5 years ago, I would get on a plane and send out my last text messages right up to the last minute I could. I would soon hear those words telling me to power off any and all electronic devices as the aircraft gets ready for takeoff. I never paid much mind to this rule; It was taken for granted, and I followed it.
However, in the last few years, passenger sentiment, including my own, has changed to where there is growing dissent. People want to know why they must turn off their iPads before takeoff. Recently, it was discovered that pilots are even using tablet computers for flight manuals in the cockpit and some flight attendants use tablets that have information on flight procedures. There is no danger if flight staff use these devices, so why not passengers?
The Federal Aviation Administration (F.A.A.) of the United States has been very vague in the few times they’ve attempted to answer that question; most times, they decline to comment. The administration now is getting a new fire lit under their asses this time around, as Senator Claire McCaskill, Democrat of Missouri, says she plans to hold the F.A.A. accountable by introducing new legislation on these rules, according to the NY Times.
“So it’s O.K. to have iPads in the cockpit; it’s O.K. for flight attendants — and they are not in a panic — yet it’s not O.K. for the traveling public,” she said. “A flying copy of ‘War and Peace’ is more dangerous than a Kindle.”
With this new pressure, travelers within the United States may see more lenience within the next year. Industry organizations, from travel agencies to pilot unions, are among the advocates for a revamping of these seemingly old-fashioned laws.
The general answer as to why electronics must be shut down before takeoff and landing is due to the RFI (Radio Frequency Interference) that each device emits. Theoretically, the radio frequency interference from a cell phone or tablet computer could overlap an emergency frequency that the pilot may be using. However, most seem to agree that this is an exaggerated problem and that the RFI from even a cabin full of powered-on electronic devices are incapable of interfering the cockpit.
So, hopefully this time around we will finally see an easing of restrictions, as well as some scientific evidence to justify any remaining restrictions. This time next year, we may all be allowed to keep our electronics on during takeoff and landing, at least in flight mode.
Read the full article, “Disruptions: F.A.A. May Loosen Curbs on Fliers’ Use of Electronics,” as it appeared in The New York Times.