Earlier this week the FAA let leak the fact they might consider loosening the rules regarding electronics on commercial aircraft. As many of us know, under current rules personal electronics must be turned off when the cabin door closes and cannot be turned on until the aircraft has reached at least 10,000 feet in altitude. When landing, these devices must again be turned off until the plane doors have been reopened on the ground. Many of us have long wondered the utility of these rules, suspecting that the reasons stated are dubious at best and outright lies at worst.
The arguments put forth by the FAA and aviation pros seem sound on their face, even if as a consumer it’s tough to ignore the fact that pilots are now allowed to use iPads in the cockpit. Experts say that electronic equipment could interfere with various onboard instruments, a major concern during takeoff and landing obviously. The other reason is that it is important for passengers to give flight attendants their full attention as these are the most potentially dangerous times of any flight. Makes sense, right?
My problem with this logic has always been that it seems faulty to me. If this truly were a concern, personal electronics probably wouldn’t even be allowed on board planes at all. Why? Because many people don’t actually turn them off, including me. Oh I’m not one of those jerks who uses their cell phone after the doors have closed, or read my iPad when I shouldn’t. No, I close my e-reader and put it in the seatback in front of me but I never actually turn it off. I suspect many other people do the same. They shut the cover of their Kindle or iPad, not turning it off, and wait until the “ding ding” sounds throughout the cabin to continue reading their book or magazine. The FAA, flight attendants and pilots surely must realize this and so they tacitly acknowledge the fact that an electronic device in the on-position is not necessarily a problem. If it were, if this truly was a matter of life or death the restrictions would be extreme. As fliers we have all seen how the powers-that-be take steps in order to ban items that may negatively impact the safety of a flight, as well they should. The fact that millions of people fly every year with personal electronic devices in the on position obviously doesn’t bother anyone, or this wouldn’t even be a question.
Inconsistency of rules has been an issue, according to New York Times columnist Nick Bilton:
“As I wrote in 2011, travelers are told to turn off their iPads and Kindles for takeoff and landing, yet there is no proof that these devices affect a plane’s avionics. To add to the confusion, the F.A.A. permits passengers to use electric razors and audio recorders during all phases of flight, even though those give off more electronic emissions than reading tablets.” – Disruptions: F.A.A. May Loosen Curbs on Fliers’ Use of Electronics
It seems to me that what does exist is uncertainly about the effects of electronic devices on equipment, but not to the levels enough to cause officials to take decisive action.
I’m not an idiot and I am definitely not a rule breaker. I don’t want to put my life or anyone else’s in danger and I have nothing but the utmost respect for the men and women who take care of me when I’m up in the air. That being said, this rule in my personal, humble and not all that knowledgeable opinion is antiquated and in need of change. In practice this rule barely exists, so why not go ahead and officially change it?
What do you think? Should the FAA allow passengers to use personal electronics (NOT cell phones) anytime they want during a flight?