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FCC Chief Urges FAA To Ease Airplane Electronics Ban

Soulskill posted about a year and a half ago | from the select-a-champion-and-decide-this-through-single-combat dept.

Handhelds 242

Hugh Pickens writes "AFP reports that Federal Communications Commission chairman Julius Genachowski is calling for an easing of the ban on using mobile phones and other electronic devices on airplanes during takeoff and landing, saying devices such as smartphones 'empower people' and can boost economic productivity. 'I write to urge the FAA to enable greater use of tablets, e-readers and other portable electronic devices during flight, consistent with public safety,' the FCC chief said in the letter to FAA Administrator Michael Huerta. The ban is in place based on the assumption that devices could interfere with an airplane's navigation equipment. But a number of news stories have questioned the validity of this claim, and many point out that some people forget to turn off their devices during flights. The FCC studied the question several years ago but found insufficient evidence to support lifting the ban at the time. But not everyone has been forced to put their gadgets away. Earlier this year the FAA approved iPads instead of paper flight manuals in the cockpit for pilots, but the agency still refuses to allow passengers to read on Kindles and iPads during takeoff and landing."

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Kindle's and iPads but what about Microsoft Surfac (-1, Troll)

AdamRich (2790901) | about a year and a half ago | (#42224823)

I just recently beefed up my tablet processing power with a new Microsoft Surface tablet, and I think it's great.

The story however only mentions Kindle and iPad. I think Microsoft Surface is highly more capable in several ways and would like to use one on board. Am I allowed to do so? I think it would be okay but don't know. Thank you for your kind response!

Re:Kindle's and iPads but what about Microsoft Sur (1)

rmdingler (1955220) | about a year and a half ago | (#42224905)

Sorry, but no. Though the FAA considers the Surface tablet highly unlikely to bring down the jet you're on, it is a virtual lock to bring down English dominance by allowing downloads in Korean. (blogs.cio.com/mobilewireless/17626/microsoft-surface-tablet-review)

Re:Kindle's and iPads but what about Microsoft Sur (1)

rmdingler (1955220) | about a year and a half ago | (#42224979)

And Bonus Round! You will be browsing with Internet Explorer right out of the box. No troublesome free downloading of the things you're used to off the internet either! Fear not, all software can be purchased safely from the Microsoft Windows store....meh!

Re:Kindle's and iPads but what about Microsoft Sur (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42225005)

An account that was created today, has first post and endorses a Microsoft product? I've seen this before.

Shill.

Microsoft Flight Simulator X (-1, Troll)

AdamRich (2790901) | about a year and a half ago | (#42224839)

Did you know how much I love Flight Simulator X? It's truly one of the best flight sim games I've ever played. I could just spend days flying around the world and pretenting that I'm a professional pilot with real passengers to fly. The scenery is incredible and along with Visual Studio I think it's Microsoft's best product to date.

The sad thing is that Flight Simulator X recently lost contact [slashdot.org] to its master servers, hindering the online play.

I want to play the game and I need your help! Let Microsoft know how much you love Flight Simulator X and want to play it online! Only that way I can feel like a real pilot again!

simple touch of the rainbow oil (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42224855)

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Truly a 1st world problem (2, Insightful)

murdocj (543661) | about a year and a half ago | (#42224863)

Wow... 10 minutes when I can't use my iPad. If this is your biggest problem in your life, celebrate like there's no tomorrow.

Re:Truly a 1st world problem (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42224917)

Do people who use "first world problem" realize how utterly stupid that phrase that makes them look, how meaningless it is and how condescending it is to people who aren't in the "first world"?

Re:Truly a 1st world problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42225437)

the post was made by the definition of an ignorant 1st world person, who offends the rest of othe 1st world. So yes, I think he does. Or is willfully ignorant.

Re:Truly a 1st world problem (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42224951)

That's not the point. Senseless regulations just for the sake of their being regulations is dumb. Pilots can use them, passengers can't? - and there is no valid reason why not. If they want to say, "No it won't bring the plane down, but we need everyone's attention to listen to this important safety announcement about belt buckles" fine - just be honest about it. Don't treat me like an idiot.

Just don't feed me a line of bullshit about it might interfere with the electronics of the aircraft. The people that buy in to that irritate me almost as much as the control freaks pushing the message. Have rules that make sense and I'm cool. Foist rules that are bullshit and that treat me like an idiot and we have an issue.

So chill out, cupcake. Don't be all "stop your whining" and sarcasm. Whether it is someones big or small problem, it is "their problem" and it shouldn't be A problem if it was based on honesty.

Re:Truly a 1st world problem (-1, Flamebait)

AdamRich (2790901) | about a year and a half ago | (#42225009)

Often US people need to be treated like idiots so they understand anything. And by anything I mean anything at all.

Re:Truly a 1st world problem (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42225217)

It's not for the sake of regulations. It's simply because in all the tests they did surrounding electronic use, people using it at those times pissed off other people around them the most, since you would have people typing loudly and using their cell phones over flight attendants and the pilot using the intercom.

No, it's not a technical reason, it's a customer satisfaction reason. I tend to agree with the GP's "stop your whining" stance on this.

Re:Truly a 1st world problem (3, Insightful)

meerling (1487879) | about a year and a half ago | (#42225597)

If it were really because of electronic interference potentially causing the plane to crash, I'd be terrified if there was lightning within 2 miles, or an active radar station at the airport.

Re:Truly a 1st world problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42225635)

Why are the pilots playing with their tablets while the aircraft is ascending 10k feet? Don't they have anything better to do?

Re:Truly a 1st world problem (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42225715)

Well, they used to. But drinking Scotch, smoking cigars and banging the stewardesses are frowned about, nowadays. So they had to switch to something else to occupy themselves while the plane flies itself.
Sure, when the shit hits the fan, you really want an actual pilot at the controls but during normal operations, they're just passengers with a decent view.

Re:Truly a 1st world problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42225705)

there is a reason. most accients happen at take off or landing and they want the passengers to respond if there is an emergency instead of continuing to do 'just one more turn in civ' or whatever their digital crack of choice is.

Re:Truly a 1st world problem (1)

haus (129916) | about a year and a half ago | (#42224975)

How about the negative impact caused by hundred of thousand (perhaps a million?) passengers each day being feed an obvious line of BS?

On the off chance that some flight somewhere in the US has an message of actual importance and/or value, it is more likely to be believed and properly acted upon if the recipients have not come to expect nothing but a constant flow of mistruths from the FAA/air crews.

Re:Truly a 1st world problem (1)

murdocj (543661) | about a year and a half ago | (#42225095)

Well, here's the deal... the FAA DOESN'T KNOW. Got that? There's a chance that consumer devices interfere, so the FAA imposes an incredibly minor inconvenience on people. They take the position that it's better to be conservative than to just have an "anything goes" policy and see what happens.

Re:Truly a 1st world problem (1)

rotorbudd (1242864) | about a year and a half ago | (#42225163)

Well, the FAA does know.
All of our aircraft have switched from paper approach and in-route plates to iPads over the last 2 years. They even have weight and balance, fuel use, etc. apps.
These are small jets, BeechJet, Hawker 800 sized planes. And with 2 iPads in each cockpit I'm sure we would have seen a problem by now.

Re:Truly a 1st world problem (1)

msauve (701917) | about a year and a half ago | (#42225499)

"with 2 iPads in each cockpit I'm sure we would have seen a problem by now."

But with 100 random, untested devices in the cabin, you don't know there won't be any problems. Additionally, having 2 in direct control of the flight crew, who can easily switch them off quickly should there be any issue is quite different than trying to get 100 people to turn them off (if you fly, then you know that does not happen quickly).

Re:Truly a 1st world problem (1)

partyguerrilla (1597357) | about a year and a half ago | (#42225585)

>untested devices in the cabin, you don't know there won't be any problems Then fucking test them.

Re:Truly a 1st world problem (2)

UnknownSoldier (67820) | about a year and a half ago | (#42225283)

> Well, here's the deal... the FAA DOESN'T KNOW.

Do you *even* understand what shielding is ??

Counter-example: Show me _one_ reported problem. We have had cell phone for how many YEARS? Show me ONE plane crash caused to these electronic devices?

Hint: There are NONE.

I *never* turn my cellphone and iPad off. Nothing happens. You know why? Because any EMF noise that they could _possibly_ generate will NEVER effect KEY systems in airplanes.

Talk to the electrical engineers that design and implement the airplanes. They will tell you the same thing.

Re:Truly a 1st world problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42225497)

it stopped being a "minor inconvenience" about 5 years ago. Now it's in the realm of "business disrupting, economic harm and generally asinine".

Cut out the "First World Problems" bullshit. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42225043)

Why is a problem happening in a First World nation any less important than a problem happening in a Second World or Third World nation?

The reality is that the problems of the Second World and Third World happen in the First World, as well, in addition to all of the problems that can only happen in First World nations.

In America, we have cities like Detroit, St. Louis, Philadelphia and Oakland that have large areas which are no better than the slums of Africa and India. In fact, in some places it's much more dangerous.

Large parts of London are indistinguishable from Pakistan today. The same goes for Paris, although it's more like the hellholes of North Africa. Certain districts of Berlin now resemble the worst of Turkey and the Middle East.

If you go to those areas of the cities that I mentioned, you'll see the poverty, the crime, the rundown and destroyed buildings, and the lack of basic infrastructure. You'll see the scum who lives there. If you didn't know any better, you'd think you were in a Third World country.

In terms of the number and severity of problems, it's much worse in the First World. All of the Second World and Third World problems are present, in addition to numerous other problems that are unique to civilized societies.

Re:Cut out the "First World Problems" bullshit. (1)

fredprado (2569351) | about a year and a half ago | (#42225171)

It is not that the same problems have less meaning in a First World country than it has in a Third World one. It is that the usual problems in the former are considerably less grave. You severely underestimate African countries' problems by comparing them to US big cities. US doesn't have 30%+ of its population dying from tuberculosis (a disease that is far from being untreatable), there are no ethnic massacres of whole towns there.

Although there is a significant amount of Americans bellow the line of poverty, very few of them are bellow the line of misery and that makes all the difference in the world. It is the difference between living bearing difficulties and dying from starvation and disease at a very young age.

Re:Cut out the "First World Problems" bullshit. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42225347)

It is not that the same problems have less meaning in a First World country than it has in a Third World one. It is that the usual problems in the former are considerably less grave. You severely underestimate African countries' problems by comparing them to US big cities. US doesn't have 30%+ of its population dying from tuberculosis (a disease that is far from being untreatable), there are no ethnic massacres of whole towns there.

Although there is a significant amount of Americans bellow the line of poverty, very few of them are bellow the line of misery and that makes all the difference in the world. It is the difference between living bearing difficulties and dying from starvation and disease at a very young age.

The US "poverty" line is bogus anyway, at least when compared to real poverty. Which I supposed why you invented your "misery line".

The "poor" in the US are subject to "hunger". At worst. "Hunger". Not "malnutrition". Not "starvation". "Hunger".

Re:Cut out the "First World Problems" bullshit. (1)

fredprado (2569351) | about a year and a half ago | (#42225697)

The misery and poverty lines are taught in Geography at least here in my country. I didn't invent them. I reckon that Geography is taught very differently from country to country, though.

Re:Truly a 1st world problem (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42225093)

I agree. The forced photography of one's nude body is a far more egregious violation of our liberties than ten minutes of not using your iPad. I wish more people cared about this.

Re:Truly a 1st world problem (4, Insightful)

Drathos (1092) | about a year and a half ago | (#42225127)

How about a half hour on each end of a 2 hour leg were I can't read because brought a Kindle instead of 3 paper books.

When you board, they tell you that when they close the door, you have to turn off your electronic devices and they won't leave the gate until you do. Ostensibly, that's to prevent interference with the radio while they talk to the tower. After you land, while still taxiing, they announce that you can turn on your cell phones, but have to leave everything else turned off. Wait, I thought they said the cell phones were causing interference?

The rule is not just idiotic, it's inconsistently applied.

Re:Truly a 1st world problem (1)

LihTox (754597) | about a year and a half ago | (#42225143)

I hate that cellphone-only rule; if people are going to be talking on their cellphones, I want to be able to put on my headphones to tune them out.

Re:Truly a 1st world problem (2)

Sponge Bath (413667) | about a year and a half ago | (#42225571)

I want to be able to put on my headphones to tune them out.

You could drown them out with a belching contest. Be sure to fill up on diet coke before boarding.

Re:Truly a 1st world problem (1)

loufoque (1400831) | about a year and a half ago | (#42225197)

It usually takes much longer than 10 minutes.
Also, when you're on the verge of an epiphany, it doesn't matter if you can't access your device 1 minute or 1 hour, what matters if that you're not going to be able to type what's on your mind, and that you'll have lost it by the time you get access to your device again.

If there is no reason for this annoyance, then it should be removed, however minor the annoyance may be.

Re:Truly a 1st world problem (1)

AF_Cheddar_Head (1186601) | about a year and a half ago | (#42225313)

Pen, Paper, Problem solved.

Now let me bring my gun so that bastard on his cell phone for four hours in the seat next to me won't do it again.

Re:Truly a 1st world problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42225397)

It usually takes much longer than 10 minutes.
Also, when you're on the verge of an epiphany, it doesn't matter if you can't access your device 1 minute or 1 hour, what matters if that you're not going to be able to type what's on your mind, and that you'll have lost it by the time you get access to your device again.

If there is no reason for this annoyance, then it should be removed, however minor the annoyance may be.

Are you really so damn limited that you NEED some electronic device plugged into your ass 24x7?

Re:Truly a 1st world problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42225371)

You're right. We should give you a third world problem by selling your organs.

Re:Truly a 1st world problem (1)

jader3rd (2222716) | about a year and a half ago | (#42225475)

Wow... 10 minutes when I can't use my iPad. If this is your biggest problem in your life, celebrate like there's no tomorrow.

It's not the biggest problem of my life, but when I'm using one to calm down a 1 year old who doesn't understand why he has to sit still for so long, in cramped quarters; it certainly is the biggest problem of my day. And if you were sitting next to me, his meltdown would be more annoying to you than it would be to me.

Re:Truly a 1st world problem (2)

rmdingler (1955220) | about a year and a half ago | (#42225541)

Ah yes....the 1st world guilt complex variant of "Eat your leftover meatloaf 'cause there are starving kids in Africa". -------- "We have deserts in America too....we just don't live there!" __Screaming Sammy Kinison

FOR CRYING OUT LOUD! It's 10 whole minutes! (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42224881)

Is this for real? Can people really not go without using their stupid devices for 5 minutes at takeoff and another 5 minutes at landing?

SERIOUSLY! You're going to be in the plane, in the air, for an hour, if not far longer. A few minutes at the beginning and end of the trip won't have much impact at all on "economic productivity".

Re:FOR CRYING OUT LOUD! It's 10 whole minutes! (0)

ethanms (319039) | about a year and a half ago | (#42225031)

As a regular flyer I honestly cannot believe how many people will either intentionally disobey, or are completely oblivious, when they're asked to turn off devices and bring their seats up, etc... It's really NOT hard... but some of these people simply do not want to comply until they are literally given a "talking to" by the flight attendant.

I've always thought that the modern ban on electronics when taxiing or below 10,000' was more about you, as a passenger, paying attention to the situation and any instructions of the crew.

Admittedly there isn't much you can do if something goes wrong, but it's such a short period of time for you to simply pay attention, and if it helps keep reaction times good, and keeps the cabin clear, why not?

Re:FOR CRYING OUT LOUD! It's 10 whole minutes! (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42225125)

If what you are saying is true, then shouldn't people who are reading hardcopy books or newspapers also be required to put those away?

Re:FOR CRYING OUT LOUD! It's 10 whole minutes! (0, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42225405)

For crying out loud! You've got TWO kidneys! Think of how many starving children that will feed!

Crash and burn (4, Insightful)

Jetra (2622687) | about a year and a half ago | (#42224891)

If they ease the ban and it turns out that there IS a device that could mess with an airplane's electronics, people will be complaining that the FAA didn't warn them. The FCC should stay out of matters that could potentially kill hundreds as well as cost airlines money and costumers. It's better to be safe than falling to your death from a couple of miles up.

Re:Crash and burn (5, Insightful)

Samantha Wright (1324923) | about a year and a half ago | (#42224929)

I'm strongly of the opinion that the question of interference was mostly just an excuse to get people to put their gadgets away and pay attention. Takeoff and landing have the potential to be pretty dangerous, despite their routine nature, and it's not in your best interest to be distracted instead of alert. It seemed like a little bit of a childish lie to make, but, honestly, understandable given the human tendency to get used to safety.

Re:Crash and burn (4, Insightful)

Jetra (2622687) | about a year and a half ago | (#42225039)

A new piece of hardware comes out faster than news is made. Out of the millions, perhaps tens of millions of devices being made around the world, don't you think that there might be one with that "perfect frequency?" I'm all for safety and I'm all for using my phone. I agree it might be an excuse, but heck it works. All of my friends require a 24/7 connection to some kind of device so I think a bit of a breather from all the gadgetry is helpful to the populace as a whole.

Re:Crash and burn (1)

houghi (78078) | about a year and a half ago | (#42225115)

I agree it might be an excuse, but heck it works.

Yeah, just like the TSA and some snake oil, I am willing to sell you.

Re:Crash and burn (3, Insightful)

Dekker3D (989692) | about a year and a half ago | (#42225439)

You're willing to sell him the TSA? That's cool-... we should start a Kickstarter to collect the funds to buy it and throw it in the trash :D

Re:Crash and burn (1)

wisnoskij (1206448) | about a year and a half ago | (#42225157)

It cannot be possible. That is like saying that we need tighter restrictions on wireless devises becuae theri might be that "perfect frequency" that causes all humans in a 10 mile radius to defecate themselves.

It is not a plausible idea, so it does not matter how bad the consequences would be if it proved true.

I could say god exists and he hates cell phone users, he will send them all to hell. According to your logic, now you must go out and start convincing people to throw away their cell phones. Since if this incredibly unlikely thing was true, the absolutely worst consequences possible would occur.

Re:Crash and burn (1)

Jetra (2622687) | about a year and a half ago | (#42225409)

That...is way taking my point to the limits of who knows where. I'm just saying Cell phones + planes shouldn't mix. I don't care if a phone call disrupts the entire stock market exchange. My concern is for the safety of the passengers and not the investments of one group a people in an energy company.

Re:Crash and burn (5, Insightful)

quacking duck (607555) | about a year and a half ago | (#42225041)

The "pay attention" rationale doesn't hold water since they're not preventing people reading paper books or the newspapers they sometimes give out when you board.

Also, it's pretty well proven portable electronics like smartphones and tablets do not affect takeoffs/landings. Although there's airplane modes in many of them to disable wifi and cell transmissions, the idea is that all electronics are supposed to be off... and simply "sleeping" them does not turn it off. Even moving electronic components aren't a big deal--people were taping takeoffs and landings on camcorders long before solid state memory recorders came around.

Disallowing kindles/ereaders is especially hilarious considering they're effectively "off" all the time except when changing pages... and who remembers to turn off their kindle's wifi? I just realized I've flown 4 times without doing that (it's the basic version--the wifi disables airplane mode at some point to try downloading new ads).

No, I think the old rule was indeed to prohibit electrical/electronic devices back when they were new enough that they didn't know how to shield aircraft systems properly from a wide range of devices, and the "pay attention" rationale, while a good idea regardless, is just a way to avoid making significant bureaucratic/regulatory changes.

Re:Crash and burn (1)

Known Nutter (988758) | about a year and a half ago | (#42225119)

The "pay attention" rationale doesn't hold water since they're not preventing people reading paper books or the newspapers they sometimes give out when you board.

Books and newspapers typically do not feature headphones. To me, it seems much easier to say "put away all electronic devices" rather than try to hash out a list of exceptions.

Re:Crash and burn (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42225327)

Books and newspapers typically do not feature headphones.

Nor do Kindles, unless you're using text to speech.

To me, it seems much easier to say "put away all electronic devices" rather than try to hash out a list of exceptions.

Uh, how about just saying 'no headphones'.

But then you'll have to explain why I'm allowed to keep watching the TV using the headphones provided, but not allowed to read on my Kindle.

Re:Crash and burn (1)

Samantha Wright (1324923) | about a year and a half ago | (#42225415)

I think failing to make an exception for less interactive devices like the Kindle is simply because they're not that good at splitting hairs.

Re:Crash and burn (1)

wisnoskij (1206448) | about a year and a half ago | (#42225179)

I think it might be more about, busing able to react quickly.

If you have a book in your hands you can just throw it to the ground; They are cheap and rugged. If you have a $2K laptop you are probably going to spend 10 second powering down and putting it in its case.

Re:Crash and burn (2)

Drathos (1092) | about a year and a half ago | (#42225147)

I believe the same, but because of the letter of the rule, it leads to stupid situations. I have to turn off my noise-cancelling headphones, which actually make it easier for me to hear and understand them, because they're electronic. Meanwhile, the guy sitting next to me can have earplugs in making it impossible for him to hear anything.

Re:Crash and burn (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42224955)

rubbish, do you know how much power the old analog cell phones 20 years ago put out compared to current digital ones? 600mW and more, and people used to have to talk quickly, if they could successfully connect, as the phone would jump from one tower to the next in less than a minute. no planes came down from this. not a credicble threat, as many international airlines never did observe a ban.m -- iggymanz

Re:Crash and burn (1)

ethanms (319039) | about a year and a half ago | (#42225073)

If there were a relatively simple electronic device that could interfere with a planes operation, it would have been found and exploited by now.

Short of intentionally jamming radio frequencies or sending out radar-confusing pulses, etc, there isn't all that much that can go wrong in that regard... and the stuff that can go wrong is generally just nuisance-level, not crash-level... I don't think there is any straight forward way to disable an engine or a computer through interference (at least, not on the level you'd get from something allowed as a carry on, or possibly even checked luggage).

come on we all know (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42224913)

We all know that this is a tactic of giving people something to do so they'll shut up for a couple of minutes.
Allowing these devices during take off and landing gets us one step closer to cattle car flights.

Sure there's probably no risk of electronic devices causing problems in the air, but I really don't mind having to wait 10 minutes. People who do are just impatient assholes.

Re:come on we all know (1)

houghi (78078) | about a year and a half ago | (#42225195)

I do not mind the ban. In fact I am all in favor of a ban in most public places. I do mind the fact that they lie about the reason.

And look at what the excuse to ban the lift is. Not because it is bullshit, but it can boost economic productivity

Yeah, it also empowers people (whatever that means) as they had to find something to say about the people as well.

And it isn't "probably no risk" it is "no risk" as in "not absolute zero, but extremely close to it to be irrelevant."

So keep the ban, but treat us as mature people, not as kids. Shoot those who can not handle that and call it the Darwin Law, for all I care, but stop selling me bullish.

Safety (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42224939)

I always assumed it was because takeoff and landing are done at the lowest altitiudes, and have a higher risk of an emergency happening. Having items stowed and not being distracted may help in surviving an emergency. The fact that passengers can't even manage the feign interest in the safety instructions makes me question if people could pry their eyeballs away from their super important game of angry birds in the event of an emergency :) I've seen plenty of people (of all ages) get sucked into tv and computers so much that it appears they are in a trance and they don't respond to verbal directions as if they hadn't even heard them. I fly frequently, but I say keep them off.

Re:Safety (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42225019)

I flew three times over the weekend. Two flights couldn't care less about me reading my Kindle, the third told me to turn it off.

Why can I read a paper book, but not a Kindle? What's so different that's going to make me ignore an emergency in one case, but not the other?

And exactly what kind of emergency do you think I'm going to ignore? People are screaming, the plane's on fire, the pilots are running down the aisle and I'm not going to notice?

It's BS for the sake of BS.

Re:Safety (2)

sunderland56 (621843) | about a year and a half ago | (#42225381)

I always assumed it was because takeoff and landing are done at the lowest altitiudes, and have a higher risk of an emergency happening.

Also, at low altitudes, there is very little margin of error. Even a small air pocket can cause a plane to drop 100 feet - not an issue at 30,000 feet, but very very bad when flying at 50 feet.

Why can I read a paper book, but not a Kindle?

Last time I checked, a paper book does not have two radio transmitters inside.

Aluminium shell vs. plastics shell. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42224943)

Perhaps iPad shields off unwanted flight data interference better than plastics shell tablets. LoLz spilled around....

I guess all tablets are Kindles and iPads (1)

markdavis (642305) | about a year and a half ago | (#42224949)

>" but the agency still refuses to allow passengers to read on Kindles and iPads during takeoff and landing."

Great! Then I can use my Xoom or Nexus 10!

"During takeoff and landing" (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42224985)

Honestly, do people *really* need to have phone and other electronic devices during takeoff and landing? They can't put the stuff aside for 15 minutes? Are they that dependent? What next, you HAVE to leave the tray table down, you MUST leave your seat back? You're on a fricking plane. Put your stuff away and prepare for landing/takeoff.

I've never really understood why it's so difficult to stop using these things during the crucial parts of the flight. Aside from the electronic signals part, it's also better not to have a bunch of hard, breakable glass, and/or relatively heavy objects floating around the cabin space. Stuff should be stowed below the seats in case there is turbulence or some other issue with the takeoff/landing. It might also be a good idea to have passengers' full attention in case the phrase "brace for impact" comes over the sound system.

Re:"During takeoff and landing" (3, Insightful)

Orphis (1356561) | about a year and a half ago | (#42225139)

I vote for banning hard cover books too. I think they hurt far more than a kindle when thrown at you.

Blanket Ban (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42225001)

I'm a pilot, and as much as I think the ban is BS, I also understand. The problem is that the FAA cannot (practically) garuentee any level of quality or standard compliance for any piece of electronics that a passenger may bring on board (think $50 imitation iPad that may have bad or poorly designed radio components and transmits way outside the frequency band and power limits of wifi).

Another half truth I've heard is that it keeps passengers more focused on their surroundings, so you may be able to take instructions from flight attendants faster if there were an emergency, versus oblivious to the outside world, buried in your work.

Re:Blanket Ban (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42225035)

If a piece of consumer electronics can bring down a plane, don't you think you should... fix the plane?

As for 'more focused', when the people on the plane tell me to turn off my Kindle, I close my eyes and try to sleep instead. So I'm far less focused.

All it really does is make regular flyers regard anything the crew say as stupid BS.

Re:Blanket Ban (1)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | about a year and a half ago | (#42225101)

Enough have been left on it should have manifested as a problem by now.

Also, takeoffs and landings are different from the ban on cell phone use during flight, which is an FCC thing because cell towers can't handle you moving so fast. They aren't designed to hand you off to the next one every few seconds.

Re:Blanket Ban (1)

wisnoskij (1206448) | about a year and a half ago | (#42225111)

Well at least if they yet at you when you are asleep to get into the fetal position you are not like "wait, I am powering down, don't crash yet."

Re:Blanket Ban (1)

Orphis (1356561) | about a year and a half ago | (#42225161)

It's up to the customs and airport security to check there's no illegal device boarding the plane.
And by illegal, I mean that don't comply with regulations on safety, radio signal power or frequency.

They do it all the time for toys that are unsafe for children, why couldn't they do it for adult gadgets too?

The problem with that theory (1)

wisnoskij (1206448) | about a year and a half ago | (#42225089)

If a random normal everyday wireless signal can cause any damage or impediment at all to an airplane, then that airplane has a faulty design.
End of story; No ifs, ands, or buts.

Re:The problem with that theory (1)

PPH (736903) | about a year and a half ago | (#42225251)

If a random normal everyday wireless signal

Define "normal". And then try to get your everyday wireless device certified to RTCA DO-160 [wikipedia.org] standards.

Re:The problem with that theory (1)

wisnoskij (1206448) | about a year and a half ago | (#42225533)

Anything that is not specifically designed to stop other wireless devices from failing to work.

You do not just accidentally create a crappy device the throws out 1000 times the normally allowed power and blankets whole frequencies with static.

Re:The problem with that theory (2)

sunderland56 (621843) | about a year and a half ago | (#42225359)

One single device won't. That's why one passenger ignoring the instructions may happen a lot, but isn't a real issue.

The problem is having several radio devices in close proximity transmitting at the same time, because of intermodulation [wikipedia.org] . Two transmitters can produce interference at a third frequency - one that neither device is designed to transmit on. The more devices you have - and the more frequencies involved - the more likely such interference is, which increases the chance that some spurious product lands directly on a frequency critical to the aircraft.

Any commercial radio will reject other frequencies quite well; *no* radio can reject interference on a frequency it is trying to receive.

Re:The problem with that theory (1)

wisnoskij (1206448) | about a year and a half ago | (#42225539)

If this is a potential issue then the passengers and their cargo would have to be sealed in a wireless insulating material so that no signal could leak out.
It is a faulty design if we are just getting by on luck.

This is in line with other FAA requirements (4, Insightful)

whizbang77045 (1342005) | about a year and a half ago | (#42225099)

This isn't just a ban on consumer electronics. The FAA doesn't allow much of anything to be used on aircraft until it has been thoroughly tested, and shown not to interfere with the operation of the aircraft. It's been this way since just about day one at the FAA.

If you demonstrate, for example, that a Nintendo does not cause interference, then the approval would apply only to the model tested, and not to any other gaming devices.

One could argue that this is overly cautious, but there are devices out there which do interfere with the aircraft. FM radios, for example, can and often do interfere with VOR navigation receivers. If they err, it is on the side of safety. It would take one really bad accident traced to an unapproved device to have the NTSB screaming for the head of everyone concerned.

Disclaimer: I hold airframe and powerplant mechanics certificates, an inspection authorization (lets me inspect aircraft on behalf of the FAA each year), and a general radiotelephone certificate.

Re:This is in line with other FAA requirements (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42225315)

...

Disclaimer: I hold airframe and powerplant mechanics certificates, an inspection authorization (lets me inspect aircraft on behalf of the FAA each year), and a general radiotelephone certificate.

How DARE you bring actual expertise here that contradicts the arrogant omniscience of self-important basement dwellers who can't live without the emotional crutch provided by the constant stream of text messages from people they'd never recognize if they meet them face-to-face.

Re:This is in line with other FAA requirements (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42225353)

Some of us 'basement dwellers' have developed avionics for aircraft with ejection seats; the idea that a game console would interfere with our hardware is laughable.

I'd sure hope that avionics in aircraft without ejection seats are at least as robust.

The FAA is overcautious. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42225373)

Posting AC because I don't want to lose mod points.

The thing is, the FAA is overcautious. Case in point: we have to replace the lamps in the strobes on our 1300' tower every couple of years. They're just xenon flashtubes, I know the original supplier (it's an Italian company) and could get them for about $200 each. But because of FAA regulations, I MUST buy these from an "approved" manufacturer -- and in most cases, that means the original manufacturer -- at $750 each.

I even know why: if the lights should fail and we have an air accident, the Newscreatures will be all over it. "Why does the FAA allow uncertified lamps in towers?" So, it's easier just to make this ridiculously-restrictive rule. Same with electronic devices on an airplane. As a radio engineer, I know how unlikely it is that anything hand-held could affect the systems on that airplane.

(HINT: If they're THAT sensitive, flying through an electrical storm would be FAR MORE likely to cause problems than my little iPad or Android phone.)

The FAA isn't the only government agency that suffers from inertia and "cover-butt-itis." But they are one of the better (worse) examples.

Re:This is in line with other FAA requirements (1)

jader3rd (2222716) | about a year and a half ago | (#42225461)

The FAA doesn't allow much of anything to be used on aircraft until it has been thoroughly tested, and shown not to interfere with the operation of the aircraft.

Well, they allow them in the cockpit where if they were going to cause interference, that would be the most likely place for them to do so. Plus, they have been thoroughly tested, and they've been shown to be safe. If FM radios are the one thing that causes interference, let's ban FM radios.

Re:This is in line with other FAA requirements (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42225471)

As an airline pilot I have to agree. There are phones that I have found interfere not with navigation but with communication in the cockpit. The bigger issue though is that passengers need to be focused and alert during takeoff and landing because that is where the majority of accidents occur. If they have their attention elsewhere and devices out, it's harder for the flight attendants to prep the cabin for an emergency landing and to convey instructions.

Re:This is in line with other FAA requirements (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42225507)

And said testing needs to be performed with whatever device at every seat on the plane, at various power levels, lest there be some special wire that runs through the ceiling, floor or side wall of the plane that is susceptible to interference. It is things like VOR that you really don't want to be taking risks with.

Re:This is in line with other FAA requirements (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42225537)

As an instrument rated pilot, an electrical engineer, and a ham radio operator for more than three decades let me be the first to say this is entirely correct.

The problem is that there is no way for an air crew to know what might cause problems and what won't. For example, many phones have FM radios built in to them. Do they or don't they have local oscillators that might show up in the VHF navigation band? How is a crew supposed to figure this out while you're boarding the aircraft?

Those of you who think you know better, consider this: the risk of you using your gadgets while landing is not your risk. You are risking the lives of everyone on board that aircraft while you go screaming down the ILS at 150 MPH on a dark and gloomy night. There is no way to qualify your expertise. How can the crew know to trust your magically educated opinion over all the other 100+ passengers?

If you really must use such gadgets, hire a pilot and rent a jet. At least the pilot will know that if something is going wrong, that it is your gadget causing problems instead of one from over a hundred passengers.

Finally, the FCC has had some spectacular failures to properly administer the spectrum. I would not trust the word of a Commissioner to be technically accurate or feasible.

Re:This is in line with other FAA requirements (1)

Viceice (462967) | about a year and a half ago | (#42225613)

I have a cousin who is a commercial pilot. He was first officer on a flight years back when wifi was first gaining popularity. After take off and the plane was levelled out, all of a sudden some of the nav equipment started giving false readings.

Long story short, it turned out that the wifi transceiver on a Toshiba laptop owned by one of the passengers was defective and was transmitting on frequencies it was not supposed to.

So yeah, while on paper it should not happen, you only need 1 fuckup by a minimum wage slave in a Chinese factory.

Anyone heard of the Radio Spectrum??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42225165)

I don't see why this has ever been an issue.
The FCC specifically cordons off certain frequencies for different purposes.
Airplane and Tower communications should be squared away in a band that no commercially available electronic device can legally use.
WiFi, bluetooth, etc. are all in their own frequency band. Gotta keep 'em separated!

I mean when was the last time you picked up the police channel while trying to tune in your favorite FM station? Doesn't happen.

Re:Anyone heard of the Radio Spectrum??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42225291)

I don't see why this has ever been an issue.
The FCC specifically cordons off certain frequencies for different purposes.
Airplane and Tower communications should be squared away in a band that no commercially available electronic device can legally use.
WiFi, bluetooth, etc. are all in their own frequency band. Gotta keep 'em separated!

Frequency separation means little when you put a transmitter into a metal tube.

There's no real way to test whether or not any arbitrary consumer-device transmitter will interfere with the electronics required for the safe operation of an aircraft. How many different consumer transmitters are there? How many different possible locations inside each type of plane, with each type of plane having multiple variations of electronics installed?

How are you going to test that.

I mean when was the last time you picked up the police channel while trying to tune in your favorite FM station? Doesn't happen.

WRONG.

I live near Dulles International Airport. I routinely get to hear tower communications on my radio instead of WTOP.

Oh, it's just a cheap radio, you say. And that's not applicable.

If a device FIVE FUCKING MILES AWAY can be interfered with though open air, you'd damn well better believe a device METERS AWAY INSIDE THE SAME METAL CAN will also be subject to interference.

Banned? (1)

PPH (736903) | about a year and a half ago | (#42225191)

I didn't know these things were banned during flight. I've used my Kindle many times without an issue being raised by the cabin crew.

Of course, this means using them in air mode (no radio transceivers operating) and not during takeoff and landing. The reasons for a ban during these flight mode is two fold: These are the most critical (and dangerous) parts of flight and distractions from cabin crew instructions or PA announcements need to be minimized. Also, its not so much the nav equipment that interference might harm, its the VHF comm. between the flight crew and ground control. Navigation beacons, due to their steady state nature, are relatively immune to momentary interference (like GSM buzz). But voice communications can be momentarily blocked. This can be a problem during critical parts of a flight, particularly if there is an emergency or some other unusual situation requiring clear and prompt communications. The crash at Tenerife airport [wikipedia.org] was caused in part by interference with cockpit/controller communications.

So, my point is: tablets and laptops don't seem to be banned during all flight modes. If you can't refrain from using them during takeoff and landing, or you must call or tweet continuously, don't fly. Seek mental help. I don't want to share the cabin with crazy people.

Crock of shit! (0)

DaMattster (977781) | about a year and a half ago | (#42225221)

Absolutely ban electronics during takeoff and landing! Those are the two most dangerous times of the entire flight and passengers need to be alert and attentive to flight attendants and the pilots should emergency information need to be conveyed. Passengers engrossed in their electronic devices are likely to miss important information. I'm not impressed with Julius Genachowski over this! Those bans are in place for a good reason. Furthermore, I think the ban on cellular phones should continue to be enforced during flight. The conditions are crowded enough on an airplane. The flights are long and the service is absolutely lacking unless you are lucky enough to be able to afford, or have the mileage to take avance of, first class.

Re:Crock of shit! (1)

tooyoung (853621) | about a year and a half ago | (#42225701)

Since being alert is so critical during this time, would you suggest a ban on reading books, sleeping, and talking?

BFD (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42225225)

unless you get stuck on a tarmac for hours on end, takeoff and landing is just a few minutes at each end of a flight... big deal. how the hell did you manage to go without being attached to your phone while getting molested at security? or while driving to the airport? (oh, you're one of THOSE)....

do your friggin texting, calling and web surfing before you get on the plane... and if you really gotta be reading a book during those times... i dunno... TAKE A FRIGGIN BOOK.

i'm all for a total ban on passenger electronics, just like the old days.

Trapped in flight (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42225231)

I hope the ban is NEVER lifted. Not because I'm worried about cell phones somehow affecting guidance or other electronics on the plane, but because I don't want to be stuck next to some jerk on a three-hour phone call.

Metal tube, tons of flammables, hundreds of km/h (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42225237)

And it relies on electronics to operate safely.

There's no practical way to ensure any arbitrary RF transmitter won't interfere with the electronics required for safe operation.

It doesn't matter how important you think you are.

Paper doesn't run out of batteries (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42225271)

Oops the tablet fell and the screen is damaged. Guess we don't have any emergency instructions. Too bad passengers, but your families will get a $5 credit to meTunes.

Unintended Consequences for Airplane Mode (1)

guttentag (313541) | about a year and a half ago | (#42225369)

Imagine a future where this ban is lifted. Phone/tablet manufacturers would probably do away with "airplane mode" in software. There is so much going on below the surface on these devices, you don't always know what it's doing.

Whether out of concern for being able to use the device without being tracked by your cell carrier, or without phoning home data to an app developer, or without using pulling any data when you are close to your monthly cap (which is becoming increasingly common... To the point where I hear non-techies saying they're afraid to upgrade their device because they might lose their old unlimited data plan... Which isn't necessarily true), or to quickly turn off power-hungry components to extend battery life, or some other reason... I for one like the idea that I have control over the device's connection to the outside world.

Without an FAA ban, this option will go away, or be replaced by an option that looks like it cuts off all communication but secretly gives the manufacturer or carrier and its "special partners" exclusive access. The carriers make more money if you blow through your data cap. Amazon has an interest in being able to delete content from your device without your permission whenever they want, wherever your device is.

stupid rule (1, Insightful)

Charliemopps (1157495) | about a year and a half ago | (#42225387)

If my tablet/phone/anything can bring down your fucking plane, you made the plane wrong, and why the fuck am I allowed to even have it on the aircraft in the firstplace?!? Oh, that's right, because it can't bring down a plane. At all. Not possible. The plane is flying over hundreds of thousands of cell towers during it's entire flight. During take off and landing it's within METERS of these towers broadcasting at several orders of magnitude more power than your damned phone.

The ban on these devices is simple. The airlines lobbied for it. Not because it keeps you safer, but because it makes you bored and more likely to buy their in-flight services like the ridiculous back of the seat computer bullshit. Learn to know when you're being manipulated.

Keep them in airplane mode... (1)

HockeyPuck (141947) | about a year and a half ago | (#42225433)

I don't care if you use your smartphone/tablet to play games, read documents, write email whatever...

I just don't want to sit next to you for 6hours while you talk on the phone or use Skype/facetime, any more than I want to sit next to a screaming child for those same 6 hours.

As for the take-off and landing ban? That's what 15minutes and takeoff and 15minutes at landing? If you can't put that stuff down for 30minutes out of the entire flight, than you should stop referring to that device as your phone or tablet and start calling it your "binky" or "baby blanket" and should seek counseling.

Lock them all up for Life. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42225465)

Yes I'm serious. If people are so addicted to 'always on communication' that they can't be without their 'fixes' for an hour or so in total while flying then frankly they should be taken away by the men in white coats.
I've been flying to 50 years and IMHO this recent need for constant gratification is nothing more than a disease. It could well be more serious than some drug addictions because far more people seem to be suffering from it.

I'd willingly support a total ban on all electronics during flight. I'd get enough entertainment from watching the rest of my fellow travellers go 'cold turkey' especially if the flight was say from FRA to LAX.
I've flown about 200K miles this year mostly on business and use the time on flights to relax and chill out. I don't work and if I need to read, I take something in dead tree format. Life is stressful enough as it is.
Sheesh, these addicts need to 'get a life'. There is more to existence than seeing who has tweeted some inane factoid such as 'god, I have a hangover' or 'getting up'.

I "forget" to turn my phone off every time I fly.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42225699)

it's my way of 'sticking it to The Man'

Really?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42225729)

Shut up and do what you're told SHEEP!

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