Time for the FAA to re-think restrictions on electronic devices
I couldn’t write this blog post when I had the idea. In fact, I couldn’t even make a note to myself that I wanted to write it. I thought of it just after the aircraft door closed. My mobile phone was already shut down, and restarting it to make a note to myself risked the wrath of a flight attendant and unknown consequences in the security-mad world of travel. So, for several reasons…
I think it’s time for the Federal Aviation Administration to review and update its restrictions on electronic devices.
I used to be one of those people who spoke with great disdain about not being able to use cell phones on airplanes. I’ve never advocated voice calls, mostly because loud talkers in a confined space would send me into apoplectic air rage. What I objected to was the notion that restricting cell phone use was somehow a safety issue. I sided with those who blamed the mobile phone companies on the ground for not wanting phones skipping rapidly from tower to tower. I poured scorn on the idea that a little cell phone could possibly cause harm to a modern aircraft capable of enduring lightning strikes.
But as a recent study showed, I was wrong. Mobile signals can interfere with an aircraft’s navigation equipment.
So while I don’t advocate the FAA change its restrictions on the use of mobile phones in flight, I do think they need a re-think when it comes to devices that do not send or receive a signal. About a year ago I migrated from reading The Economist in paper format to reading it on an iPad. I also keep tv shows, movies and other media on the device. The time between the closure of the aircraft door and reaching 10,000 feet – when non-transmitting devices are “approved” for use – often exceeds thirty minutes. This is wasted time that could be better spent reading, working or enjoying entertainment.
American Airlines and Alaska Airlines have recently started replacing their heavy, binder-bound pilot manuals with virtual versions on iPads. I applaud the innovative step, but have to ask how there can be a safety concern with non-transmitting electronic devices if they are allowed to operate in the cockpit during takeoff and landing.
Let’s keep the phones off, but recognize that it’s time to allow devices like iPods, iPads and Bose headphones to be used during taxi, takeoff and landing. Applying a little common sense to FAA rules won’t impair aircraft safety.