that time either. So if you don't bring a book or a magazine, you are stuck staring at the seat in front of you for hours on end.
    If there is a legitimate safety concern that there is the slightest chance that an iPad or kindle or whatever could interfere with something then yes, continue the ban, but if the science says they are safe, then why not let people use them?
  • I don't see the big deal. You can't live 10 minutes without your device until it lands/takes off? Also I find it funny that iPhone isn't included but iPad is, or is iPhone already included? So silly and dumb; just wait the 10 minutes.
  • I have the Kindle app and iBooks app on my iPhone, it's technically a "reading device". This is going to be the argument when/if they continue to restrict phone usage.
  • Surely, in the event of an emergency, an iPad turning into a projectile would still be safer than a hardcover copy of war & peace... Yet the latter is the one that's presently allowed. It's about time we had a reform like this! I have to wonder though, if cell phones aren't allowed, where will they draw the line on phablets?
  • A lot of people have been waiting for this regulations to change for a while now. Makes no sense anymore since people today use this devices for pretty much everything. I do hope they allow it soon.
  • Finally! I can't wait until this is implemented. It never fails when you are working on something and just about finish you have to turn your device off due to landing. This is great!
  • Can hardly wait! But why would they let me use my iPad in airplane mode but not my iPhone in airplane mode? I like to listen to music or play puzzle games on my phone during take off and landing. Or at least I would like to... :)
  • For as many people that don't turn off their cell phones, myself included, should be enough data for them to know it is perfectly safe to use electronics during take off and landing. Think that's been debunked for a while.
  • This would be great, to catch up on all kinds of work stuff,
  • Finally!! I remember a Mythbusters episode on the Discovery channel where they attempted to scientifically prove using electronics did not interfere w/ the plane. Sadly, the FAA wouldn't allow them to test the effects in flight, but on the ground no instruments were effected.
  • Hopefully this passes soon! And I don't think they will really be able to restrict people from playing games or surfing the web. But this would be great paired with gogo!! It's the 21st century should be able to use my Ipad during take off and landing
  • Although this seems pretty good, airplane mode lets you keep your device on and most of us do that already. I kind of like takeoff and landing and dont really use my devices during those times anyway.
  • I am a frequent flyer, and YES!! I need my entertainment xD glad that this is happening
  • I am surprised by the blatant disregard some folks have for FAA regulations. Just because you have done something many times without consequence doesn't mean it's ok. I am by no means someone who understands how a complicated piece of machinery like a jet works, so I think I will listen to those that understand these things.
    It's not hard following the rules. Which is what everyone should be doing. I know I wouldn't want to be responsible for causing a problem for hundreds of people just because I couldn't find something to amuse myself for a short while.
    It would be nice if they determined that this could be allowed. I can only speculate why phones wouldn't be on the list but it may have something to do with sending out a stronger signal than WiFi.
  • I have to say that I'm pretty ambivalent about this. I have a weird habit of falling asleep right before takeoff and dozing for the few minutes. IMHO, if there's no danger to the aircraft, fine, allow the usage. If there is any shadow of a concern, I say we all suck it up and chill til the pilot says it's ok. NBD
  • Yess! Hope the FAA approves this.
  • I think we've all see the "rebel" on a plane continue to use their phone during takeoff and landing, and my plane never went down. I agree with the outdated use of "reading devices". They could have just easily said tablets. Regardless, I'll be interested in reading what they determine.
  • At last! I always chuckle to myself when the flight attendant says to turn off electronics devices when taking off/landing because they interfere with signals.
  • Finally! Never understood what's the problem about this :/
  • But a cellular iPad can still make calls. So how is an iPad in airplane mode different from a phone in airplane mode? If an iPad is allowed, why not phones in airplane mode? Not that I am dying to use it during takeoff, but just debating on their logic.
  • The iPad wifi+cellular cannot make calls
  • How silly of me!! Thank you for correcting.
  • This is great news. I am a very nervous flyer and being able to keep my iPad running and keep me distracted would help ease my nerves tremendously! Not to mention I don't carry books or magazines anymore ...
  • Wow! This is fantastic.
  • Excited for this!!!
  • I'd like to file this in the "about time" and "does it really matter" bins. The iPad, and any other device in AIRPLANE mode sounds like a perfectly safe thing to use at any point while on an airplane. On the other hand, even though its slightly inconvenient, what's the argument for someone just NOT being able to turn their device off during the small window of take-off and landing?