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FAA To Reevaluate Inflight Electronic Device Use

samzenpus posted about a year and a half ago | from the turn-on-your-handheld-devices dept.

The Internet 336

coondoggie writes "If you have been on a commercial airline, the phrase 'The use of any portable electronic equipment while the aircraft is taxiing, during takeoff and climb, or during approach and landing,' is as ubiquitous but not quite as tedious as 'make sure your tray tables are in the secure locked upright position.' But the electronic equipment restrictions may change. The Federal Aviation Administration today said it was forming a government-industry group to study the current portable electronic device use policies commercial aviation use to determine when these devices can be used safely during flight."

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336 comments

What could possibly go wrong? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41141151)

How many people are going to have to die before the FAA changes it's mind and re-bans these devices?

Re:What could possibly go wrong? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41141207)

Die from what? Angry passengers killing those that talk obnoxiously on the phone? No, but seriously, it's probably more likely that terrorists will use cell phones on planes to coordinate attacks then interference.

Re:What could possibly go wrong? (2)

kaws (2589929) | about a year and a half ago | (#41141527)

They're not talking about using cell phones, cells will most likely be banned anyways because the cell connection could interfere with the airplane's equipment. Of course this could be completely false and cell phones don't create the kind of interference that the industry has assumed it does. tldr; Even if electronics in general are allowed all the time, radio transmission will probably not be.

Re:What could possibly go wrong? (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | about a year and a half ago | (#41141615)

terrorists will use cell phones on planes to coordinate attacks then interference.

Surely if the attacks worked there'd be nothing left to interfere with?

Re:What could possibly go wrong? (4, Insightful)

kimvette (919543) | about a year and a half ago | (#41141837)

No, but seriously, it's probably more likely that terrorists will use cell phones on planes to coordinate attacks then interference.

Right, because terrorists would not attack anything were there laws prohibiting such attacks, ergo they would obey the electronics restrictions were they in place. The ONLY thing stopping them right now is not the fear of being killed by legitimate passengers, but the silly restriction against using electronics which CAN NOT and DO NOT interfere with properly-installed-and-maintained avionics.

Oh please no (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41141203)

The last thing needed in a crowded airplane are self-important loud mouths blabbing on cell phones.

Re:Oh please no (1)

ThatsMyNick (2004126) | about a year and a half ago | (#41141219)

Or heaven forbid, silently reading their book on e-book reader.

Re:Oh please no (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41141323)

Technically, it's not even on as long as you don't change the page.

Re:Oh please no (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41142125)

Try explaining that to the stewardess or pilot, or anyone who's capable of kicking up a stink if you don't shut off your electronic device (even if it's a 100% non-transmitting device, like a GPS receiver) like a good little sheep.

Personally, I said 'screw it', and was mildly amused at watching the altitude and speed of the plane on my GPSr hidden beside me. Needed the antenna pretty much right at the window, but I was able to sit comfortably with it hidden, only to be glanced at every so often for amusement.

Do I feel even the slightest bit bad, or worried that I put others at risk? NO! I feel bad that it got shifted slightly and I lost the satellite connection for about 10 minutes in the middle, but that's it. It's not a transmitting device, ergo it is physically and electronically incapable of doing anything during takeoff, landing, or otherwise, and anyone who tries to say otherwise is an idiot. It's "output" if you can call it that, is whatever energy could have 'leaked' outside the device from two AA batteries being used at very low power. Kids shoes with those stupid LEDs that light up with every step would cause more of a problem, if not purely due to it being turned off and on repeatedly.

Re:Oh please no (1)

zonky (1153039) | about a year and a half ago | (#41141441)

I can see why they don't want people using such devices during take off and landing. (i.e, paying attention to the crew in an emergency). If you're using the IFE system, they can interupt that - not if you're on an IPOD buried in a e-reader etc.

Re:Oh please no (5, Insightful)

ThatsMyNick (2004126) | about a year and a half ago | (#41141655)

Not this again. This has been discussed to death. If they do not ask people to put away regular books, why should I be asked to put away my ebook reader. Either make a consistent rule that one should put away any sort of distraction away, for the sake of situation awareness or dont prohibit anything.

Re:Oh please no (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41141765)

Ebooks make you look like a hipster. And it is the duty of every airline to harass the hipsters about their electronic shirts, anti-TSA logos, and funny electronics. But don't worry, pretty soon black rimmed glasses and mixed "vintage-inspired" clothing will get you put on the no-fly list.

In other news, Crocs will always be welcome (because they scare hipsters).

Re:Oh please no (2, Interesting)

SomePgmr (2021234) | about a year and a half ago | (#41141445)

I don't see why it has to be all-or-nothing.

Readers, tablets, mp3 players? Cool.
Mobile phone conversations? No way.

And they probably don't need any justification, but they could just say, "we need to keep the obnoxious chatter to a minimum during those times so people will hear instructions and announcements from the crew."

Re:Oh please no (5, Informative)

jb11 (2683015) | about a year and a half ago | (#41141469)

Second paragraph in the article. "The group however will not "consider the airborne use of cell phones for voice communications during flight.""

Re:Oh please no (3, Informative)

therealslartybardfas (2495594) | about a year and a half ago | (#41141719)

Cell phone use on commercial flights aren't banned because of the disruption they do to the airplane, they are banned because of the disruption they will do to the cell network. At 30,000 feet, your cell phone will attempt to connect to 100's of cells at once. This obviously causes network congestion. If people really did turn off their phones during commercial flights, we would have more cell bandwidth on the ground.

Re:Oh please no (4, Informative)

sortius_nod (1080919) | about a year and a half ago | (#41142025)

This is why on aircraft that are licensed to allow cell phone use carry their own femtocell style access points. There aren't many airlines/aircraft that are licensed, but the trials have been in place for some time.

The main problem with cell phones on planes is a customer problem: the cost. They charge at international roaming rates, so it's not worth it unless you're making money off the call.

Re:Oh please no (2)

poetmatt (793785) | about a year and a half ago | (#41141627)

you mean like people do on trains, buses, etc?

god forbid you're forced to acknowledge that a ton of people are gigantic assholes (including the person who takes personal offense at others daring to communicate) and leave it to society to encourage them to not blab on the phone. You know, like functional society.

Are these devices that important? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41141227)

Why can't people just turn them off for the 30 minutes or so the plane needs to take off, climb-out, execute final approach and landing?

What's the big deal?

Re:Are these devices that important? (5, Informative)

Matt.Battey (1741550) | about a year and a half ago | (#41141301)

Because the reason they are banned isn't because of electromagnetic emissions, but rather because it is a crowd control technique. There's nothing special about the first 10 and last 10 minutes of a flight, other than it's the most likely time for a plane to crash land. The regulation is all about causing passengers to pay attention to flight attendants and nothing to do with avionics.

Re:Are these devices that important? (2)

Andy Dodd (701) | about a year and a half ago | (#41141537)

On instrument descent, there is (understandable) concern regarding interference with ILS - ILS is an aging legacy system that is known to be very fragile and interference-prone.

That said - ILS landings are becoming rarer and rarer as improved precision instrument approach technologies are deployed (such as GPS with RAIM) - With ILS, you don't get a warning that the system is degraded due to interference, with GPS+RAIM you will. As a result, that leaves "crowd control" as the primary remaining item.

Re:Are these devices that important? (2)

TooMuchToDo (882796) | about a year and a half ago | (#41141999)

Is ILS used at all at major airports anymore? I thought it was all GPS+WAAS now, since you could do Class III instrument landings with the proper GPS/WAAS fix.

Re:Are these devices that important? (2)

kwerle (39371) | about a year and a half ago | (#41141563)

Citation, please.

Re:Are these devices that important? (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | about a year and a half ago | (#41141695)

There is no citation for common sense.

If you'd ever flown you'd know that they ask you to stow all personal effects - books, bags, coats. So it's clearly not EM emissions they're worried about.

Which by a process of elimination leaves a) attention and b) clutter. And c), both.

Re:Are these devices that important? (5, Insightful)

cygnwolf (601176) | about a year and a half ago | (#41141895)

Speaking as someone who flies all the time for work, I've never been asked by a flight attendant to put away my paper book, or on the few times when I've had it out, my knitting, during takeoff OR landing. And this has been on flights where I have seen them getting on to people about electronic devices. The whole thing is a poorly enforced regulation that may have had a purpose in the early days of analog cell phones that put out a lot of interference and instruments that were possibly vulnerable to them, but these days it seems more than a bit out of date. And poorly enforced, I see people 'hiding' their cell phones all the time during takeoff and landing and just making sure they don't let the flight attendant see......

Re:Are these devices that important? (2)

redneckmother (1664119) | about a year and a half ago | (#41141991)

Serious question - do they still allow knitting needles on commercial flights?

I ask because I haven't flown commercial since 2000.

Re:Are these devices that important? (5, Insightful)

Ambiguous Coward (205751) | about a year and a half ago | (#41141905)

I fly all the time and have never once been asked to stow a book, including one I am actively reading.

Furthermore, they require the devices be OFF rather than simply stowed. If my phone is turned off and I can demonstrate it, they don't care if it's sitting in my hands and I'm playing with it, ineffectually pressing buttons and making wooshing sounds as I fly it around my immediate airspace. I say this from first-hand experience.

Which by process of elimination leaves...d) outdated paranoia?

Re:Are these devices that important? (3, Interesting)

fwarren (579763) | about a year and a half ago | (#41142075)

Once upon a time I would get to work and break into sections a 300 page printout and then leave it in my bosses office. One day I stayed to talk to my boss and watched at they transfered all 300 pages from there inbox to the trash. So I did a lttle research and it turned out a supervisor who had retiered over 10 years ago had wanted that report. One division of the compay ran that report off every day and had it shipped to where I was at. Then somenone in my building had the job of breaking it up into sections and puting it in an IN BOX, for more than 10 years after the need for the report was gone. Everyone was very happy when I told them to stop running that report.

Someone probably had a very good reason for making people put things away on a flight back in 1933 and now no one knows why. Everything now is a justification of a policy that they have always enforced.

Re:Are these devices that important? (5, Insightful)

onyxruby (118189) | about a year and a half ago | (#41141593)

I used to travel for a living and I couldn't begin to tell you how many times I saw people leave their portable electronic devices on. Whether this was an accident or not I couldn't tell you of course, but I would have to imagine that if you were extrapolate a dozen cell phones a flight by a couple thousand flights a day etc.....

Point being that there is overwhelming real world evidence that portable electronic devices just don't bring airliners. If that was actually the case we would have had airliners falling out of the sky on a daily basis every day for many years now. The rules for turning the devices off have no basis in reality and are as outdated as the manual typewriter. They need overturned and left in the dustbin of history...

Re:Are these devices that important? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41141693)

In a world with 1E-9 targeted levels of safety, your anecdotal evidence is missing 2 things: 1) a large enough sample size, and 2) any data gathering. Sometimes odd shit happens on landing. Tehre's no way to demonstrate whether or not it's related to the random shit, or cell phones.

Re:Are these devices that important? (1)

FatAlb3rt (533682) | about a year and a half ago | (#41141661)

Increased number of projectiles loose in the cabin in the event of an accident?

Re:Are these devices that important? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41141921)

Lap babies FTW!

Re:Are these devices that important? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41141703)

There's nothing special about the first 10 and last 10 minutes of a flight, other than it's the most likely time for a plane to crash land.

That sounds pretty special to me.

Re:Are these devices that important? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41141711)

Bullshit it is. Why can I read a book during this time but not listen to a tiny mp3 player? Large books are heavy and would be a hefty projectile in a crash, much like a phone/laptop. They just don't want to bother.

Re:Are these devices that important? (1)

AvitarX (172628) | about a year and a half ago | (#41141893)

MP3 player blocks your ears, I actually can see how that makes sense.

Also, I think they ask you to put your books away, but don't give a shit.

Re:Are these devices that important? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41141843)

Um, no.

That's going to be an importnat consideration in how to deal with this problem, but these two electromagnetic issues are non-trivial:

Low emissions.
              I have as yet to see a consumer device that meets any FAA approved low-emissions standards. Having your mystery widget caused guages in the cabin to be 10% off during a high altitude cruise only costs you time. At take off and landing it can cost you far more.

Cellphone topologies
              Once you stop insisting on "all the way off" kids (and some adults) will want to spend all their time texting and facebooking. The way cellphone towers work is to re-use the same frequencies on each side of a hill with the assumption that the people on the ground can't interfere with each other. When you have line-of-sight access to 10 different towers on the same frequencies, you create a mess.

              For this latter reason, even private pilots (who have their own full attention during take off and landing) are prohibited from using Cellphones on their planes except in an emergency.

              Personally, I'd like to see a low-emission cert. on my portable goods and get to listen to my music for an extra 40 minutes of flight time.

Re:Are these devices that important? (4, Informative)

Shagg (99693) | about a year and a half ago | (#41141899)

There's nothing special about the first 10 and last 10 minutes of a flight, other than it's the most likely time for a plane to crash land.

Actually, that's exactly what's special about those times.

Re:Are these devices that important? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41141357)

Why should people be commanded not to have these devices on for no reason?

Re:Are these devices that important? (3, Insightful)

vlm (69642) | about a year and a half ago | (#41141391)

What's the big deal?

Its mostly fear mongering FUD. We aren't exactly suffering from a lack of it. I'm sure we'll invent a new reason.

Another is what amounts to electrical smog makes it irrelevant over the developed world. Yeah, sure, from a EE perspective a microwatt level kindle is a big problem compared to a 100 kilowatt class TV transmitter.

The other thing is assuming you believe in the terrorist behind every tree stump mythos, the problem is intentional radiators are available at power levels 60 to 90 dB higher than your average unintentional radiator. So if you want a chance in hell of operating flight instruments thru an "attack" by someone with a hand held radio transmitter, you are inherently utterly impervious to the 90 dB down levels of any pacifistic consumer device.

I would like to see a new procedure for flying replacing the FUD with a genuine interference FAA and TSA reported emergency light and procedure. So in the infinitely unlikely event someone intentionally or unintentionally caused a problem, they'd track it. Not just untracked voodoo like now "well, we don't know why, but the VOR rx was acting up so we assume it must have been passenger electronics"

Re:Are these devices that important? (2)

Artraze (600366) | about a year and a half ago | (#41141483)

It's called "freedom". You might have heard of it in history class. Basically, the idea is that things should be allowed unless there's a good reason to disallow them. An important part of that is exercising due diligence in studying those reasons.

Considering I fly multiple times a month (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41141265)

with half a dozen mobile devices, or more - and most of them are on w/ cell signal while I'm flying...

They really should review that policy.

Re:Considering I fly multiple times a month (2)

MozeeToby (1163751) | about a year and a half ago | (#41141565)

Do you realize how fast you hop from tower to tower at 600 mph? I've heard that's one of the reasons cell phones in particular are a problem, millions of phones doing potentially dozens of tower hand offs per minute is enough to cause real problems with the cell phone infrastructure.

Re:Considering I fly multiple times a month (1)

swb (14022) | about a year and a half ago | (#41141639)

So the ban is about protecting AT&T and Verizon, and not flyers?

I'd guess that there are more handoffs on the 405 freeway during rush hour than on any given flight.

Re:Considering I fly multiple times a month (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41141769)

On the freeway your cell doesn't have near line of sight access to every tower in the city.

Re:Considering I fly multiple times a month (2)

Ambiguous Coward (205751) | about a year and a half ago | (#41141937)

Nor is it trapped in near as splendid a faraday cage as it is in the sky.

Re:Considering I fly multiple times a month (4, Insightful)

bws111 (1216812) | about a year and a half ago | (#41142047)

Well, since as soon as you land you are free to use your phone (and many people do), I think your faraday cage does not do what you think it does.

Re:Considering I fly multiple times a month (1)

synapse7 (1075571) | about a year and a half ago | (#41141689)

It has been a while since I've been on a plane, but do cell phones make connections to towers during flight?

Re:Considering I fly multiple times a month (1)

neo8750 (566137) | about a year and a half ago | (#41141915)

Depend son how high the flight is. But i can say that the flight I am on right now at 32,000 feet my cell wont connect. Yeah i paid for wifi in the sky lol.

Re:Considering I fly multiple times a month (3, Informative)

Obfuscant (592200) | about a year and a half ago | (#41142015)

It has been a while since I've been on a plane, but do cell phones make connections to towers during flight?

Of course. Why wouldn't they?

I've gotten off a flight and found messages on my phone that had arrived while I was at 30,000 feet somewhere over Idaho.

Unfortunately for cellphone users, the ban on cellphone use in flight is not an FAA ban, it is an FCC ban, and has nothing to do with passenger safety. It is entirely to do with the specific allocation of the frequencies in use as LAND MOBILE and not AIR MOBILE. The FAA won't be able to change that.

Re:Considering I fly multiple times a month (1)

TooMuchToDo (882796) | about a year and a half ago | (#41142041)

I've received text messages in-flight when I've forgotten to turn my phone off. Nexus One phone.

Re:Considering I fly multiple times a month (1)

bws111 (1216812) | about a year and a half ago | (#41142103)

Of course they do. Remember the 'let's roll' cell phone call on 9/11?

Well... (3, Insightful)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about a year and a half ago | (#41141269)

I'm ok with the FAA loosening up on those poor, persecuted, electromagnetic waves that have historically been singled out for persecution and discrimination.

However, I would like to see the draconian measures previously reserved for in-flight electronics applied with redoubled fury against those who have the temerity to emit high volume and/or pitch sound waves, or substantial levels of visible-range electromagnetic radiation during nighttime hours. Those are the true hazard to consumer aviation.

Permit wifi and crack down on screaming children.

Re:Well... (4, Insightful)

swb (14022) | about a year and a half ago | (#41141871)

Permit wifi and crack down on screaming children.

We all hate screaming children, especially those of us who fly with them.

What we hate even more are clueless assholes who don't have children telling us what rotten people we are because our three year old lost patience during the last hour of a 6 hour flight delayed two hours.

Re:Well... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41142123)

Like everywhere else: control your kids or if you can't stay home. I wasn't taken on an aircraft until I was 7 years old.
There times and places for letting them run around, scream and be 'themselves': 30 000ft /10km in the aisle isn't one of them.
Personally I think stressed out parents, passengers and kids are far bigger a hazard on aircraft than all the electronic devices.

Re:Well... (1)

AvitarX (172628) | about a year and a half ago | (#41141945)

I paid for WiFi on my last flight, never again. High latency always (250 - 2000 ms), 50+ % dropped packets for about 2/3rds the flight. I paiod for it, and ended up not using it even.

It may have just been priced too low at $5.00.

Let the wait begin... (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41141283)

"The Federal Aviation Administration today said it was forming a government-industry group to study" = no changes for at least 5 years.

Mythbusters? (5, Informative)

KhabaLox (1906148) | about a year and a half ago | (#41141345)

Didn't Mythbusters cover this?

Yes. [kwc.org]

Re:Mythbusters? (1)

rikkards (98006) | about a year and a half ago | (#41141495)

Yep and I think most of the reasoning behind not allowing people to use "electronic devices" is to basically make sure when the shit hits the fan that no one can't hear the steward(ess) telling people to kiss their butts goodbye. I think when you get down to it that is the real reason but they throw up the EMI boogieman because Joe Q Public would ignore requests not to have their device off otherwise.

Re:Mythbusters? (2)

jb11 (2683015) | about a year and a half ago | (#41141547)

Because Mythbusters is a shining example for accurate and effective testing through the use of the scientific process.

Re:Mythbusters? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41141713)

Think about this. Do you think every single electronic device is always turned off? I would bet cold hard cash that is not true. I have seen people pull their phone out of their pockets and go 'WHOOPS forgot to turn it off' after the flight... Now extrapolate all the other devices out there and those sorts of casual mistakes and the thousands of flights every day.

That was the mythbusters point. Which you missed. Oh on that same show they did find 1 device that 'sorta' interfered with one piece of equipment. IF it was held right next to it.

Re:Mythbusters? (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | about a year and a half ago | (#41141929)

So? That's like noting Phineas and Ferb or Strawberry Shortcake covered it. Despite the hype surrounding them, the Mythbusters are not scientists and scientific accuracy and facts always take a backseat to a big boom or other entertainment.

Re:Mythbusters? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41142141)

They had what, two phones (that were probably operating properly, which is not a fair assumption given the quality of parts) on one fully-modern private plane? Throw in the full range of personal electronics, the full range of non-obvious component failures, and the full range of commercial aircraft (plus the full range of seats, location matters) and see if you get the same result.

Ongoing Experiments (5, Insightful)

etherwalker (78824) | about a year and a half ago | (#41141351)

I would bet that more than 50% of devices on planes are already left on for takeoff and landing. The only thing being turned off is the screen.

Re:Ongoing Experiments (1)

Belial6 (794905) | about a year and a half ago | (#41141879)

A good deal of people don't even understand that turning off the screen and turning off the device are not the same thing.

Re:Ongoing Experiments (1, Interesting)

garcia (6573) | about a year and a half ago | (#41142171)

Yup. I put mine in Airplane Mode and just put it to sleep. No sense in wasting battery on the 3G connection attempts or blowing through towers at the cost of other people's connections but I'm certainly not going to wait for my phone to boot up at landing to send a SMS to the person coming to pick me up.

It's bullshit and everyone has known it forever. We've already had a very large panel of experts prove this is a non-issue for over a decade. Let's not waste time now.

hey editors (1)

noh8rz7 (2706405) | about a year and a half ago | (#41141355)

the phrase 'The use of any portable electronic equipment while the aircraft is taxiing, during takeoff and climb, or during approach and landing,' is as ubiquitous

I've never heard that phrase before. usually they say somethigna bout the devices not being allowed, tho.

$$$ Won't let this happen... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41141403)

I don't think they'll reduce the restrictions much, if at all. If it were truly a case about interference and radio waves, then why do they have phones on the planes, tv's built into every head rest, and large tv's in front of the isles? All of those electronics are just fine to use whenever because you have to pay for them. If they start letting us use all of our own stuff up there then that'll be less profit.

Re:$$$ Won't let this happen... (3, Insightful)

Em Adespoton (792954) | about a year and a half ago | (#41141709)

I don't think they'll reduce the restrictions much, if at all. If it were truly a case about interference and radio waves, then why do they have phones on the planes, tv's built into every head rest, and large tv's in front of the isles? All of those electronics are just fine to use whenever because you have to pay for them. If they start letting us use all of our own stuff up there then that'll be less profit.

There are multiple issues here. First off, the issue is about crowd control. THEY control all the on-board electronics, and can turn them off at whim. This way, they can always ensure they have the attention of passengers, and can disable any malfunctioning electronics equipment.

Second, they have phones on the planes that are air-to-land or air-to-satellite linked, through a single antenna. The phone systems are shielded. Compare this to cellular phones, which ramp up signal strength depending on how far they are from the nearest cell. Plus, cell phones aren't meant to be used at those speeds; during takeoff and landing, the plane is close to the ground, but moving fast -- meaning constant hop from cell to cell, requiring signal boost from both the towers and the phones, potentially interrupting navigational equipment (the disruption would be just as much from the ground cells as from the phones).

This brings us to the third point: flight attendants are not EM experts, nor can they identify every electronic gadget made in the past 20 years at a glance. Much easier to have a blanket ban on devices than to have to figure out what sort of radio each device has inside, and what sort of potential EM output the device has.

So, the FAA has approved a few airline-controlled methods of communication and entertainment, and banned everything else.

Personally, I've always wondered why they seem to allow paperbacks, magazines and newspapers during takeoff and landing, even though they tell people to stow all their loose belongings.

Re:$$$ Won't let this happen... (3, Informative)

thegarbz (1787294) | about a year and a half ago | (#41141841)

Funny my last international long haul flight completely independent of the FAA had the flight attendants tell us that not only were we allowed to turn on electronic devices but we were also allowed to turn off flight mode and make use of the in-plane WiFi for internet and to make phone calls from our mobiles.

Worse even the rates were reasonable, imagine that!

EM concerns are a throwback to the 90s where people didn't have a clue what's going on. Last I recall all the devices which have been blamed for aircraft instrumentation interference have been unable to reproduce the issue.

This Isn't Going to Solve the General Problem (1)

Arabian Nights (2597797) | about a year and a half ago | (#41141411)

The general problem on passenger aircraft is orders given by flight attendants over the speaker system that begin/end with "...in accordance with federal regulations..." are parroted and observed with no understanding of why they are in place.

Having the FAA remove the requirement that electronic devices are off does not solve the problem that commercial flying is laden with laws bearing heavy consequences [tsa.gov] that at times have no connection to common sense, like the electronic device issue.

Philip K Howard points out [npr.org] that the general problem goes much deeper than the FAA, but in the context of "rules on an airplane" the public is very comfortable blindly following laws seemingly without reason. If you disagree, try asking someone on board the next time you take off why you have to have the window shades up, or the seats upright, or the tray table stowed, etc.

Re:This Isn't Going to Solve the General Problem (1)

Aqualung812 (959532) | about a year and a half ago | (#41141649)

If you disagree, try asking someone on board the next time you take off why you have to have the window shades up, or the seats upright, or the tray table stowed, etc.

These are pretty obvious to me:
-Shades up so other planes can see you better while you are on the ground at night
-Seats upright so the seatbelt doesn't push your guts into your chest if you crash
-Tray table stowed for the above reason as well

Re:This Isn't Going to Solve the General Problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41141773)

Tray table stowed: so in case of emergency abort of take off, you don't smash your head on the tray table.

Seats upright: so the person behind you doesn't smash his head on your seat if the taking off is aborted due to an emergency.

In this corner.... (2)

swb (14022) | about a year and a half ago | (#41141429)

...we have the safety zealots who believe that if bans of electronic devices in-flight reduce the risk of crashes by .00000001% then the ban makes sense, because, hey, who's in favor of crashing an airplane? (Those of you raising their hands in favor, please stay seated, a TSA agent will be with you shortly).

In the other corner, we have the airlines, who are opposed to in-flight use of devices to the extent that using such devices denies them their God-given right to monetize every last moment spent on an airliner and that even if making a cellular data connection call in flight wasn't likely to be unreliable, it might keep someone from having to spend $19.99 on BoGo in-flight internet service.

Watching, of course, are all the people who have inadvertently and intentionally left their electronics on and somehow managed to land safely at their destination with the most harrowing part of the flight being the gross weirdo in the seat next to them or the smell coming from the aft lavatory.

What about hospitals? (1)

wisnoskij (1206448) | about a year and a half ago | (#41141463)

Here in Canada at least you are not supposed to use cell phones while you are in the building.
Very annoying, since when you go to the hospital you have no idea how long it will take and it can take longer than many flights.

Re:What about hospitals? (2)

Jesse_vd (821123) | about a year and a half ago | (#41141637)

That's not true. The hospitals in my area (Fraser Valley, BC) only ask you to turn phones off near the Radiology lab. 15 years ago it was the whole hospital, though.

Re:What about hospitals? (1)

Em Adespoton (792954) | about a year and a half ago | (#41141749)

If you're in the hospital as a patient, you likely aren't needing your cellphone (although the waiting room can addmittedly get boring). If you're in as a visitor, just step outside -- most hospitals have "phone bays" outside the main building where people can send and receive calls.

Re:What about hospitals? (1)

wisnoskij (1206448) | about a year and a half ago | (#41142073)

Most hospital visits are not performed when you are unconscious or in serious condition. Get a little cut and in addition to the waiting it might take an hour to sew up and bandage. You absolutely do have uses for your cell phone. Not only for the boredom but to phone your friends/work to reschedule and such.

Pilots do it! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41141481)

I was listening to Mac Power Users [5by5.tv] today, and they had an interview with a pilot today that said nearly 50% of pilots use an iPad as a replacement for expensive, bulky and very short shelf-life paper maps [foreflight.com]. So the pilots are running an iPad during take off and landing!

Re:Pilots do it! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41141569)

Just before some jerk asks

  • Maps are loaded pre-flight. The interviewer states he loads the maps for the states he's flying in and makes sure they're up to date (they last 28 days or so) before each flight as part of the pre-flight check.) They also make sure the iPad is fully charged as part of the pre-flight check.
  • They're not using the GPS in the iPad to fly the plane with (it's not FAA certified.) They're just using it to quickly look up the part of the map that's relevent
  • The pilot interviewed carries multiple iOS devices incase of a problem with the iPad (i.e. he loads the map onto his iPhone too that can run the same software)
  • There are numerous other advantages to the iPad, for example it can help you be very clear about where on the map you are and even help avoid things like runway incursions (since it's helpful to avoid accidentally getting confused about which runway is which)

Re:Pilots do it! (2)

vlm (69642) | about a year and a half ago | (#41141663)

If you think all the pilots are doing is looking at maps, this will blow your mind

http://www.aviation.levil.com/ [levil.com]

Basically the all the glass cockpit displays are slowly coming to the ipad as apps. primary flight instruments, engine management displays, ADS-B rx, radar displays, you name it.

You can pay $10K to garmin for each dedicated appliance, or $500 to apple for whats officially called a backup device ...

I suppose its nothing new. Almost 20 years ago I knew pilots "sneaking" consumer GPS units and handheld air-band radios into their airplane as "backup devices"

It makes sense to me. Every pilot has a nightmare of full electrical failure at night in IFR conditions... so your flight bag has a flashlight or two, hand held gps, hand held radio, and now an ipad and some gadgetry and cables.

The Luddites will win this round too (2)

terraformer (617565) | about a year and a half ago | (#41141489)

As others have said, this is not about electrical interference but social control. What's the difference between someone reading harry potter on a 1lb device or reading it in it's 10 lb hardcover form? The greater danger is from the projectile the book becomes in a crash. But since there is no FUD means for banning the book, they allow you to read it. But in reality there is no difference so long as the plane doesn't crash.

Nobody ever bothers me (1)

phorm (591458) | about a year and a half ago | (#41141931)

Nobody ever bothers me about my devices when the plane is in-flight. My phone is in "airplane mode", the wifi is off on my eReader, and the tablet similarly has wifi/bluetooth/etc turned off.

Nobody's ever given me any grief about it so long as the devices are off for takeoff/landing. Most airlines do mention having the cellphones turned off, but the rest are just suppose to be not broadcasting. I suppose if I wanted to game with other people in-flight through wifi it might be needed, but what's the issue here?

Re:The Luddites will win this round too (0)

Virtucon (127420) | about a year and a half ago | (#41142173)

Exactly, the airlines want your complete attention during the most critical times in terms of flight safety. Some airlines allow you to have your headphones/ear buds in as long as they're powered off during taxi/takeoff/landing. Others won't allow them at all.

But come on folks, it's like 10 to 20 minutes per flight so is it such a hassle? Also nice "Prisoner" ref there in the sig.

To Better Frame The Discussion... (1)

guttentag (313541) | about a year and a half ago | (#41141491)

This is taken straight from TFA, but this is really the meat of TFA
The FAA said it is looking for comments in the following areas:
  • Operational, safety and security challenges associated with expanding PED use.
  • Data sharing between aircraft operators and manufacturers to facilitate authorization of PED use.
  • Necessity of new certification regulations requiring new aircraft designs to tolerate PED emissions.
  • Information-sharing for manufacturers who already have proven PED and aircraft system compatibility to provide information to operators for new and modified aircraft.
  • Development of consumer electronics industry standards for aircraft-friendly PEDs, or aircraft-compatible modes of operation.
  • Required publication of aircraft operators' PED policies.
  • Restriction of PED use during takeoff, approach, landing and abnormal conditions to avoid distracting passengers during safety briefings and prevent possible injury to passengers.
  • Development of standards for systems that actively detect potentially hazardous PED emissions.
  • Technical challenges associated with further PED usage, and support from PED manufacturers to commercial aircraft operators.

Comments can be emailed to: PEDcomment@faa.gov

What if they are not a threat? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41141567)

If they really were a threat to the flight safety, they would just confiscate it before departure, and give it back to you after landing.

Non story (1)

trancemission (823050) | about a year and a half ago | (#41141717)

Heh - like you would get a signal at that height. I didn't read TFA but the only way you will get a decent signal on a plane will be via a system designed to work at 30000ft by people who would sooner their plane not crash because you sent a tweet.

How many planes have crashed due to somebody not switching their phone of?

Re:Non story (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41141771)

Zero.

Nobody switches their phone off. The smart ones put it in "airplane mode" (read: "radio off") because you ain't getting service anyway so you might as well save battery, and then they turn the screen off and stuff it in a pocket when told to turn off all electronic devices. The dumber ones skip the airplane mode step.

Cell phone use on planes (1)

MadCow42 (243108) | about a year and a half ago | (#41141743)

The moment I have to sit and listen to the guy next to / behind / in front / etc. of me talk all flight long on his cell phone is the moment I stop flying. Cell phone usage should still be banned unless people can fully embrace the Japanese culture around public phone usage (i.e. go hide somewhere people can't hear you, and then still whisper and cover the phone).

MadCow.

Re:Cell phone use on planes (1)

Belial6 (794905) | about a year and a half ago | (#41141965)

Or you could pay $0.50 and get a pair of earplugs so that you can have your quite and they can have their conversations instead of you trying to demand that every other person in society bend their behavior to your whim.

Re:Cell phone use on planes (1)

PraiseBob (1923958) | about a year and a half ago | (#41142065)

So it is ok for some random TSA goon to feel your junk, look at you naked, or irradiate you with some equipment they swear is safe.... But having to listen to another person talk, that crosses the line!

spontaneous flames (1)

RichMan (8097) | about a year and a half ago | (#41141833)

Are they more or less likely to spontaneously errupt in flames when on, or when off?

Think! Idiots! Think! (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41141859)

Look at the folks whining about the risks of interference, in this supposedly informed audience.

Think about it for a minute. If there was ANY real risk of a cell phone or any other electronic device IN ANY WAY interfering with aircraft electronics, do you really think that the FAA would even allow them aboard? Would they allow 150 cell phones, all supposedly capable of interfering with the electronics and bringing the plane down, onto every single flight? 150 terrorist weapons on every flight! Really?

Have you never seen anyone forget or simply refuse to turn off their devices and have no effect on the aircraft at all? Have you, as have I, not ever innocently forgotten the cell phone turned on in your pocket to no effect at all? I'll wager that 25% of them are left on during every flight.

They won't allow you to carry on more than four ounces of spring water(liquid)! But, they don't have any problem with this "dangerous" device on everyone's hip? Think people! Think!

P.S. For those of you that will now link to obscure pilots reports of "strange" behavior of the aircraft's electronics and their self attribution of that behavior to passenger electronics; forget it. These reports have been repeatedly debunked. The fact is that it is proven that many pilots are very capable of driving a plane while still being complete idiots; reporting interfering passenger electronics and flying saucer sightings and flybys.

Im worried more about PEDs in the Cockpit (1)

RobertLTux (260313) | about a year and a half ago | (#41142019)

what i don't want to hear is that a Pilot 1 Got a High Score in Angry Birds 2 "landed" a Plane in a Mountain

oh and for those that say "But I have an IPod Pico so why should i have to turn it off" i give you a lesson in basic Physics

Mass Times Acceleration = Force so even 2.31 grams flying about the cabin (at 45meters per second) can hurt somebody

(and btw im all for a Pilot having an iFly (Commercial Pilot edition) Ap installed just stay away from Angry Birds while In Flight)

homosexual dino bones discovered with eggs in ass (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41142085)

Memorable quotes for
Looker (1981)
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0082677/quotes [imdb.com]

"John Reston: Television can control public opinion more effectively than armies of secret police, because television is entirely voluntary. The American government forces our children to attend school, but nobody forces them to watch T.V. Americans of all ages *submit* to television. Television is the American ideal. Persuasion without coercion. Nobody makes us watch. Who could have predicted that a *free* people would voluntarily spend one fifth of their lives sitting in front of a *box* with pictures? Fifteen years sitting in prison is punishment. But 15 years sitting in front of a television set is entertainment. And the average American now spends more than one and a half years of his life just watching television commercials. Fifty minutes, every day of his life, watching commercials. Now, that's power."

##

"The United States has it's own propaganda, but it's very effective because people don't realize that it's propaganda. And it's subtle, but it's actually a much stronger propaganda machine than the Nazis had but it's funded in a different way. With the Nazis it was funded by the government, but in the United States, it's funded by corporations and corporations they only want things to happen that will make people want to buy stuff. So whatever that is, then that is considered okay and good, but that doesn't necessarily mean it really serves people's thinking - it can stupify and make not very good things happen."
- Crispin Glover: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0000417/bio [imdb.com]

##

"It's only logical to assume that conspiracies are everywhere, because that's what people do. They conspire. If you can't get the message, get the man." - Mel Gibson (from an interview)

##

"We'll know our disinformation program is complete when everything the American public believes is false." - William Casey, CIA Director

##

George Carlin:

"The real owners are the big wealthy business interests that control things and make all the important decisions. Forget the politicians, they're an irrelevancy. The politicians are put there to give you the idea that you have freedom of choice. You don't. You have no choice. You have owners. They own you. They own everything. They own all the important land. They own and control the corporations. They've long since bought and paid for the Senate, the Congress, the statehouses, the city halls. They've got the judges in their back pockets. And they own all the big media companies, so that they control just about all of the news and information you hear. They've got you by the balls. They spend billions of dollars every year lobbying lobbying to get what they want. Well, we know what they want; they want more for themselves and less for everybody else.

But I'll tell you what they don't want. They don't want a population of citizens capable of critical thinking. They don't want well-informed, well-educated people capable of critical thinking. They're not interested in that. That doesn't help them. That's against their interests. They don't want people who are smart enough to sit around the kitchen table and figure out how badly they're getting fucked by a system that threw them overboard 30 fucking years ago.

You know what they want? Obedient workers people who are just smart enough to run the machines and do the paperwork but just dumb enough to passively accept all these increasingly shittier jobs with the lower pay, the longer hours, reduced benefits, the end of overtime and the vanishing pension that disappears the minute you go to collect it. And, now, they're coming for your Social Security. They want your fucking retirement money. They want it back, so they can give it to their criminal friends on Wall Street. And you know something? They'll get it. They'll get it all, sooner or later, because they own this fucking place. It's a big club, and you ain't in it. You and I are not in the big club.

This country is finished."

##

We now return you Americans to your media: Corporate, Government sponsored and controlled (rigged) elections..

Most of you are all so asleep it's time you woke up!

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