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Government Transportation

FAA Pushed To Review Ban On Electronics 369

Posted by samzenpus
from the taking-a-second-look dept.
First time accepted submitter sfm writes "Ever tangle with a grumpy flight attendant over turning off your Kindle Fire before takeoff? This may change if the FAA reviews their policy for these devices. The FAA is under extreme pressure to either change the rules or give a good reason to keep them in place. From the article: 'According to people who work with an industry working group that the Federal Aviation Administration set up last year to study the use of portable electronics on planes, the agency hopes to announce by the end of this year that it will relax the rules for reading devices during takeoff and landing. The change would not include cellphones.'"
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FAA Pushed To Review Ban On Electronics

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  • Avionics (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 25, 2013 @10:12AM (#43271089)

    As someone who works with Comm/Nav systems for aircraft, let me be the firs to say:

    Good. Nothing you have in your possession is going to adversely effect any of the systems used for take off and landing. These rules are stupid and were based on the fear of the unknown instead of actual studies and evidence.

    • Re:Avionics (Score:5, Interesting)

      by alen (225700) on Monday March 25, 2013 @10:15AM (#43271127)

      you must not understand how the media works

      if a high profile crash takes place, the media hounds start looking for blame. anyone who works for the government knows to COVER YOUR ASS all the time otherwise the media hounds will call for your head on the slimmest bit of evidence

      like when hurricane katrina hit and the idiot reporters were blaming bush based on a fictional book of a hurricane hitting the area. not that i liked bush, but...

      • The thing you mention about the book is obvious B.S., but I can't see how you can not give some of the blame for that clusterfuck of a response to the Bush administration. It's a textbook case of giving an important job to an idiot crony.

        • Staten Island (Score:2, Interesting)

          by Picass0 (147474)

          I'm sure the good people of New York will tell you Obama learned from Bush's mistakes and was careful to have a more coordinated response when a major hurricane happened on his watch. The people of Staten Island were well cared for in a timely manner in spite of the pressures of election day politics.

          Oh, wait...

          .

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by alen (225700)

            NYC is getting billions of federal money to pay for subway repair and other projects
            FEMA was out there
            Insurance companies were out there
            what else was Oblama supposed to do? there are only so many contractors out there. i live outside the flood zone and a wine and cheese shop that was supposed to open months ago cannot because all the contractors are busy with hurricane clean up

            if you have flood insurance then your insurance company cuts you a check. if not you go to FEMA and ask for a loan to rebuild your h

      • by X0563511 (793323)

        You mean the same media responsible for this [slashdot.org]?

        I just don't understand why we take these fools seriously anymore.

      • by hedwards (940851)

        But, Bush was responsible for appointing somebody that was completely inept to FEMA and failing to make any preparations before landfall. This isn't like an earthquake which strikes without any warning, we have various meteorologists and weather stations that track these sorts of things. The whole situation at the Superdome was completely unacceptable.

        As was the days of supply shortages, FEMA should have been preparing for that in a much more thorough way before the hurricane struck.

      • Re:Avionics (Score:4, Interesting)

        by UnknowingFool (672806) on Monday March 25, 2013 @12:17PM (#43273089)

        I don't know about reporters blaming Bush but they were asking the obvious questions like: "Why the administration not prepared for the aftermath?" "What assessments did the administration have on damage and aftermath?" "Where as the federal assistance?". The last time I checked the president is the head of the administration.

        Part of the problem was that Bush appointed an wholly unqualified Michael Brown as head of FEMA. Nothing in his background hinted that he could handle a federal agency much less one dedicated to disaster recovery. One of Bush's personal traits is unquestioning loyalty. And he would place this above competency and qualifications when selecting someone for a post. This would appear again when different members were found to be inept, unqualified, or may have committed illegal acts. He would always back them up rather take a hard look at whether he had appointed the right person for the job.

        Also part of the problem was the administration on the whole felt that FEMA was an entitlement program and worked for years to weaken its role in the federal government. The state and local governments are not blameless either as they were ill prepared as well.

        Book aside, a full year before Katrina. FEMA did a case study of what would happen if a Cat 3 hurricane would hit New Orleans. It projected extensive damage and casualties. Michael Brown was in charge of the study. Look up the hurricane Pam exercise. The result of the study should have been recommendations about how to avoid or mediate the aftermath. Instead funding was cut because it was an "entitlement" program.

        Part of my dislike for Bush was that he can't be bothered with details. As president I think that this is part of the job. About a day before the storm hit, he was fully briefed on the projections (there is a video of this) and the projections were close to reality. He left it to his underlings and went on vacation.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Obfuscant (592200)

          The last time I checked the president is the head of the administration.

          The federal administration. And the last time I checked, the governor was the head of the state administration. Guess who is responsible for asking the federal government for aide in time of disaster. Wrong, not the President. It's the governor's job to ask for aide, and if the governor refuses to ask, the federal government is not supposed to just waltz in and take over. It's called "United States" for a reason.

          In every state of the Union, it is the governor who makes the request for federal disaster ass

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Normally no consumer system should have any effect on aviation electronics. I always thought even the FAA understood this, and the worry is over electronics that may not be functioning correctly. An extreme example, is that about once a year you can find a story about rescue teams being mobilized because they see an emergency radio beacon signal, only to find out it is a malfunctioning TV or other device (well, appears functional to the user, but something is out of spec with the circuit and EMC goes to h
      • by BMOC (2478408)
        If that's the fear, then all consumer electronics should be banned from flying, just like guns. The random malfunction of consumer electronics potentially interacting with the comm/nav systems on a commercial jetliner has to be 5-10 orders of magnitude more rare than someone building a portable high-power RF white noise source and leaving it on during takeoff.
        • Re:Avionics (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Obfuscant (592200) on Monday March 25, 2013 @01:39PM (#43274253)

          If that's the fear, then all consumer electronics should be banned from flying, just like guns.

          There is no need to ban them when they can be just turned off. And sadly, there are too many consumer electronic devices in use to simply ban them, so the best compromise is to turn them off.

          I've seen at least one device interfere. All this "proof" that they don't is just junk science. "We tested 1000 new consumer devices and none of them caused interference, so we've proved that such devices do not cause interference." Right. In comes device number 1001.

          The random malfunction of consumer electronics potentially interacting with the comm/nav systems on a commercial jetliner has to be 5-10 orders of magnitude more rare than someone building a portable high-power RF white noise source and leaving it on during takeoff.

          Citation required. Pulling numbers out of your ... I'd say. I've seen interference. I've yet to see someone carrying a deliberate jammer, but since the current rules would make that a federal crime, I don't think we need another rule to deal with that. It's the inadvertent radiators (like a broken electronic device) that need to be dealt with, and since the wrong time to test each device is as one boards the aircraft, simply turning them off is the easiest solution.

          What the hell is the problem anyway? For fifteen minutes at the beginning and end of a flight you can't use your iWhatever or eWhatsis. Big deal. Life is too short to get bent out of shape because of something so trivial.

          The morning news was making a big deal of the fact that pilots can use iPads in the cockpit. This proves how safe they all are, they said. That's not true. It proves that those previously tested iPads aren't likely to cause interference, but more importantly, that if they do they are in the hands of the pilot/copilot who know they are being used and who can immediately turn them off if necessary. "Hey Bob, I saw you turn your iPad on and NAV2 went wonky. Try turning it off..."

          Now imagine an iPad in the hands of passenger 32B during a critical phase of flight who turns it on and causes interference. The pilots don't know he just did that or where he is, so they first have to detect the interference and then try to work around it without being able to just turn the interfering device off. Yes, they can use the PA to ask people to turn things off (I've heard this before) but what if this jerk thinks "it's an iPad just like the one the pilot is using, it can't possibly be the cause, so I'll keep using it?"

          The news guy also had this part exactly backwards: he asked whether you'd rather have an issue below 10,000 feet where the pilots are directly involved in flying the plane or above that where you're going 600 mph. His answer: below 10,000 feet. BZZZTTT.

          Below 10,000', the sterile cockpit rules kick in for a very good reason. It is the time when everyone needs to concentrate on what he is doing -- like flying the plane or looking out the window to look for terrain or traffic. Below 10,000' is where the big iron mixes with the smaller stuff and there is more traffic to worry about. Below 10,000' is where the GROUND is, and where you will find almost all final approach courses and landing zones. Mistakes above 10,000' and in level flight give more time for correction than those at 1,000' while descending to land. Having an ILS or GPS failure while flying an approach is a much more serious issue than one that happens in the flight levels.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Anonymous Coward

            "I've seen at least one device interfere."

            What was it and what did it interfere with. What were the cirmstances? Did you report it to the FAA?

          • by waveclaw (43274)

            What the hell is the problem anyway? For fifteen minutes at the beginning and end of a flight you can't use your iWhatever or eWhatsis. Big deal.

            Because if these tiny sources (cube law, hello?) of random RF noise really were a problem, they don't suddenly become less of a problem while flying in the air at over 10,000 ft. Or when flying through or even remotely near a thunderstorm that produces many times that RF [lanl.gov]. Heaven help the poor pilots that get painted by a military radar or even the radar from the airport [evaluation...eering.com].

            It's not like an airplane needs reliable controls when say, hurtling through the air at a couple hundred miles an hour over populated a

      • by icebike (68054)

        Normally no consumer system should have any effect on aviation electronics. I always thought even the FAA understood this, and the worry is over electronics that may not be functioning correctly.

        The only reason for banning cell phones on airplanes are regulations by the FCC, not the FAA. Cell phones a mile up can light up to many towers simultaneously, and the cell transfer protocols were never designed to handle hand-off over hundreds of towers when all of them have equal signal strength. Earlier cell tower systems could not handle this.

        As for the regulations on other electronics, these were always FAA regulations based on two different sections of the existing regulations (FAR).

        The first object

    • Re:Avionics (Score:5, Insightful)

      by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Monday March 25, 2013 @10:32AM (#43271361) Journal

      These rules are stupid and were based on the fear of the unknown instead of actual studies and evidence.

      I have my concerns about cellphones... Not because they'll crash the plane; but because listening to 60 people babble loudly and relentlessly will make me wish that the would...

      Anything silent, no problem; but if air travel features the TSA, little kids kicking the back of your seat, and cellphone chatter, it isn't going to be pretty.

      • Re:Avionics (Score:5, Insightful)

        by interkin3tic (1469267) on Monday March 25, 2013 @11:06AM (#43271901)
        Have you ever tried to use your cellphone on a plane? Out of curiosity, I did. (Spoiler: the plane did not explode, I did not die.) Reception was lost soon after we got very high in the air. I think I tried it again in mid-flight, but still no signal. This was one phone, not a comprehensive test, but I'd guess that the plane is moving too fast and is too high for most cell phones to get and maintain much of a connection. Plus, the dull roar of the engines in most planes drowns out most conversational tones, the reason children wailing is annoying is because you can hear them over the engines.

        Where I'd like to see the FAA ban cell phones is once you have landed, while you're waiting to deplane. "OH HAI! WE JUST LANDED! ARE YOU OUTSIDE? I SAID ARE YOU OUTSIDE? NO, WE JUST LANDED! WAITING TO GET OFF. HAHAHAHAHAHAHA, YEAH, WHY DO THEY SERVE YOU SUCH SMALL BAGS OF PEANUTS? SO ARE YOU GOING TO PICK ME UP? NO, I SAID I JUST LANDED! AT THE AIRPORT! ARE YOU GOING TO PICK ME UP? I NEED TO GET MY BAGS! OKAY!"

        Fucking text it morons. If not for politeness to the rest of us in earshot who are already impatient to get out of the plane, for efficiency. You can't hear them and they can't hear you, reading is much faster. Well, maybe not for idiots who can't wait until they get off the plane to announce multiple times that they've just landed and need to get their bags and can you pick them up...
      • by X0563511 (793323)

        If you can hear 60 people babbling over the engines/wind... well, wow.

    • by cjjjer (530715)
      So says the AC...
    • by k6mfw (1182893)
      I'd love to find a ***real*** analysis of consumer electronics including cellphone use on commercial aircraft. A study done by FAA, FCC, and NASA to have objective report of interference and performance issues of avionics systems. Occasionally we get these third-hand stories of interference does happen/does not happen (sorry but forum posts are interesting but not something I will use for TSO). Or vague studies by a govt agency but subject to suspicion per "regulatory capture." A study done by a company or
      • by Obfuscant (592200)

        I'd love to find a ***real*** analysis of consumer electronics including cellphone use on commercial aircraft.

        This is kind of like asking for a real analysis of the effects of an asteroid strike in central Kansas. I have a hard enough time tracking down intermittent issues with real systems to even imagine trying to get hard documented proof of exactly which consumer devices (out of billions) in which aircraft (out of hundreds of thousands) in which locations (out of tens of thousands) will cause interference.

        Aviation regulations are, in large part, trying to prevent even many low probability issues from becoming

    • Re:Avionics (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Alioth (221270) <no@spam> on Monday March 25, 2013 @10:55AM (#43271717) Journal

      Well you're (slightly) wrong.

      I was flying with a friend - it was his first time flying a real approach in real weather (and at night too!) - who had forgot to turn his phone off. ATC cleared us to intercept the localizer, and just at that moment, all audio from the comm radio was completely obliterated by "B-B BIP B BIP B BIP B BIP B BIP BRRRRRRRR" (if you've ever owned a GSM phone you'll be depressingly familiar with the noise - it interferes with pretty much any audio equipment) as his wife phoned him.

      Fortunately, I was still instrument current at the time and could continue to fly the approach while he desperately fished in his clothing to find his phone (which is surprisingly complicated in the tight confines of a Grumman AA5A at night) to shut the damned thing off.

      Of course, the loc/glideslope receivers were not affected (they continued to work absolutely normally) but if ATC had tried to say anything to us while the phone was ringing, we wouldn't have heard it. We could barely hear each other over the intercom with this racket going on in our headsets. The issue here isn't really the interference with the electronics, but rather the distraction it causes, and it's not optimal to be distracted while on an instrument approach.

      • Re:Avionics (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Lumpy (12016) on Monday March 25, 2013 @11:30AM (#43272353) Homepage

        You are using low grade private aircraft systems. I know pilots that have cellphone conversations while landing a 737.

        • Re:Avionics (Score:4, Insightful)

          by CKW (409971) on Monday March 25, 2013 @12:18PM (#43273107) Journal

          > I know pilots that have cellphone conversations while landing a 737.

          This wouldn't be the same pilots who missed a audible LORAN transmitter's approach turn signal in the Andes and killed 200 people crashing into a mountain?

          Because of course, all pilots are "experts" at what they do and they never make poor choices killing hundreds of their clients.

        • Re:Avionics (Score:5, Informative)

          by bobbied (2522392) on Monday March 25, 2013 @01:41PM (#43274271)

          I know pilots that have cellphone conversations while landing a 737.

          Since 1981 this has been illegal. I'm guessing you don't know a pilot who really does this..

          FAA Sterile cockpit rules make doing this illegal as all conversations must be limited to essential conversations during departure and landing. You can't discuss anything not directly related and essential to the current flight. Commercial pilots would be in serious trouble if they are on the cell phone while landing a 737. You cannot discuss work schedules, what you did last night, what you want to do later, where the aircraft is headed to next, what the weather is going to be in a few hours or what it was last week. You may only say things that are essential for flying the aircraft when below 10,000 Feet (generally). All other conversations are forbidden and thus phone calls are prohibited.

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sterile_Cockpit_Rule

    • by hedwards (940851)

      This is ignorant hogwash. The reason why those devices are banned during take off and landing is because most crashes happen at those points in the flight. Sure, some do crash midway through, but those are rare. Electronic devices are a distraction and something that can become a projectile.

      The real question is why they permit people to have other things out and open during those periods of flight.

      • Re:Avionics (Score:4, Insightful)

        by orgelspieler (865795) <w0lfie.mac@com> on Monday March 25, 2013 @12:42PM (#43273469) Journal

        If it was about distractions, why can I read my dead tree book, or the Sky Mall catalog? My book certainly weighs more than my wife's iPhone, and would be a worse projectile. My kids can play with their plastic toys (as long as they don't look like knives or guns). And the lady next to me can knit while we're taking off. All of these things are worse distractions and projectiles, so don't pretend like there's any logic to these rules. They are capricious and stupid byproducts of a political system gone terribly awry.

        OK, cell phones and RC cars, I can see banning. But an e-ink display puts off less noise than wristwatch. For that matter, they have TV screens showing Big Bang reruns on half the airplanes during takeoff and landing. So it's clearly not a distraction or electronic noise issue. Just BS rules to cover somebody's ass.

        You seem concerned about somebody's book getting in your way when the plane crashes during takeoff or landing. I'd be more concerned with the fuselage getting in the way of my arteries, or the overhead bins getting in the way of my brain stem. If nothing like that happens during a plane crash, I'd be a pretty happy camper.

    • Re:Avionics (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Joce640k (829181) on Monday March 25, 2013 @11:01AM (#43271835) Homepage

      These rules are stupid and were based on the fear of the unknown instead of actual studies and evidence.

      The "unknown" is precisely what the rules are in place for. You can't expect cabin attendants to know every possible electronic gadget, what it can do and what might be connected to it via that wire leading to your pocket. The only sensible policy in this situation is to switch off all electronic items during critical phases of the flight. Either that or confiscate all electronic items at the boarding gate.

      • Re:Avionics (Score:5, Insightful)

        by jbmartin6 (1232050) on Monday March 25, 2013 @11:43AM (#43272585)
        If there was any real concern, they would be a lot more vigilant about enforcing the rules. Since anyone can put an active Kindle or cell phone into their bag and the airline doesn't send people around with wands to triangulate the signal, I assume the "danger" is effectively nil.
    • Re:Avionics (Score:5, Interesting)

      by cwebster (100824) on Monday March 25, 2013 @11:10AM (#43271963)

      As someone who works in front of the door that says "Authorized Personnel Only" on airplanes, let me throw my 2 cents in.

      The only interference I've personally experienced is that infamous noise TDMA and GSM phones make when transmitting data. I could hear the interference anytime myself, my copilot, the flight attendant or anyone in the first 3 rows of the airplane left a phone on and I had the crew audio selected on my audio panel. No effect on the com or nav radios.

      The real reason for the ban on portable electronic devices (the cell phone ban dates back to an FCC reg on the adverse effect of having an old-school cell phone at altitude where it could see many towers) is not to protect against interference, it is to protect lives in case of evacuation. If a plane is going to have a survivable accident it is very likely this will occur as a botched takeoff or botched landing, and in these cases you have on the order of a hundred of seconds to get out of the plane before you cook in the fire or succumb to the smoke. Personally I think that people can close a laptop and get up and out of a plane, but past accidents suggest that people will instead close that laptop, attempt to retrieve its case/bag, put it away and perhaps get other bags out of the overhead before evacuating a burning airplane (see the air france overrun in canada a few years back). This is more of a problem with peoples mindset when it comes to protecting property when faced with certain loss, but I think that needs to be addressed before we lift the ban on portable electronics below 10k' .

  • Not the technology (Score:3, Insightful)

    by GerryHattrick (1037764) on Monday March 25, 2013 @10:12AM (#43271091)
    Takeoff and landing, you're supposed to concentrate on safety instructions which (very rarely) you might need to think about right soon and seriously. Just... put down the gadget for a moment, and join the real and dangerous world of the paid staff.
    • by MickyTheIdiot (1032226) on Monday March 25, 2013 @10:19AM (#43271173) Homepage Journal

      You are never going to get people to pay attention to those instructions. That's human nature.

    • Heh, the last string of flights I was on consisted of some hilarious safety presentations. I mean, to make the traditional boring instructions interesting to listen to is true comedic talent. "SMOKINNNNN'.... is not allowed. " "OXYGEN.... We got it. And if you so happen to need it we attendants will wish we would have called in sick"
    • by Aqualung812 (959532) on Monday March 25, 2013 @10:24AM (#43271253)

      Real and dangerous?

      Do you know how rare those situations really are?

      Even if a situation comes up, most of the time, it is going to be along the lines of "Wait for the plane to crash & die or land safely". Someone strapped in a seat can do almost nothing to help.

      If anything, I'd rather the passengers be oblivious to their potential doom with their earphones in rather than screaming bloody murder while the pilot attempts an emergency procedure.

      • Those oxygen mask things might have a nice muffling effect... Plus, depending on the gas mix, you might be able to kick the hyperventilating passengers into blissed-out euphoria, rather than dizziness and further panic.

      • AF447, they probably never knew (mostly 1g, apart from the bumpy bits and the swaying they'd been warned about). But takeoff and landing? You really might need your wits about you, if only to help others. Flying is still not magic.
        • by Aqualung812 (959532) on Monday March 25, 2013 @11:53AM (#43272787)

          No, it isn't magic, but situations that require passenger intervention are about as common as magic.

          Odds of dying in a flight are around 5 million to 1. Odds of a lightening strike killing you while walking outside are around 280,000 to 1.

          So, if we care about safety, we should require a warning message about lightening safety before we leave the house each day.

          Flying is incomprehensibly safe, yet we treat it like it is some risky activity. The time spent on safety lessons before each flight are an absolute waste of time, and should be looked at just as hatefully as a mandatory lightening safety lesson each morning.

          However, to bring this back on track, the main point of TFA has little to do with the few wasted minutes of safety. It has to do with around 30-60 minutes spent waiting on the tarmac, climbing to 10,000 feet (where the electrons suddenly are safe!), and the descending below 10,000 feet, circling the airport, etc. This is the part where people are really fed up with the stupidity of the FAA rules.

    • by damn_registrars (1103043) <damn.registrars@gmail.com> on Monday March 25, 2013 @10:26AM (#43271269) Homepage Journal

      Takeoff and landing, you're supposed to concentrate on safety instructions which (very rarely) you might need to think about right soon and seriously. Just... put down the gadget for a moment, and join the real and dangerous world of the paid staff.

      I fly a fair bit. Not enough that I have enough frequent flier miles with any one airline to go anyplace good, but enough that I can tell you the aircraft I am flying on as soon as I step through the door (without looking at my ticket or the safety pamphlet in in the seatback). I've seen safety presentations from a number of different airlines on each plane that I have flown on over a number of years. I can tell you that if a Delta flight attendant accidentally stepped on to a United flight and gave the safety briefing nobody would know the difference (other than the slightly different uniforms).

      In fact, I've been on the planes enough that I could give the safety talk myself (and I can tell you for several airlines which planes have automated talks that the attendants pantomime to and on which ones the attendants have to describe it verbally).

      And I'm quite sure there are plenty of other passengers like me. We are the same ones who get through security with minimal fuss because we're prepared from that from experience as well. We know which planes our carryons will fit in the overhead bin in, and which ones we need to gate check it for. We have smartphones and we know what airplane mode is. We know how to make sure that our phones are really, truly, disconnected; why can't we check out calendars while the attendant is giving the same safety talk we've seen dozens - if not hundreds - of times? I'm not asking permission to play rugby in the aisle while they're talking, or even to use the bathroom during that sacred minute-and-a-half. I won't be distracting other passengers because I also know how to do such things silently and discretely.

      The restrictions seem to be in place just to amuse the airline companies as this point. They certainly don't amuse me...

      • by saveferrousoxide (2566033) on Monday March 25, 2013 @11:01AM (#43271833)

        that sacred minute-and-a-half

        Jesus, that's a self-absorbed, egocentric post. You really can't delay checking your calendar while someone is talking to you for 90ish seconds? I'm pretty sure you can squeeze out that time from your busy schedule of sitting in one place for a couple of hours. The more people like you who can't be bothered to at least be polite enough to appear to pay attention, the more people who need to hear this will feel validated when they busy themselves checking their calendars.

        That's awesome that you know so much about flying. That means that you'll know what to do when a yellow cup appears 2 inches from your face, you won't freak out when the bag doesn't appear to inflate, and you might even know whether to look for an inflatable vest under your seat or that your seat cushion can be used as a flotation device simply because you know on which plane you're flying.

        awesome.

        Not everyone is as awesome as you, but a lot people think they're that awesome and they are the ones who need to pay attention for 90 fucking seconds of their oh so important and busy lives.

      • by djbckr (673156) on Monday March 25, 2013 @11:39AM (#43272523)
        Just so you (everybody reading) know: When I was getting my private pilot license, one of the things you do is read the FAR/AIM manual (Federal Aviation Regulations/Aeronautical Information Manual). Not a terribly easy read unless you like that stuff.

        Anyway, even for a little two-seater plane, you must give the whole lecture about fastening seat belts, emergency exits, etc, even though there is only obviously one way out on a small plane. This is a good thing. Even though frequent flyers get annoyed by it, myself included, on an airline with a reasonable number of new flyers it is something quite necessary.

        On another note, the FAA errs on the side of caution, which is also a good thing. However, it has become obvious that flight with portable electronics is safe. I know I've personally seen dozens of people with their phones on during takeoff/landing. This particular subject is ready to be looked at, and I think at some point we will not have to bother with this any more.

        One other item of note: If you are a passenger on a plane, you have no rights. The FAA authorizes the pilot and crew full authority over what you can and cannot do on a plane. This is also (generally) a good thing. Without this kind of authority, we would have the potential for greater loss of life.
        • by BitZtream (692029)

          One other item of note: If you are a passenger on a plane, you have no rights. The FAA authorizes the pilot and crew full authority over what you can and cannot do on a plane.

          Wrong. The FAA, and specifically, the FARs do not override any other law or the constitution. Nice try though.

          The FAA is not a law creation or enforcement agency and can do NEITHER. Everything it does that is made legally binding is run through Congress to do so.

          You are NOT the pilot or airline's bitch just because you are on one of their flights. They more or less can throw you off the aircraft, thats about it from a legal perspective.

          You need to stop spreading this bullshit like its true. It isn't.

    • by thoth (7907)

      Maybe the briefing was useful back in the early days of commercial aviation, but not anymore. Most people these days have flown so many times they already know about the flotation seat cushion and oxygen air masks.

      Besides, if it were that critical, people with books and magazines would be forced to put them away and listen to the safety instructions. They'd also wake people up who were already napping. Do you see that happening?

      • by xorsyst (1279232)

        Most people these days have flown so many times they already know about the flotation seat cushion and oxygen air masks.

        Perhaps in the US, but not so much in Europe.

    • by cfulton (543949)
      Still the above is the only cogent reason I have ever heard for the rule. It is pretty clear that my phone or laptop is not going to crash the plane. But, it makes some sense that I need to pay attention at take off and landing in case the plane does crash for some other reason.
    • Those instructions are worthless in all but the rarest of circumstances. I guarantee you your lap-belt + crash position or flotation device isn't going to save you when the ground is coming up and your ground speed is in excess of formula-1 racers. At that point it's just random chance that saves you. The Hudson river "landing" was remarkable simply because its one of the most rare forms of plane crash, the controlled crash where everyone managed to survive. Besides which, once you've flown 10-20 times, th
      • by Alioth (221270)

        The actual experience is somewhat different to what you assume. In cases where the aircraft has arrived on the ground in a controlled manner, then usually pretty much everyone survives. The brace position will stop you from needlessly headbutting the seat in front, potentially meaning the difference between a nasty head injury and just bruises.

        It's not the speed of arrival that's important, it's the deceleration. If the crew put the aircraft somewhere reasonably flat in a level attitude, and the aircraft ha

    • Takeoff and landing, you're supposed to concentrate on safety instructions

      So after I have done that ONCE, why do I ever need to do that again?

      Look for exits, floatation device under seat, oxygen masks from overhead. Why do I need to "pay attention" if I know all that already? As long as I have carefully noted where my nearest emergency exit is (which I did before I sat down thanks) what possible value can I gain by listening to what I know?

      It's not like you could not easily do just about anything while h

    • by kwerle (39371)

      The announcement goes "turn off all phones, tablets, computers, or anything with an off switch."

      It does not go "stop doing anything but pay attention." No mention of not sleeping. No mention of not reading a book/newspaper. No mention of putting down the crossword.

      This is all about electronics interfering with equipment. And it's bogus and should go away.

    • So that explains the 5 minutes they tell you how to use a seatbelt... what about the other 20 minutes or so in takeoff and landing?
  • Every flight I've been on recently has had an announcement of

    you must turn OFF your cell phone until we reach cruising altitude, airplane mode is not ok

    Which is rather stupid. Most people who know how to put their phones in airplane mode have seen the safety instructions enough times that they could give them for the staff, why not let them keep their cell phones on provided they aren't engaged in communication with them?

    • Seriously, if there was even an incremental risk that a powered on or active cellphone could cause a problem during a flight then they would not allow you to take them on the plane. They certainly wouldn't blindly trust people to follow the request given to turn the things off. That is just plain common sense. There is no risk at all, its simple bullshit, probably falling into the 'security theater' category.
      I seem to recall John Dvorak writing an article maybe 10 or so years ago in which he theorized that
    • by jittles (1613415) on Monday March 25, 2013 @10:41AM (#43271499)
      One time I was flying on American and I was in the very last row of the plane (booked last minute). The flight attendant came up to me and asked me if she could put an unaccompanied minor next to me during the flight. She asked if I could just keep an eye out for him, and make sure he didn't disappear on the flight. I said it was no problem. When they closed the cabin doors and asked people to turn their devices off, he neglected to do so. He was still texting who knows who when the flight attendant made it back to us for the safety check. She gave me the worst tongue lashing ever because I didn't make the kid put his cell phone away. I am not his father, I am not there to tell the kid what to do. She can do that. Why she thought it was up to me to make sure the kid followed the rules is beyond me. She threatened to kick me off the flight for that. It was ridiculous. I'm not a big fan of the cell phone ban either.
      • by westlake (615356)

        The flight attendant came up to me and asked me if she could put an unaccompanied minor next to me during the flight. She asked if I could just keep an eye out for him, and make sure he didn't disappear on the flight. I said it was no problem...

        At that point, you agreed to share responsibility for the safety of this kid.

        • No, he agreed to make sure he didn't disappear. In that situation, I'd have words for the flight attendant and the news media when we land. When you put your child on a flight as an unaccompanied minor, do you think that means the airline is going to turn them over to the custody of some other random flier? I sure don't.

          Do your job, flight attendant. This kid is officially solely YOUR responsibility now. I'm having nothing to do with him.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by CKW (409971)

          I'm not assaulting a kid and stealing his property while on an airplane.

          Yes, these are exactly what the kid would claim the moment he started a fistfight over his frickin property, on an airplane.

          And there you'd sit, trying to defend your actions after the plane had returned to the ground and both you and the kid kicked off the airplane and banned from flying that airline ever again.

          No. Way.

  • I accidentally left mine on one flight and it was drained afterwards.

    • The main reason is not that it presents a danger for navigation equipment, but that it could play havoc with the cell towers, (when you are low enough, around t/o and landing). Imagine the towers around an airport with dozens of planes, each with potentially hundreds of cellphones, zipping past, demanding handshake, then nearly-instantaneously demanding hardover to next tower...

      Yeah, it also kills your battery as the phone keeps trying to find a tower during your transoceanic trip.

      Personally, I like the ba

    • I accidentally left mine on one flight and it was drained afterwards.

      This is obviously handset/chipset dependent; but many cellphones will adjust their RF power use depending on signal strength. No point in shouting if the tower is nearby, you do what you have to(within technical and FCC limits) if you are at the edge of range. At cruising altitude, your phone probably spent hours screaming desperately into an uncaring void for an answer that would never come...

  • Headphones (Score:4, Interesting)

    by PPH (736903) on Monday March 25, 2013 @10:25AM (#43271257)

    I have a set of Bose noise canceling headphones. These things are great for filtering out cabin noise. In addition, they make the entertainment system and the PA system much easier to hear over the screaming of nearby children.

    However, I am required to turn them off during takeoff and landing. Not take them off, but turn their power off. They have a little green LED which gives away their powered status*. So now, I can't hear the PA system and safety instructions. How about allowing the use of these as long as they are plugged into the cabin entertainment system during takeoff and landing?

    *I suppose I could just put a piece of electrical tape over the LED.

  • by scorp1us (235526) on Monday March 25, 2013 @10:30AM (#43271309) Journal

    Our government is required to provide logical, reality-based legislation. Not legislation and mandates built on superstition, witchcraft and rumor. It maybe fine for a short time to prohibit certain things out of an abundance of caution until an answer can be found but now we've had more than enough time, and we have no scientific evidence of any interplay between avionics and solid state mobile devices. All the evidence is anecdotal in nature. This is not sufficient for limiting the freedoms of people.

    • by SirGarlon (845873)

      Our government is required to provide logical, reality-based legislation.

      Is this an actual requirement written down somewhere, or one that you just made up?

      Democracy includes irrational people. Do you really think they should be denied any representation or influence? Who decides who's rational "enough" for you?

      • Democracy includes irrational people. Do you really think they should be denied any representation or influence? Who decides who's rational "enough" for you?

        This has nothing to do with Democracy or our Republic. The rules were made by stupid bureaucrats who lack any accountability and certainly aren't elected. It's surprising that a senator has to go to much effort to get something like this changed.

      • by scorp1us (235526)

        It is not written, but it is heavily implied. It is enforced in the courts, where their charter of handing out more or less "equitable" judgments takes place. Generally the scientific data (theory, test, examination, wash rinse repeat) trumps unsubstantiated claims because courts are evidence based and science is all about evidence.

        Meanwhile, claimant of "She turned me into a newt! ... I got better" would need to provide evidence. Of course there would be no evince of such claim being true. It is the mere

  • I just flew last weekend. As we're sitting in line for the runway (taking a good 15-20 mins) I'm on my nexus 7. The stewardess runs up and says "No electronic devices!" I say "It's in airplane mode, so it's not transmitting or receiving". And she says "We didn't invent airplane mode. Who knows what it does. You have to shut it off." (Keep in mind this isn't a safety/stow items issue... Everyone around me is reading books unmolested) Really? "You didn't invent it"? "Who knows what it does?" Are y
  • Good (Score:4, Insightful)

    by onyxruby (118189) <.onyxruby. .at. .comcast.net.> on Monday March 25, 2013 @10:39AM (#43271465)

    These rules are overdue for repeal and have been for at least a decade. I used to travel full time as a consultant for years and I can assure that on every single flight there are devices routinely left on and used when they are not supposed to be.

    The empirical evidence is plain as day by way of millions of flights every year with every possible phone, game console, tablet that you could imagine that have /not/ crashed. This rule was made out of excessive paranoia and needs to be set aside as the act of sheer absurdity that it is.

  • by nozzo (851371) on Monday March 25, 2013 @10:41AM (#43271485) Homepage
    I was on a flight just coming in to land and the guy next to me answered his ringing phone - I almost grabbed it off him and stamped on it but as I'm British I would rather the plane went out of control and die in a fireball than to make a fuss. Other people tutted at him.
    However nothing happened and here I am typing this today!
  • by Anonymous Coward

    I vaguely recall mythbusters doing a test to see if any of these devices actually caused any interference.

    The FAA(I think it was?) wouldn't let them fly while doing it, but on the ground, they received absolutely none.

    This is another example of old farts going "In my day, this is how we did it!" and not moving forward with time.

  • I just flew, and both the trip there and back i didnt turn off my phone or my tablet. I can only assume im not the only one, planes are not falling out of the sky yet they need a year to study this.

    stupid stupid stupid goverment

  • Really? Why are we arguing over something so trivial as turning off a device for 15 minutes until you're in the air? We need instant gratification 100% of the time? Deal with it.
    I'd rather not even chance my safety over something as stupid as a cellphone or e-reader.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2003/may/22/thisweekssciencequestions [guardian.co.uk]

    It's not about devices that are broadcasting under normal conditions, or intended conditions. It's about malfunctioning devices. The last thing we need on the news is a black

    • by hduff (570443)

      Really? Why are we arguing over something so trivial as turning off a device for 15 minutes until you're in the air? We need instant gratification 100% of the time? Deal with it.

      I don't believe anybody would have a problem with the rule IF THE DEVICES ACTUALLY CAUSED A PROBLEM.

      But since they do not cause problems, most people are not happy being subjected to a useless, arbitrary rule for no reason other than "Because we can, that's why".

      If you feel comfortable obeying a rule like that, I suggest you get some counseling or just STFU.

  • There's no point (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    If there were any chance that passenger devices of any kind could seriously impact the safety of the plane, then a simple suggestion not to use such devices is ludicrous. Such devices would have to be detected and confiscated before boarding the plane. We don't ask people not to set off the explosives they brought on the plane, we make sure that they don't bring them on the plane in the first place. The fact that people are allowed to bring cell phones on the plane prove that they are not dangerous. If they

  • . . . it's just our policy.

  • While it may be true that electronics pose no threat to the avionics, there is a good reason for turning off the items during take off and landing that has nothing to do with electronic interference. It's courtesy when listening to the flight attendants provide safety instructions and gate info. Most people barely listen to the flight attendants safety instructions, but they are repeated for every flight for a reason. In the event of an emergency, people who recent heard instructions or took the time to

    • by mark-t (151149)

      It's courtesy when listening to the flight attendants provide safety instructions and gate info.

      Then why don't they just say that instead of implicating that somehow electronics are to blame?

      They say to shut off electronics, when they could just say that they want people to be paying attention during that time, and not be doing anything which distracts them. That would include using electronics... but would also including reading, sleeping, or even talking to the person next to you.

    • by rhsanborn (773855)
      Their rules aren't consistent enough to give this as a justification. They don't make passengers stop reading their books. They don't wake up sleeping passengers. They don't make passengers remove ear plugs. To say that this ban is for safety to force people to pay attention to the safety instructions doesn't work.
  • Not worth the risk.. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 25, 2013 @12:20PM (#43273133)

    I am a pilot and a flight instructor. I generally thought this was an unnecessary rule when I began flying.

    Until, testing the rule, a fellow pilot made a call on his cell phone from the right seat and the compass turned 30 degrees off course.

    More advanced aircraft use flux gates positioned in the wings and tail (great scott! they look like a flux capacitor) to determine magnetic heading. The position is intentional as it keeps the devices away from other electronic interference.

    One cell phone on a 737 probably won't affect any of these instruments. Ten, probably not. But 100 passengers all trying to finish downloading a copy of Twilight: New Moon on their iPads before they lose 4G on takeoff? I wouldn't risk it.

    Aeronautical risk management is about minimizing as many factors as possible, however small and seemingly inconsequential . Commercial air travel has a safety record better than all other forms of transportation, so disconnect from your electronics for ten whole minutes and let's keep it that way.

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