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Rules about use of electronic gadgets on flights to be relaxed?

by Mark Tyson on 27 March 2013, 14:45

Tags: PC

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The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) hopes to be able to relax rules governing the use of electronic gadgets on aeroplanes later this year. At the end of July an 11 month investigation by an FAA working group concludes and will share its findings concerning the matter. Unfortunately smartphones and similarly smart connected devices look like they will remain off-limits during takeoff and landing periods.

Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri has been pushing for progress over electronics on flights regulations. In an interview with the New York Times (NYT) McCaskill said she had learned that cockpit crew were using iPads at all stages of the takeoff, flight and landing. Even flight attendants had the devices in the public area of the plane offering flight and connections advice. “So it’s O.K. to have iPads in the cockpit; it’s O.K. for flight attendants - and they are not in a panic - yet it’s not O.K. for the travelling public,” she said. Furthermore, following a meeting with the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to discuss the in flight rules McCaskill was quoted as saying “The idea that in-flight use of electronic devices for things like reading a book poses a threat to the safety of airline passengers is baseless and outdated.”

Following this senatorial pressure, anonymous sources from the FAA told the NYT that they were “under tremendous pressure to let people use reading devices on planes, or to provide solid scientific evidence why they cannot”. Which sounds fair, but looking at the other side of the equation it’s better to be safe than be sorry, FoxNews reminds us that “Under current FAA regulations, aircraft operators are required to determine that radio frequency interference from electronics are not a flight safety risk before passengers are authorized to use them.” However it just seemed like airlines were implementing tech gadget bans with no future plans to test them for safety, which probably isn’t so reasonable to some tech/communications hungry fliers.

The FAA team want to simplify rules, which currently let such things as electric shavers and pocket dictaphones to be used at any time during a flight but a tablet switched to “flight mode” is not permitted to be used during takeoff and landing.

Anecdotal evidence seems to suggest that many people ignore the request to turn off their smartphones, or just forget to do so. However there is an IATA study from 2011 which indicates that illicit cellphone use was the cause of a large number of potentially hazardous interference problems on planes between 2003 and 2009. Hopefully the FAA working group study will bring more clarity to exactly what rules should be enforced.

HEXUS Forums :: 15 Comments

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In other news - Airlines are starting to offer access to their ‘In-the-air’ 3G network, for just £30 a minute and £100 per Mb of data…
Barely anyone follow the ‘rules’ anyway, blackberrys are always going off on my flights to/from work.

On a related note, please don't judge, I think this is a valid point…

At the start of Geordie Shore they show the view from the plane window taking off/landing when they go to Amsterdam/etc to ‘work’, how are they allowed professional recording equipment to be running at the supposedly critical moments when even kindles need to be switched off? If airlines make exceptions then the rules are obviously bumf as it should be a binary rule.
Why is it so difficult for people to just turn on Airplane mode on their tablets/smartphones? That gets rid of all the wireless interference (Bluetooth, WiFi, data)… so simple.
Why is it so difficult for people to just turn on Airplane mode on their tablets/smartphones? That gets rid of all the wireless interference (Bluetooth, WiFi, data)… so simple.
Its the same reason people still phone and text while driving :wallbash:
“Turning off” is completely unenforceable anyway, what are they going to do? Search everyone and their bags, demand to inspect each device? Lets face it half the passengers just locked the screen and shoved it in their pocket/bag, many without even engaging flight mode. Many of the flight attendants don't even seem to understand there is a difference between screen-off and really OFF.

The whole using “electronic gear” during take off and landing I thought had as much to do with preparedness for evacuation (i.e. not wearing headphones)?

I always put my bits into “flight” mode for a better reason - I don't want it searching for networks where there are none (miles in the sky) or locking onto random foreign cell towers wasting battery in the process.