The NY Times published an interesting article today on use of electronic gadgets on aircraft. This has been a pet peeve of mine for years because up to now, there has never been any evidence that use of e-devices on planes caused ANY electronic interference.
My personal opinion on this is that back in the 1990's, when airlines were trying to market use of air phones on aircraft they wanted to protect a market and got the FCC to support the idea of not allowing use of cellphones on airplanes. (remember those old phone units in the back of seats that you could swipe a credit card through and call folks on the ground?). Those have gone the way of the dinosaur, but the rule remained.
After 9/11, I am sure the FAA picked up on this as a suitable restriction to prevent possible communication between terrorists attempting to hijack or coordinate aircraft take overs. In the normal thought processes of government, more restriction is better right? Meantime, the airlines and the FAA have been both vague and duplicitous in explaining why this rule is in place.
The problem is, there isn't a risk. I recall even the television show "Mythbusters" did testing using a Faraday cage to determine the electromagnetic risk possibilities with cell phones. They couldnt prove anything and neither has the government. On take off and landing, I can understand being told to stow my 4 pound laptop. However, being told to stow my iphone or kindle reader as a safety hazard is a bit silly.
Over the last year, flying with phones and other devices has become increasingly dangerous.
In September, a passenger was arrested in El Paso after refusing to turn off his cellphone as the plane was landing. In October, a man in Chicago was arrested because he used his iPad during takeoff. In November, half a dozen police cars raced across the tarmac at La Guardia Airport in New York, surrounding a plane as if there were a terrorist on board. They arrested a 30-year-old man who had also refused to turn off his phone while on the runway.
Who is to blame in these episodes? You can’t solely pin it on the passengers. Some of the responsibility falls on the Federal Aviation Administration, for continuing to uphold a rule that is based on the unproven idea that a phone or tablet can interfere with the operation of a plane.
These conflicts have been going on for several years. In 2010, a 68-year-old man punched a teenager because he didn’t turn off his phone. Lt. Kent Lipple of the Boise Police Department in Idaho, who arrested the puncher, said the man “felt he was protecting the entire plane and its occupants.” And let’s not forget Alec Baldwin, who was kicked off an American Airlines plane in 2011 for playing Words With Friends online while parked at the gate.
Dealing with the F.A.A. on this topic is like arguing with a stubborn teenager. The agency has no proof that electronic devices can harm a plane’s avionics, but it still perpetuates such claims, spreading irrational fear among millions of fliers.
A year ago, when I first asked Les Dorr, a spokesman for the F.A.A., why the rule existed, he said the agency was being cautious because there was no proof that device use was completely safe. He also said it was because passengers needed to pay attention during takeoff.
When I asked why I can read a printed book but not a digital one, the agency changed its reasoning. I was told by another F.A.A. representative that it was because an iPad or Kindle could put out enough electromagnetic emissions to disrupt the flight. Yet a few weeks later, the F.A.A. proudly announced that pilots could now use iPads in the cockpit instead of paper flight manuals.
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