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FAA Device Rules Illustrate the Folly of a Regulated Internet 449

First time accepted submitter cathyreisenwitz writes "The New York Times' Bits blog has a great piece on the FAA's inconvenient, outdated and unhelpful rules regarding electronic devices on planes: 'Dealing with the F.A.A. on this topic is like arguing with a stubborn teenager.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.' The rules illustrate why we shouldn't let the government regulate the internet: Government regulations are nearly always outdated and too cautious."
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FAA Device Rules Illustrate the Folly of a Regulated Internet

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 31, 2012 @03:19PM (#42434859)

    The agency has no proof that electronic devices can harm a plane's avionics

    That is not how it work is aviation. The rule is you have to prove it is not harmful.
    Don't like it ? change the rules, but then those rules apply to everyone and everything involved in aviation, not only consumer electronic devices.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 31, 2012 @03:27PM (#42434953)

    "FAA" and "Government" are not synonyms.

    The FAA has a distinctly different reputation, M.O., and set of priorities then, say, the FCC. You know, the people who would actually be regulating the internet.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 31, 2012 @03:32PM (#42435019)

    How about you prove it is safe?

    Not having electronic devices is known to be safe, since planes have been flying that way for decades.

    Now, you want to do something different, so it is up to YOU to show that it does not adversely affect safety. That's a fairly straightforward process, but it does cost time and money. So there are two places where that time and money come from:
    1) the airlines
    2) the government (i.e. you and me paying taxes)

    The airlines are free to do the testing (presumably in collaboration with the airplane mfrs) and pass the cost on to you in the form of a higher ticket price. The airlines don't seem to want to do this, although they are more than willing to do the needed testing for seatback phones and entertainment, because those are more easily monetized than letting you use your electronic device.

    I don't see a crying need to spend FAA budget on this, compared to other things the FAA could and should spend its money on, like improving en-route and terminal radar and overall flight operations.

    As for during take off and landing.. I think they should ban the use of iPads, nooks, ereaders, music players, etc. of all types. During takeoff and landing I want passenger attention focused on following instructions in the unlikely event of a problem, not zoning out with headphones stuck in their ears.

  • Re:Wow (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 31, 2012 @03:32PM (#42435027)
    Yea. A glass cockpit for a private single engine plane would maybe cost as much as a high end PC with a really fancy touch display. Instead a Garmin G1000 adds over $50K to the price of a new airplane.
  • FCC, not FAA (Score:5, Informative)

    by zerotorr ( 729953 ) on Monday December 31, 2012 @03:33PM (#42435029)
    While the FAA has rules regarding electronics usage, cell phones in airplanes are covered specifically by the FCC. The FCC bans them because of the tax it would put on the system with thousands of cell phones switching cell towers much more rapidly then if those same phones were driving. They were worried about the significant overhead this would cause the cell system. While I've seen and heard many people complain about how much they don't believe that their phones would interfere with any avionics in any way, and they should be allowed to use them, I've never seen anyone address this specifically. What bothers me even more is that I've heard so many people complain about this, yet a simple wiki search reveals the actual reasoning behind the ban. I'm not saying it's justified or not, but if you're going to complain about something, at least don't be ignorant about it. Even if they didn't interfere with the airplane, there's more to it than that. [] specifically- United States: To prevent disruption to the cell phone network from the effects of fast-moving cell phones at altitude (see discussion below), the FCC has banned the use of cell phones on all aircraft in flight.
  • Re:Pilots... (Score:5, Informative)

    by plover ( 150551 ) on Monday December 31, 2012 @03:45PM (#42435185) Homepage Journal

    There's still a strong argument against permitting passenger electronics, but it's convoluted and you'll have to stick through a few points.

    • A portable device can adversely impact avionics. (DealExtreme used to sell GPS jammers that were the size of a pack of cards.)
    • Portable electronic devices sold in the US must pass FCC certification.
    • Counterfeit electronic devices do not pass FCC certification.
    • Counterfeit electronic devices are not uncommon.
    • A flight attendant cannot tell the difference between a certified device and an uncertified device.
    • Aircraft are not designed with Faraday cages for the passenger compartment, nor are they equipped with RF interference detectors.
    • Passenger convenience is less important than passenger safety.

    When you add up all those factors, the FAA is playing it cautiously, but rationally. They don't get to say "let's see just how many flights are adversely impacted if we allow everyone to turn on randomly RF emitting electronics."

    Sure, I know my iPad and iPhone and Kindle won't harm the plane's avionic system. You may know yours won't, either. But my nephew bought a cheap gray market phone that spews RF noise like a plague rat. How does a non-electronic-engineer flight attendant tell the difference?

  • by perpenso ( 1613749 ) on Monday December 31, 2012 @06:18PM (#42436561)
    Boeing thinks there is interference:

    "Boeing conducted a laboratory and airplane test with 16 cell phones typical of those carried by passengers, to determine the emission characteristics of these intentionally transmitting PEDs. The laboratory results indicated that the phones not only produce emissions at the operating frequency, but also produce other emissions that fall within airplane communication/navigation frequency bands (automatic direction finder, high frequency, very high frequency [VHF] omni range/locator, and VHF communications and instrument landing system [ILS]). Emissions at the operating frequency were as high as 60 dB over the airplane equipment emission limits, but the other emissions were generally within airplane equipment emission limits. One concern about these other emissions from cell phones is that they may interfere with the operation of an airplane communication or navigation system if the levels are high enough."

    "Operators of commercial airplanes have reported numerous cases of portable electronic devices affecting airplane systems during flight. These devices, including laptop and palmtop computers, audio players/recorders, electronic games, cell phones, compact-disc players, electronic toys, and laser pointers, have been suspected of causing such anomalous events as autopilot disconnects, erratic flight deck indications, airplanes turning off course, and uncommanded turns. Boeing has recommended that devices suspected of causing these anomalies be turned off during critical stages of flight (takeoff and landing). The company also recommends prohibiting the use of devices that intentionally transmit electromagnetic signals, such as cell phones, during all phases of flight."

    The problem seems to be that anomalies observed in flight are being reproduced in a lab. []

What is algebra, exactly? Is it one of those three-cornered things? -- J.M. Barrie