The FAA Might (Eventually) Allow Kindles and iPads During Takeoff

By Sarah Zhang | March 20, 2012 12:27 pm

spacing is important

Those of you who’ve always suspected that it can’t hurt to use an iPad during takeoff may finally see that claim put to the test.When New York Times reporter Nick Bilton pestered the FAA about takeoff and landing polices for electronics, the agency seemed to be contemplating changes in the blanket “turn if off” rule. The last time electronic devices were comprehensively tested on airplanes was 2006, when iPads and Kindles did not yet, well, exist.

But don’t get too excited about your next flight. Getting tablets through the bureaucratic thicket is not trivial, as Bilton explains:

[T]he current guidelines require that an airline must test each version of a single device before it can be approved by the F.A.A. For example, if the airline wanted to get approval for the iPad, it would have to test the first iPad, iPad 2 and the new iPad, each on a separate flight, with no passengers on the plane.

It would have to do the same for every version of the Kindle. It would have to do it for every different model of plane in its fleet. And American, JetBlue, United, Air Wisconsin, etc., would have to do the same thing. (No wonder the F.A.A. is keeping smartphones off the table since there are easily several hundred different models on the market.)

The lack of good evidence that personal electronic devices or even cellular phones can interfere with flight instruments is what’s so frustrating to many wired passengers. Pilots, after all, get to use iPads in the cockpit for flight manuals. There have been anecdotal reports of problems and the effects are multiplied when more device are in use, so the FAA decided turning off all passenger gadgets is a small enough price to pay for preventing accidents. If there really is no danger, the policy creates a lot of needless frustration and boredom. Here’s to hoping the risks get more rigorously investigated.

[via NYT]

Image via Flickr / msk

  • Mike

    It is a known issue with the FAA that electronics can interfere with flight software. The term used is single event upset (SEU). That is why the flight testing is required and also why it is so difficult to narrow down. Just because a SEU occurs, or not, doesn’t mean it can’t happen. If the SEU happens during takeoff or landing there is little time for the flight crew to react. I’d feel safer if the ipads, laptops, kindles and other electronics were just left off.

  • Guest

    Wow, who cares… Just turn your electronics off for 5 minutes. Jeez!

  • dirk

    Can the FAA & airlines just be honest and simply say;

    “We want you to shut off your gadgets before takeoff and during landing because we want you to pay attention and don’t want to repeat the drink options & gate numbers 200 times.”

    Unfortunately, if they did that, people would just ignore the flight attendants the entire time.. so I guess I can see why they want to continue telling us “shut the devices down so we don’t fall out of the sky”

  • Lee

    Reminds me of that bit by Louis C.K about wifi access on planes. It’s amazing how quickly we develop a sense of entitlement to some things.

  • Mike

    I would say that a lot have already been tested. By the people who forget or who just can’t be bothered to turn off when the attendants come by. Clearly has never been a problem before or else this conversation wouldn’t be taking place. And I would suspect at least two or three people per flight on every flight ever since mobile devices were commonplace

  • Ken

    The problem is that there is no evidence an it’s usually 15-20 min on both ends of the trip for some flights.

  • lassi

    you won’t still be able to actually use them during takeoff/landing. It’s a safety thing, for same reason you stow everything away from your hands during that time, like books etc – basically everything that could fly away from your hands on a sudden yank.

  • Michelle M

    I’ve been in planes where people don’t turn off their Kindles when told to. Were they in transmitting mode? I don’t know. Just telling people not to put them in transmitting mode isn’t enough, some people don’t know that they have that ability.

  • Tim Martin

    How important can this be if it’s left up to the honor system? Flight attendants have no idea how many electronics are left in people’s bags turned on.

  • eldon boisseau

    As a frequent flyer and a pvt pilot i have long contended the bans are not supported by any evidence and the FAA has a duty to be truthful about the reason for the ban, not make up excuses, if they want to say no cell phones because it interferes with passengers space fine, but lets not make up that it will interfer with the landing or take off, no way it does that, or cause any other problem, no difference between 10,000ft and 30,oooft, where it is fine to have electronics and wireless connection, so tell the truth and not the lies and lets go forward on the basis of the truth and not the garbage.

  • Magoonski

    Who cares if you can’t have it on during take off and landing! Most flights are long enough anyway that between waiting at the gate and being on the plane your device’s battery will be dead long before you get there. Better idea…BRING PAPERBACK BOOK!

  • Stuartg

    All electronic devices to be turned off?

    My watch is an electronic device. A friends implanted cardiac defibrillator is certainly an electronic device.

    I’m not allowed to carry the tools to take the battery out of my watch onto the aircraft, so I can’t turn it off. My friend certainly isn’t going to turn off the ICD.

    Where does the definition of electronic devices begin and end?


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