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December 31, 2012 11:40 AM   Subscribe


 
It's because admitting falliability is probably the most terrifying thing the airline industry (or indeed any other huge industry) can imagine.
posted by elizardbits at 11:46 AM on December 31, 2012 [7 favorites]


"Because I said so."

Very like the rules parents make for child riders in the back seat (excepting, of course, the seat belts).
posted by chavenet at 11:46 AM on December 31, 2012 [2 favorites]


The F.A.A. then told me that 'two iPads are very different than 200. But experts at EMT Labs, an independent testing facility in Mountain View, Calif., say there is no difference in radio output between two iPads and 200. 'Electromagnetic energy doesn’t add up like that,' said Kevin Bothmann, the EMT Labs testing manager.
That is hilarious. To be fair, the F.A.A. isn't wrong. Two iPads are, in fact, very different from 200 iPads. For instance, they weigh differently and it is hard to use 200 iPads on the toilet.
posted by griphus at 11:47 AM on December 31, 2012 [31 favorites]


Every third article Nick Bilton writes is on this topic and it is getting old. Every single article has some comments from electrical engineers who try to point out that the issue is not as simple as he imagines, yet he continues to recycle this theme. Sure, I'd like to be able to read a Kindle during take-off, but it's just not that big a deal.
posted by stopgap at 11:49 AM on December 31, 2012 [12 favorites]


A lot of people (myself included up until a year ago) don't even know how to turn off an iPhone. I'd wager that 90% to 95% of the passengers on any given plane are just turning the screen off. We're already in a world where every plane takes off fine with hundreds of active devices shooting their deadly rays directly into the Not-Crash-O-Tron.
posted by theodolite at 11:49 AM on December 31, 2012 [93 favorites]


Since you can use your iWhatevers for the entire flight once you reach cruising altitude I don't understand why you would complain about the 10 minutes at the beginning and end.

I always make sure not to read during takeoff and landing in solidarity, maybe that thought could ease some worry.
posted by TheRedArmy at 11:50 AM on December 31, 2012 [6 favorites]


I'm quite prepared to believe this rule is nonsensical, but I'm still all in favour of it being enforced. I can't think of a single moment on an aircraft that would be improved by the passenger next to me babbling into a cell phone.
posted by Paul Slade at 11:52 AM on December 31, 2012 [34 favorites]


You'd think more attention would be paid to the people who are getting arrested for refusing to turn off their devices. I get that it's probably a stupid rule but it's so damn easy to comply and you'll be able to turn the thing back on in a few minutes. What the hell is wrong with these people?
posted by VTX at 11:52 AM on December 31, 2012 [6 favorites]


Sure, I'd like to be able to read a Kindle during take-off, but it's just not that big a deal.

The point he's making isn't that it's a super big deal to not be allowed to do so, but that people are going to continue to be stupid and unreasonable about not being allowed to do so, which is dangerous anywhere on earth, much less inside of an airplane full of people panicking over fuck all.
posted by elizardbits at 11:52 AM on December 31, 2012 [9 favorites]


Since you can use your iWhatevers for the entire flight once you reach cruising altitude I don't understand why you would complain about the 10 minutes at the beginning and end.
Most crashes do happen near the ground...
posted by edd at 11:55 AM on December 31, 2012


I'm pretty sure it's the magazine lobby that is holding up these changes.
posted by yeoldefortran at 11:56 AM on December 31, 2012 [7 favorites]


Is the answer "because this prohibition feeds into the 'security theater' atmosphere and the projection of control over all aspects of the travel experience?" Because that's the way it looks from my cramped, uncomfortable seat in Row 23.
posted by mosk at 11:57 AM on December 31, 2012 [43 favorites]


MetaFilter: An airplane full of people panicking over fuck all.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 11:57 AM on December 31, 2012 [11 favorites]


I'm pretty sure it's the magazine lobby that is holding up these changes.

I was just about to mention that, regardless of any reading material in my carry-on, I always use the "they're not gonna let me play with my rectangle" time as an excuse to buy the latest issue of PC Gamer or whatever.
posted by griphus at 11:58 AM on December 31, 2012 [2 favorites]


The problem isn't admitting fallibility, it's getting a government bureaucrat to take a risk. The entire FAA is about risk aversion, about individual employees and decision makers covering their ass. No one wants to approve iPads in flight because the moment some press article claims an iPad contributed to a crash, the entire FAA will be called in front of Congress and whomever made the decision will be publicly humiliated and fired. So why go out on a limb? Constant public contempt for their more irrational policies may actually make a change.
posted by Nelson at 12:00 PM on December 31, 2012 [10 favorites]


That said, I appreciate this rule, because otherwise I wouldn't have bought that life-size Anubis out of Skymall.
posted by theodolite at 12:01 PM on December 31, 2012 [32 favorites]


It's because admitting falliability is probably the most terrifying thing the airline industry (or indeed any other huge industry) can imagine.

See also: Transportation Security Agency.
posted by Mental Wimp at 12:01 PM on December 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


how did they know how big he is?
posted by theodolite at 12:01 PM on December 31, 2012 [62 favorites]


You people need to sit through a discussion of cGMP computer validation in the pharmaceutical industry and you'll realize how ahead of the curve the FAA is on these things. As Nelson says, its about risk aversion, and has nothing to do with what may or may not make the system better, safer or more user friendly.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 12:02 PM on December 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


Many good points made in this thread, but:

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. While parked at the gate?? That's just an overzealous flight attendant (or PR agent, perhaps).
posted by Greg_Ace at 12:04 PM on December 31, 2012 [3 favorites]


At more than eight feet tall, Anubis is ready to protect your Egyptian palace.

THIS IS NOT HIS JOB, SKYMALL.
posted by griphus at 12:05 PM on December 31, 2012 [53 favorites]




The point he's making isn't that it's a super big deal to not be allowed to do so, but that people are going to continue to be stupid and unreasonable about not being allowed to do so

But notice that he is not arguing that people are being stupid and unreasonable in their sense of entitlement to ignore the rules. He is taking the side in favor of using electronic devices and arguing that the real danger comes from enforcing the current rules. He himself is Exhibit A in arguing against the FAA, having published apparently 269 articles on this subject. Notice that he links "months of pressure" to one of his own articles. This is a guy who has also written several articles on how dependent he is on his gadgets, and he just can't bear to be without them when he's flying.

The IEEE published an article on the subject (in 2006) that concluded: "At present, we believe that passenger use of electronics on board commercial aircraft should continue to be limited and that passengers should not be allowed to operate intentionally radiating devices such as cell phones and wireless computer equipment during critical stages of flight."

I don't think there is a big risk, but it seems there is some risk. Under those circumstances, it seems like Nick Bilton's advocacy crusade is misguided. He shouldn't be arguing that the FAA is enforcing "irrational" policies, but instead reporting on the actual science-based risks. If there is a change in the policy, it should be based on identification and acceptance of the actual risks, not this bullshit.
posted by stopgap at 12:14 PM on December 31, 2012 [17 favorites]


I'm pretty sure it's the magazine lobby that is holding up these changes.

Yeah, this rule has Big Magazine's buggy whip marks all over it.
posted by mosk at 12:15 PM on December 31, 2012 [5 favorites]


In September, a passenger was arrested in El Paso after refusing to turn off his cellphone as the plane was landing. [...] 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.


Bullshit. I can and do blame it solely on an idiot who can't can't follow basic rules.

Oh wait, you're engaging in civil disobedience? (why is it that people who are on "important" phone calls always seem to get civil minded on runways?) Knock yourself out, but you are still 100% responsible for your actions.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 12:17 PM on December 31, 2012 [6 favorites]


Most crashes do happen near the ground...

On the ground, in point of fact.
posted by chundo at 12:20 PM on December 31, 2012 [39 favorites]


If the reason for turning off cell phones at takeoff and landing is really to reduce distraction during the safety presentation before the flight, or to allow for more situational awareness by passengers during the landing, then I'm completely okay with that. The right response to a dangerous situation might save lives, and you might be faster at it if you aren't on the phone.

The reasons for disallowing electronic devices on aircraft are changing as fast as the electronic devices do. Back in the day when an "electronic device" was a 3 watt AMPS cellphone, ".. interference levels produced by a portable telephone, used near the flight deck or avionics equipment bay, will exceed demonstrated susceptibility levels for equipment qualified to standards published prior to July 1984."

Nowdays, with the increasing ubiquity of iThings and Androids, and with the approval of the iPad as an EFB (Electronic Flight Bag, mostly for documentation) you might be more worried about the pilot not being able to use the EFB function of his iThing in the cabin because of the traffic on the wireless network. I've seen demos for wireless devices that failed miserably in front of the same room full of people, each with their own wireless device.

Additionally, with the merged control and customer information systems on some modern aircraft (the Boeing Dreamliner is the most notorious case of this) there is the concern about about the customers tampering with the sensors and control systems of the plane.

Once airborn, there is more time to address problems that might be fatal near the ground.
posted by the Real Dan at 12:20 PM on December 31, 2012 [9 favorites]


I can't think of a single moment on an aircraft that would be improved by the passenger next to me babbling into a cell phone.

This is pretty much my feeling; I dread the day that cell phones are in free use on airplanes even more than I dread the next inch the airlines will take off seating. While I understand the irritation with policies from the FAA that may not make that much sense, I really don't understand why people get so incredibly upset at the thought of turning their devices off for the 20 or so minutes of the flight that they're asked to - is it really that hard to go without an electronic device for that length of time? I see kids get less upset about having their DVD players turned off than I see people about their iPads having to be switched off and the kids have the excuse of being 5 years old.

(And whatever about the interference issues, if it is true that most crashes happen during take off and landing isn't a good thing to have people without earphones in their ears/paying marginally more attention because of this than not at those times?)
posted by lesbiassparrow at 12:22 PM on December 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


While parked at the gate?

Yeah, a comment at the link notes that even when you're parked *for hours* on the tarmac they enforce the rule. That, I think we can all agree, is colossally stupid.

stopgap: Every single article has some comments from electrical engineers who try to point out that the issue is not as simple as he imagines

I was all set to dismiss the above, but then saw this comment, which links to this 2004 article:

TV's Distress Signal Creates Real-Life Drama

EUGENE, Ore., Oct. 18 -- TV hardly gets much better than this. An Oregon man discovered this month that his one-year-old Toshiba flat-screen television was emitting an international distress signal picked up by a satellite, leading a search-and-rescue operation to his apartment in Corvallis, 70 miles south of Portland.

The signal from Chris van Rossmann's TV was routed by satellite to the Air Force Rescue Center at Langley Air Force Base in Virginia. On Oct. 2, a contingent of police, civil air patrol and search-and-rescue personnel visited the college student at his apartment in the small university town.

"They'd never seen a signal come that strong from a home appliance," van Rossmann, 20, said. "They were quite surprised. I think we all were."

Authorities had expected to find a boat or small plane with a malfunctioning transponder, the usual culprit in such incidents, emitting the 121.5 MHz frequency of the distress signal used internationally. Van Rossmann said he was told to keep his TV off to avoid paying a $10,000 fine for "willingly broadcasting a false distress signal." Toshiba contacted van Rossmann and offered to provide him with a free replacement set, he said.


I have no electronics experience whatsoever, but doesn't that raise at least a couple of doubts? Or is there some reason beyond me that makes it not at least slightly relevant?
posted by mediareport at 12:23 PM on December 31, 2012 [9 favorites]


Wow, there's a lot of arguing over the electronic emissions of cell phones here, and I'm kind of surprised to see such a distracting derail; the real, question, of course, is what percent bodyfat does Anubis have to display abs like those? And more importantly, isn't it a little gauche for Anubis to have a scepter with his head at the top? I wouldn't carry such a thing. Who does that dude think he is, Grand Nagus Zek?
posted by Greg Nog at 12:27 PM on December 31, 2012 [29 favorites]


Since you can use your iWhatevers for the entire flight once you reach cruising altitude I don't understand why you would complain about the 10 minutes at the beginning and end.
Because I'm an adult who doesn't like to follow arbitrary rules. Why is this a difficult concept to grasp? If there's a good reason for it, sure, I'll obey, but don't tell me that blue laws are OK since I can buy alcohol the other 6 days a week.
posted by MrMoonPie at 12:29 PM on December 31, 2012 [43 favorites]


I'm quite prepared to believe this rule is nonsensical, but I'm still all in favour of it being enforced.

Metafilter:
posted by Potomac Avenue at 12:34 PM on December 31, 2012 [11 favorites]


I don't think there is a big risk, but it seems there is some risk. Under those circumstances, it seems like Nick Bilton's advocacy crusade is misguided.--stopgap

Yes, but is he misguided? The FCC rule smells of bureaucracy, not common sense based on engineering studies. The 'Flysmart' iPad app that he mentions, for example, is apparently now standard in every Quantus Airbus cockpit, and Boeing now has an app too.

And as theodolite mentioned, most people are just turning the screen off. So what sense does the rule make?

This is how a bureacrat's mind works:
"There are some studies that still show doubt, so even though passengers are often not actually turning their devices entirely off, and that we are putting iPads in the cockpit (much closer to the electronics, which would make them much worse at interfering), which makes the rule almost completely meaningless, we think it should still be enforced."

Maybe Nick Bilton has written 256 articles. Maybe he should write 256 more.
posted by eye of newt at 12:34 PM on December 31, 2012 [2 favorites]


And more importantly, isn't it a little gauche for Anubis to have a scepter with his head at the top?

That's his corgi Doghotep.
posted by theodolite at 12:35 PM on December 31, 2012 [9 favorites]


Also, stupid arbitrary rules undermine real and important ones.

At this point, if a man walked into an airport brandishing a machine gun and a TSA officer told me to get down, I'd think twice about it.
posted by straight at 12:36 PM on December 31, 2012 [23 favorites]


Given the number of radio broadcasts in the 10,000 - 50,000 watt range that the average airliner flies through (there are four sources within two miles of my house and yet Lambert field runs an approach more or less right over my head), plus the annual lightning strike the average airliner experiences, no, I can't really see getting worked up over something malfunctioning and simulating the .1 W continuous (or 5 W pulse mode) of an emergency beacon.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 12:36 PM on December 31, 2012 [6 favorites]


At least with regard to the cell data, the bigger problem is with the networks, not the aircraft, which is why the FCC disallows the use "cellular" phones while in the air. In the days of AMPS, inadvertant jamming really was a problem. Thus, it's a violation of FCC rules if your phone transmits in the cellular band. AFAIK, there is no analogous rule for the PCS or AWS bands, although the FAA rules still, of course, apply.

From the FCC's perspective, you're good until the wheels leave the ground. That said, I've..known people..who have blatantly violated the rule on general aviation aircraft (including some with ILS and other theoretically sensitive instruments) with exactly zero ill effects. I figure until you're at least at 1000 feet AGL or so it's not really a problem for the network.

And do note that even if the FAA were to relax its rules, it would still be a crime to use your phone in flight if the flight crew told you not to do so.
posted by wierdo at 12:36 PM on December 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


I have a friend who is a mechanic on airlines. The right phone in the proper position can cause certain sensors to act funny, possibly giving a false reading.
posted by psycho-alchemy at 12:38 PM on December 31, 2012 [3 favorites]


But he can't tell you which one or where because terror.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 12:41 PM on December 31, 2012 [21 favorites]


I don't think there is a big risk, but it seems there is some risk. Under those circumstances, it seems like Nick Bilton's advocacy crusade is misguided. He shouldn't be arguing that the FAA is enforcing "irrational" policies, but instead reporting on the actual science-based risks.

Just doing a little googling I came across these studies - unfortunately behind a pay wall. Seems like the author could have done a much better job of reviewing existing literature.

Can portable electronic devices (PEDs) interfere with aircraft systems?

Determination of receiver susceptibility to radio frequency interference from portable electronic devices
This paper outlines the recent effort in determining the receiver susceptibility thresholds for ILS, VOR and GPS systems. The effort primarily consists of analysis of data available openly as reported in many RTCA and ICAO documents as well as manufacturers data on receiver sensitivity.
Avionics interference from portable electronic devices: review of the Aviation Safety Reporting System database
The Aviation Safety Reporting System (ASRS) database was reviewed for incident reports involving interference to avionics from portable electronic devices (PEDs). There were 125 incident reports identified. Examination of these reports revealed a wide variety of affected avionics, predominately navigation. A diverse group of passenger electronics is mentioned, primarily cellular phones and laptop computers.
posted by Golden Eternity at 12:42 PM on December 31, 2012 [2 favorites]


Additionally, with the merged control and customer information systems on some modern aircraft (the Boeing Dreamliner is the most notorious case of this) there is the concern about about the customers tampering with the sensors and control systems of the plane.

This is not a reason to to ban call phones, iPads, or anything else during takeoff. This is a reason for the FAA to ban planes with "merged control and customer information systems," because those things should be air gapped.
posted by cosmic.osmo at 12:43 PM on December 31, 2012 [10 favorites]


Every time I'm flying a lot I find myself wishing for wireless earbuds that look like hearing aids.
posted by ODiV at 12:44 PM on December 31, 2012 [3 favorites]


Is it at all possible that a smartphone or tablet could be maliciously altered and programmed to produce disruptive signals causing a crash? My premise is that normal phones etc are fine, but that the device could be repurposed in some way. Once the devices are accepted during take-off and landing, is there a scenario where they are altered to produce disastrous effects?
posted by lathrop at 12:44 PM on December 31, 2012


Sure it may be dumb, but who wants to be The one to have to tell people their loved one was killed because of some freak interaction with an iPhone. This may be a better to be safe than sorry moment.
posted by Ad hominem at 12:47 PM on December 31, 2012 [2 favorites]


I have a friend who is a mechanic on airlines. The right phone in the proper position can cause certain sensors to act funny, possibly giving a false reading.-- psycho-alchemy

This has been on the blue before, with conflicting studies mentioned. But cell phones not only broadcast, but receive, from cell basestations. Those cell basestations (and there are usually a lot of them around an airport), are broadcasting right at the planes taking off, using the same frequencies (if they weren't you wouldn't be able to make a call from a plane).

If it is really a problem, then we should not only shut off the phones, but shut off the basestations too. And tell Quantus to take the iPhones out of the cockpits.
posted by eye of newt at 12:47 PM on December 31, 2012 [4 favorites]


It's ludicrous. If phones/iPads/etc were any sort of tangible threat you simply could not have them on flights at all, or airplanes would be falling out of the sky daily.

"You can bring your bombs on the plane, just promise not to set them off, ok?"

It's the combination of security theater and security theater's even more ridiculous sibling "this is the way we do it, so let's act like there is a reason".
posted by dirtdirt at 12:48 PM on December 31, 2012 [20 favorites]


Why is it so difficult to realize that any electronic device May have the ability to interfere with aviation equipment. Just turn the damn thing off.
posted by crushedhope at 12:49 PM on December 31, 2012 [5 favorites]


Don't ask me how I know this, but GSM iPhones apparently work just fine when airborne to about 4000 feet above ground. Above that they start having a hard time keeping signal and at 8000 AGL don't work at all. My ham/pilot friends tell me it's about Doppler shift and also having too many cells in range.

I've heard a couple of first and secondhand stories from commercial pilots who swear some passenger device was interfering with equipment. I'm inclined to believe those are just flukes / magical thinking. If it were a real risk we'd see an increase in navigation equipment problems in the past 15 years as cell phones became more common. That, and every day hundreds or thousands of flights are conducted with devices left on by accident, no harm done. Also pilots in cockpits deliberately using all manner of handheld electronic devices in all stages of flight, right next to the very navigation instruments. There is no measured risk.
posted by Nelson at 12:52 PM on December 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


Maybe Nick Bilton has written 256 articles. Maybe he should write 256 more.

Oh, he will. Until he has won us the all important civic right of being able to talk very loudly into an iPhone while simultaneously looking at videos of kittens on your iPad while a plane is landing. Of course, we'll all still be taking our shoes off and stripping nearly naked to get through security, but that day will be a great day.
posted by lesbiassparrow at 12:53 PM on December 31, 2012 [7 favorites]


As someone whose job revolves around airworthiness, I will say that in risk management as everywhere else absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. The reason you can't have your iPad on for takeoff is because no one wants to pay to prove its safety. There is no benefit to the airlines to allow you to use your devices, so they do not pay for the necessary testing. Airplanes are insanely complex assemblages of mechanical and electrical parts, and it's very difficult to make these kinds of determinations to a degree of certainty that you need to keep the level of safety that is mandated on an aircraft.
posted by backseatpilot at 12:58 PM on December 31, 2012 [43 favorites]


And now that I'm off my soapbox, I use my electronics in my small plane. I use similar iPad software mentioned in the article for navigation, and I have managed to text people from the cockpit that we were going to be late. GSM cell phones do interfere with my radios, and conversely there is something in the plane that interferes with the screen on the iPad occasionally. My headsets have earphones with magnets strong enough to turn dials sideways if I put them next to each other.
posted by backseatpilot at 1:03 PM on December 31, 2012 [6 favorites]


I'm curious backseatpilot, what level of testing has been done to allow the pilot to have his iPad on in the cockpit during flight?
posted by Nelson at 1:03 PM on December 31, 2012 [5 favorites]


It's ludicrous. If phones/iPads/etc were any sort of tangible threat you simply could not have them on flights at all, or airplanes would be falling out of the sky daily.

You don't have enough information to know that - just because it hasn't happened yet doesn't mean it cannot. The best information we have is that the potential exists - and that dying in preventable airplane crashes sucks.

I don't understand the fuss. I mean I get the point about arbitrary and stupid rules designed by and for people who like rules; and I certainly get the joy of railing about them - I'm wearing my white shoes right now and it is well after labor day! - but this is a dumb hobby horse to ride on.

Take off and landings are when you should be paying the most attention to what is going on around you - those are the most critical times of every flight, and if something goes wrong you may very well need your wits and attention about you.

Put your phone away. You're not that important.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 1:05 PM on December 31, 2012 [4 favorites]


Take off and landings are when you should be paying the most attention to what is going on around you - those are the most critical times of every flight, and if something goes wrong you may very well need your wits and attention about you.

Which is why you're not allowed to read magazines, do linear algebra, or think about ex-girlfriends during takeoff and landing
posted by theodolite at 1:09 PM on December 31, 2012 [22 favorites]


Or watch the 32 channels of live TV that they have playing in the seatback.
posted by the jam at 1:11 PM on December 31, 2012 [6 favorites]


There are quite a few people using straw men in this thread as though non-transmitting modes don't even exist -- arguments are ranging from "I don't want the jerk next ot me babbling on the phone" to "the pilots might not be able to access (something) via the internal network if everyone's device is hopping around the 802.11 wifi.

Firstly -- once a flight is airborne all devices are ONLY permitted to be in airplane (non-transmitting mode).

Secondly -- the EFB (electronic flight bag) for pilots' iPads include requirements (as I understand) that all of the relevant manuals be loaded directly onto the device -- pilots are not trying to access information remotely from their iPads via some internal wifi network that all the passengers will be trying to share.

Thirdly -- Allow me to emphasize the critical part of the IEEE article recommending limitations: "... intentionally radiating devices such as cell phones..." A device in airplane mode is intentionally *not* radiating.

So, please illuminate me how a fully functioning device (i.e. not a broken device that may be transmitting even though it's not supposed to, because failure modes also have to include battery combustion, would they not?) in airplane mode poses any more risk during taxi and takeoff than the device does if switched off.
posted by chimaera at 1:14 PM on December 31, 2012 [7 favorites]


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.

Um ... nor could there ever be, according to the rules of logic.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 1:15 PM on December 31, 2012 [6 favorites]


Take off and landings are when you should be paying the most attention to what is going on around you - those are the most critical times of every flight, and if something goes wrong you may very well need your wits and attention about you.

Like that unforgettable time passenger 37C saved the whole airplane with his situational awareness after the 747's nav system went tits-up.

In absence of evidence, rules like this just create paranoia. Like we need more of that in this country. Let's stick with science and not encourage people to punch each other out over stupid shit.

N.b., whether or not you want people to be talking on the phone in the plane is something else entirely. But let's not call that a safety issue.
posted by chundo at 1:17 PM on December 31, 2012 [5 favorites]


Firstly -- once a flight is airborne all devices are ONLY permitted to be in airplane (non-transmitting mode).

That would make in-flight WiFi rather difficult to pull off.
posted by chundo at 1:19 PM on December 31, 2012 [12 favorites]


What we do at work to test electronics that go into the airplane includes a number of environmental and EMI tests. The airlines are probably doing some standard EMI characterization tests to determine where in the spectrum the iPad will radiate, followed by some interference testing on the ground - we do very qualitative tests where everything on the plane is fired up and we try to talk to people on the radios and see if anyone can notice interference. There are other ways of doing this that I haven't really been a part of. Environmental tests usually include things like temperature and humidity extremes, rapid decompression, shock and vibration, stuff like that.

Airlines usually do this testing themselves and get approval from the FAA. Data suppliers like Jeppesen also test iPads and other equipment because they have a vested interest in this equipment being allowed so they can sell data subscriptions for the apps.
posted by backseatpilot at 1:19 PM on December 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


You don't have enough information to know that - just because it hasn't happened yet doesn't mean it cannot. The best information we have is that the potential exists - and that dying in preventable airplane crashes sucks.

I repeat: if there is a real, credible threat, then the availability of phones (et al) should be zero. If we are relying on the obedience of countless people to turn off a device (which they may not even know how to turn off!) to protect us from harm we are going to be harmed and, as you say, dying in preventable airplane crashes sucks.
posted by dirtdirt at 1:20 PM on December 31, 2012 [2 favorites]


The FAA rules only apply on US flights, yeah?

Maybe the agency could "begin a review of its policies" by looking for similar policies elsewhere, and failing.
posted by Sys Rq at 1:21 PM on December 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


well, they can't prove that taking the shoes off improves safety, either. But my prediction is the 'electronic devices' rule will be stricken sooner than later. Because egocentric convenience. America, fuck yeah.
posted by j_curiouser at 1:21 PM on December 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


That would make in-flight WiFi rather difficult to pull off.

I stand corrected on that part, I just rarely take flights that have wifi as a service available. However, users are not allowed to make cell phone calls during flight.
posted by chimaera at 1:21 PM on December 31, 2012


Like that unforgettable time passenger 37C saved the whole airplane with his situational awareness after the 747's nav system went tits-up.

MS-Office to the rescue.
posted by fuse theorem at 1:24 PM on December 31, 2012 [2 favorites]


The FAA rules only apply on US flights, yeah?

The rules apply to aircraft certified in the US, so anything made by Boeing is in there. EASA, UK CAA, and the Canadian CAA all have similar rules so throw in Airbus and Bombardier. I'm sure other countries all have similar rules; rightly or wrongly just about every aviation authority in the world follows what the FAA does regarding airworthiness regulations.
posted by backseatpilot at 1:25 PM on December 31, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm hanging out with my wife's family in another country this week. When last we visited (within the last few years), I was fiddling with my phone during takeoff. I asked the flight attendant if this was a problem and she gave me a shrug and a "Why should it?" But this time around, we get the same message we get on US flights. Alas, it seems following rules for the sake of following rules spreads quickly.
posted by aureliobuendia at 1:30 PM on December 31, 2012


I find my situational awareness much improved after the flight attendant has brought me my rum and coke.
posted by mistersquid at 1:39 PM on December 31, 2012 [3 favorites]


However, users are not allowed to make cell phone calls during flight.

Strictly speaking, yes, although there is no rule against using VOIP over WiFi. I've seen people Skype from a plane, for example.
posted by wildcrdj at 1:40 PM on December 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


lathrop:
Is it at all possible that a smartphone or tablet could be maliciously altered and programmed to produce disruptive signals causing a crash? My premise is that normal phones etc are fine, but that the device could be repurposed in some way. Once the devices are accepted during take-off and landing, is there a scenario where they are altered to produce disastrous effects?
Perhaps, but a maliciously-modified device could perform its malicious functions from someone's bag (checked or carry-on), and these bans are really only enforced against devices that are visibly in use in the cabin. If this was a legitimately feared scenario, then these devices should be totally banned from flights, including checked luggage, not security-theater banned only from visible use in the cabin during takeoff and landing.

Pogo_Fuzzybutt:
You don't have enough information to know that - just because it hasn't happened yet doesn't mean it cannot. The best information we have is that the potential exists - and that dying in preventable airplane crashes sucks.

I don't understand the fuss. I mean I get the point about arbitrary and stupid rules designed by and for people who like rules; and I certainly get the joy of railing about them - I'm wearing my white shoes right now and it is well after labor day! - but this is a dumb hobby horse to ride on.

Take off and landings are when you should be paying the most attention to what is going on around you - those are the most critical times of every flight, and if something goes wrong you may very well need your wits and attention about you.

Put your phone away. You're not that important.
Fear, innuendo, and speculation aren't good bases for rules. And I'm not sure the best information we have supports these rules, since they're inconsistent and enforced haphazardly.

I don't get your point, second point. You linked to a story of yours about a guy getting arrested for unloading his luggage too early during landing, after being told not too. Are you suggesting that people should be arrested for not paying attention during takeoff and landing, even if they're reading a book? Or is using and iPad or cell phone a special kind of inattention that warrants arrest? Or is it that we're plebs that shouldn't question poorly-justified rules?
posted by cosmic.osmo at 1:41 PM on December 31, 2012 [5 favorites]


I'm with the people who think it's useless security theatre that they are perfectly happy to live with because the idea of having to listen to everyone on a flight chat on their cell phones is horrifying.
posted by jeather at 1:47 PM on December 31, 2012 [3 favorites]


I have no electronics experience whatsoever, but doesn't that raise at least a couple of doubts? Or is there some reason beyond me that makes it not at least slightly relevant?

If stories like that worry you, imagine for a minute the type of engineer that would design a modern flight system that was incapable of dealing with background noise or interfering radiation. Something so mindless that a wrong (or noisy) frequency broadcast could confuse it and cause it to malfunction.

Now try imagining him and his equally incompetent co-workers making something that can fly hundreds of people thousands of miles at 35,000 feet.

If mobile devices were capable of unintentionally taking out an airplane's electronic control systems built by that crack group of engineers, we'd be seeing non-stop groundings and crashes due to other stupid things like "the engine got too dusty."

I say unintentionally because that's the key here. I'm sure someone could build a military grade jammer that fits in your pocket and seriously messes with the plane's navigation systems. But you can bet your ass that signal isn't coming from the guy playing Angry Birds.

Theater, plain and simple.
posted by chundo at 1:51 PM on December 31, 2012 [4 favorites]


I don't know if there's any solid scientific basis for the rules, but the whining about it is sounding a lot like NRA logic. "It is annoying and inconvenient to me, and keeps me from that thing I love, so it can't possibly be true."

I'm not a big fan of people choosing for themselves which airline safety rules they'll follow.

There are rules. You don't like them, take the train or walk.

Side note: I hope you are not the same guys that we are now seeing using their tablets while driving a car. Not an isolated example unfortunately.
posted by philipy at 1:53 PM on December 31, 2012 [9 favorites]


You can have my gadgets when you give me enough leg room in coach to avoid DVTs.
posted by blue_beetle at 1:54 PM on December 31, 2012 [3 favorites]


I say unintentionally because that's the key here

I'm guessing you haven't seen how the sausage gets made, because I could list half a dozen major fuckups from my own job alone in recent memory that were grossly incompetent and very expensive to fix. None were life threatening, but they were only caught after extensive fielding. Looking back it's easy to wonder how the designer could be so stupid but the fact is that there are simply too many variables and you can't design for everything.

Part of the problem with commercial technology is that it changes very, very quickly and it's not feasible to keep on top of it. How many new product versions does Apple alone release every year? Who is to do the testing and analysis to prove that little enough has changed from the iPad 2 to the iPad 3 that both models are acceptable for use on an airplane? And again next year for the next model? And every year after that? How do I design a flight deck to be resistant to technology that hasn't even been developed yet? When they designed my 20 year old VHF radio in my cockpit, did they test it for interference from GSM phones that hadn't even been developed yet?

This is why it's difficult to make a blanket statement about the safety of on-board electronics. Technology changes too quickly to be sure enough to guarantee safety and the benefit to the passengers does not outweigh the massive cost involved in the certification work.
posted by backseatpilot at 2:07 PM on December 31, 2012 [14 favorites]


All I know is I would really like to play against Alec Baldwin in Words With Friends.
posted by orme at 2:11 PM on December 31, 2012 [4 favorites]


blue_beetle: "You can have my gadgets when you give me enough leg room in coach to avoid DVTs."

Dunno if serious but to my knowledge the DVT after sitting a long time thingy has been shown to be false. DVT happens to airplane passengers due to shitty air quality (ironically worsened since smoking was banned) not sitting a long time.
posted by lazaruslong at 2:11 PM on December 31, 2012


MrMoonPie: "Because I'm an adult who doesn't like to follow arbitrary rules."

I do believe that a reasonable definition of "adult" includes the ability to obey simple rules now and then without having to like them.
posted by davejay at 2:15 PM on December 31, 2012 [7 favorites]


I don't get your point, second point. You linked to a story of yours about a guy getting arrested for unloading his luggage too early during landing, after being told not too. Are you suggesting that people should be arrested for not paying attention during takeoff and landing, even if they're reading a book? Or is using and iPad or cell phone a special kind of inattention that warrants arrest? Or is it that we're plebs that shouldn't question poorly-justified rules?

I'm saying that self important people who think that sitting for an extra 5-10 minutes is the height of stupidity abound, even in the face of arrest.

I explained my feeling with regards to stupid rules. I know you didn't read it because who cares what I think.

Sure, there are rules, but some of them have no basis in reality,

They do have a basis in reality - you just don't find that basis compelling. Those are different things.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 2:22 PM on December 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


I once sat through a 40 minute tarmac delay due to an "anomalous light in the navigation system" that didn't get resolved until 90 seconds after I paged the flight attendant and pointed out that the woman across the aisle from me had been talking on her cell phone since before we pulled away from the gate. (the woman was pissed. OFF. when the attendant made her shut her phone off and put it away.) I am perfectly willing to believe that was a coincidence, but the timing correlation was pretty tight.
posted by KathrynT at 2:25 PM on December 31, 2012 [4 favorites]


eye of newt: "There are some studies that still show doubt, so even though passengers are often not actually turning their devices entirely off, and that we are putting iPads in the cockpit (much closer to the electronics, which would make them much worse at interfering), which makes the rule almost completely meaningless, we think it should still be enforced."

Sounds right to me.
posted by davejay at 2:31 PM on December 31, 2012


orme: "All I know is I would really like to play against Alec Baldwin in Words With Friends."

Second round is you're fired.
posted by davejay at 2:32 PM on December 31, 2012 [2 favorites]


If you'd like to read about it yourself, instead of what an op-ed writer got from talking to some schmoes:

AC 91.21-1B, Use of Portable Electronic Devices Aboard Aircraft
AC 91-78, Use of Class 1 or Class 2 Electronic Flight Bag (EFB) (Class 1 and 2 are removable devices, and this AC is limited to Part 91 or general aviation aircraft)
AC 120-76B, Guidelines for the Certification, Airworthiness, and Operational Use of Electronic Flight Bags (compare to AC 91.21-1B to see how and why pilots get to use their toys and you don't)
posted by backseatpilot at 2:33 PM on December 31, 2012 [6 favorites]


philipy: "Side note: I hope you are not the same guys that we are now seeing using their tablets while driving a car. Not an isolated example unfortunately."

In the last year, I have seen a severe uptick in cars pulling up to stop signs on side streets, the drivers looking into their laps while they wait for traffic to clear, then when traffic is clear, I can see them in my rear view mirror still sitting there. Similarly, I've come up behind people just sitting at stop sign, in the traffic lane rather than off to the side, looking down in their laps, even after I drive around them and proceed on my way. It is truly amazing as far as bad driving goes, and this is Los Angeles we're talking about.
posted by davejay at 2:37 PM on December 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


Thanks for your intelligent and knowledgeable comments, backseatpilot.
posted by the young rope-rider at 2:38 PM on December 31, 2012 [4 favorites]


At the risk of being lumped in with nazis, sheeple, cowards and parasites, I'll say that I've thought the last, good argument for "turn off your electronic devices" had a lot less to do with iPads, iPhones, Kindles, Galaxy IIIs and whatever else has been shown to cause no problems (e.g. because it's approved for use as an electronic pilot's aid), and more to do with the many things that are not as well known and possibly not as well tested. The local Kohl's sells a bunch of super-cheap tablets and e-readers, for instance, from small brands, and I remember the rush that was on for ASUS eeePCs from non-US markets before the devices came over here.

More to the point, faced with a cabin of a couple hundred people all holding little black, plastic boxes that look pretty similar (Apple's legal efforts notwithstanding), sorting out which are certified safe vs. those of dubious provenance (from an emissions point of view) would be an undue burden on the flight attendant, who's supposed to just be moving down the aisle and making sure things are square for takeoff, not making sure each special snowflake's device is on an approved list.

Maybe there's very little likelihood some sketchy, fly-by-night iPad knock-off manufacturer is making anything even remotely dangerous due to noisy Wi-Fi, Bluetooth or cell radios, but like I said: It's the last reason I can think of that "pilots get to use iPads" isn't the open and shut display of hypocrisy and arbitrary rule following it's made out to be.
posted by mph at 2:40 PM on December 31, 2012 [6 favorites]


So: people are asked to shut off their cellphones and tablets for 20 minutes or so. Most people at least shut the screen down, often with some irritation because they're bored, or there's a wailing babe in arms they want to block out with music, or because they know that people all around them aren't actually powering down their devices, and this hasn't caused the plane to fall out of the sky on other flights they've been on, so the rule seems arbitrary and dumb. But most people comply nonetheless. After all, it's not a long deprivation, and we're socialized to follow rules.

The issue then becomes, who doesn't follow the instruction to turn off all electronic devices, and how do we respond to them? Sociologists study topics like this under the rubric of norm violation and deviance, and one general principle is that when people violate social rules, even arbitrary or silly ones ("don't wear your pants backwards"), it makes people around them freak out.

I've been on a couple of flights recently where people refused to turn off their cell phones. Both individuals were defiant, but for different reasons. The first was a woman who felt that her social status was higher than that of a mere flight attendant, and that the flight attendant had no right to give her orders. The second had a similar screw-you attitude, but it came from a place of social marginalization rather than social privilege. In both cases, the collective anger of the other passengers toward the defiant cell-phone wielders was quite palpable. I felt it, too. We had submitted to the inconvenience of turning off our phones, so why couldn't they? It's no surprise to me that people get punched in the nose in such situations.
posted by DrMew at 2:58 PM on December 31, 2012 [14 favorites]


Rules can't be reversed without someone being wrong. We don't need this rule reversed, we need it "updated" or perhaps "revised in light of current technologies".

I have accidentally left my electronics on in my luggage many times. So has almost everyone else. Yet we all survived. Stupid rules make people think that all the rules are stupid. The FAA should fix this stupid rule to help maintain and revive respect for the actually important rules.
posted by pmb at 3:06 PM on December 31, 2012 [4 favorites]


We had submitted to the inconvenience of turning off our phones, so why couldn't they? It's no surprise to me that people get punched in the nose in such situations.
I'm not sure if that's the reason for me. Personally, I think these rules are ridiculous, the reasons that people here are using to defend them are ridiculous, and that people who bring up cell phone conversations to argue against reading a Kindle are ridiculous. But I also think that it's ridiculous to argue with a flight attendant over the FAA's stupidity. The only result of arguing with a flight attendant will be escalation until the flight is delayed and/or the unruly passenger is kicked off, which will only delay and further inconvenience everyone on the plane.

Though it's clear in this thread that people think that rules should be followed just because there's a rule rather than the consequences of rule violation, so maybe you're right for many more people than I'd like to think!
posted by Llama-Lime at 3:12 PM on December 31, 2012 [3 favorites]


I flew out of Gulfport when Katrina hit. During a 45 minute wait on the runway due to high winds, I got a phone call from the local police asking me to help locate a relative who needed an oxygen tank. My number was listed as emergency contact. A big haired woman en route to Dallas kept turning around and telling me to get off the phone because the flight attendant had said so. Sitting with the engines off, pelting rain and lightning strikes all around, in a prop plane in a hurricane. I wish I'd told her something super witty and eloquent, but it was just "please fuck off".
posted by last night a dj saved my life at 3:18 PM on December 31, 2012 [7 favorites]


I'm not arguing against reading a Kindle. I read one during takeoff when I can get away with it (most of the time) and when I am not already asleep (none of the time). I'd be perfectly happy to see rules that allowed use of silent electronics and no cell phone conversations. But if the rule has to be "no electronics at all" or "everything is okay" (which is an absurd choice on some levels, but probably easiest for flight attendants), I'd choose the first.
posted by jeather at 3:22 PM on December 31, 2012


Maybe all of the unexplained plane crashes have in fact been due to faulty consumer electronics interfering with flight equipment and nobody knows because the devices were destroyed in the crash or never recovered and recharged and tested. One never knows.

I assume it's more of a problem testing infinite diversity in infinite combinations. You can test or at least reason about (no electronics, seats in upright position, tray tables up, cabin lights on, in flight entertainment off, seat belts fastened), but when you start having to take into account half of your passengers with tray tables down, some with seats back, many with seat belts unfastened, quite a few holding onto their precious $500 iDevices like their world would end if the lost them... you can't make reasonable assumptions any longer.

Why can't people accept that if something does go wrong it's likely safer if everybody is undistracted, fastened in, and there aren't hundreds of little bricks of plastic, metal, and glass flying through the air bashing people in the heads.
posted by zengargoyle at 3:24 PM on December 31, 2012 [3 favorites]


Fun thing about Kindles; there really is no way to turn it off. Or at least if there is one, I have no idea how to do it. And it's pretty difficult to figure out how to turn off the 3G connection, a connection most owners probably don't even understand it has. And yet somehow, all those airplanes fly despite Whispernet's best efforts to force a plane crash.
posted by Nelson at 3:26 PM on December 31, 2012 [2 favorites]


One thing not mentioned at all in this thread: Cell tower channel re-use. Phones on planes screw up the network for people below them.
posted by alexei at 3:32 PM on December 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


Fun thing about Kindles; there really is no way to turn it off. Or at least if there is one, I have no idea how to do it.

The e-ink ones? Those can display something on the screen (like those author portraits that come preloaded) while not being on. E-ink requires power to write to the screen but not to keep something displayed.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 3:33 PM on December 31, 2012


So this happened. I really like the airline in question, so I'm not going to name them.

I was sending a final text to someone before takeoff, when I'm asked to turn off my phone. I hit the lock button on my phone and put it away.

"You didn't turn your phone off."
"Huh? Sure I did. Look, black screen."
"It's still on. Either turn it off right now, or police officers will be waiting for you when you land."

Now, I'm a nerd, and I happen to know the Vulcan Neck Pinch required to (mostly) turn off a phone. (It's mostly, because there's still enough logic running to turn it back on.) But let me be clear, that flight attendant put a gun to my head over information I was likely not to have known.

And don't act like I'm exaggerating. Disobeying the orders of a flight attendant is a federal offense, the officers would have been armed, and I'd have been looking at a criminal record and an expensive legal bill.

It's not OK that this is a part of flying. It's not making us safer. It's not even having the "desired" scientific effect, because over 90% of phones remain active and transcieving.

I still don't fly this airline much now, and I like them enough to not name them.

We can do better. We must do better.
posted by effugas at 3:46 PM on December 31, 2012 [5 favorites]


I do believe that a reasonable definition of "adult" includes the ability to obey simple rules now and then without having to like them.

The definition of democracy is that, en masse, we can overturn simple (and even complex) rules we don't like.
posted by effugas at 3:50 PM on December 31, 2012 [4 favorites]


eye of newt - it's Qantas, not Quantus.
posted by russm at 4:11 PM on December 31, 2012 [2 favorites]


Maybe all of the unexplained plane crashes have in fact been due to faulty consumer electronics interfering with flight equipment and nobody knows because the devices were destroyed in the crash or never recovered and recharged and tested. One never knows.

What are you talking about? There have been exactly five (5) accidents or incidents on US commercial aircraft since the release of the iPhone in 2007. None of them are "unexplained plane crashes". Two of them were caused by holes ripping open in the fuselage. Two of them were caused by the aircraft overshooting the runway under poor weather conditions. One of them was caused by an al-Quaeda bomber lighting his underpants on fire. In all of these incidents, there were 0 fatalities and a total of five minor injuries, including the suicide bomber.

Are you hypothesizing that electronic gadgets cause rain, gusty crosswinds, metal fatigue or terrorism?
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 4:23 PM on December 31, 2012 [18 favorites]


I'm getting ready for the new year by jettisoning unnecessary possessions but a small part of me would love the challenge of creating a room in which that statue of Anubis would not be out of place.
posted by Morrigan at 4:27 PM on December 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


Nelson: "Fun thing about Kindles; there really is no way to turn it off."

Hold your powerswitch several seconds until the screen blanks.
posted by radwolf76 at 4:32 PM on December 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


I just need a digital watch that will display ebooks and I'm set.
posted by ODiV at 4:34 PM on December 31, 2012


I agree with many sides...

The rule probably needs to be looked at, and the science tested and proven.

You are not in public, you are on the property of the airline, and your captain runs the show. He/she says turn off the device, you turn off the device. It's his/her boat.
posted by CarlRossi at 4:35 PM on December 31, 2012


Hold your powerswitch several seconds until the screen blanks.
If you mean to hold it for 20 seconds, that will reboot the Kindle, generating the most EMP the little device is capable of and in a minute or two will result in a regular display. The "screen save" mode is, in fact, OFF in any conventional sense. There is no "blank screen" (at least on the Kindle 1 or 2).
posted by Lame_username at 4:56 PM on December 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


... the challenge of creating a room in which that statue of Anubis would not be out of place.

HINT: the floor of the room is covered in snakes.
posted by ceribus peribus at 5:05 PM on December 31, 2012 [7 favorites]


The "screen save" mode is, in fact, OFF in any conventional sense.

Except a Kindle in screensaver mode is not off entirely, it is not inert. The display changes every 20 minutes or so. And since we're in the realm of Magical Thinking where an electronic device is going to crash a plane, surely any electronic device is a risk, no matter how lightly powered? Maybe we should all just leave our Kindles at home, just to be extra safe. Really, how arrogant to expect to bring anything at all to read on an airplane.

For that matter why do we let anyone with a pacemaker fly? Those things are full of electrical charges, and wireless transmissions. Maybe we should ask elderly people to turn off their pacemakers at takeoff.

And don't get me started about hearing aids with lithium batteries. Those things can explode.
posted by Nelson at 5:06 PM on December 31, 2012 [4 favorites]


I was once told by someone the reason he turns his mobile phone off (the 3G connection, not the power to the phone) is because when you're in the air and you have no reception, the phone constantly tries (unsuccessfully) to connect to the internet and drains the battery. So I started turning off my 3G when I flew, and my battery life was extended significantly.

Nothing to do with interfering with the plane's electronics, though. I think that's all a bunch of nonsense and fearmongering and silly because-we-said-so baloney, like how we're required to take our shoes off before flying. (You can't scan my shoes while they're on my feet, fuckers? I call bullshit!)
posted by ostranenie at 5:27 PM on December 31, 2012


But let me be clear, that flight attendant put a gun to my head over information I was likely not to have known.

I have no strong feelings about what should or shouldn't be allowed on planes but I don't understand what you mean by this. Are you saying that most people don't know how to power down their phones? On an iPhone, which I have, you do this by holding down the top button until it says "swipe to power down" and then you swipe. Which is not the same thing as tapping the top button and making the screen go black. I am pretty crappy at iPhone and even I know the difference.
posted by escabeche at 5:30 PM on December 31, 2012


Lame_username: "
Hold your powerswitch several seconds until the screen blanks.
If you mean to hold it for 20 seconds, that will reboot the Kindle, generating the most EMP the little device is capable of and in a minute or two will result in a regular display. The "screen save" mode is, in fact, OFF in any conventional sense. There is no "blank screen" (at least on the Kindle 1 or 2).
"

Actually to turn off a Kindle 2, according to p.19 of the pdf version of the user manual:
To turn off your Kindle completely, slide and hold the power switch for four seconds, then release. The Kindle screen will blank and the device will turn off.

The procedure is the same for Kindle DX; Kindle Keyboard and later e-ink models (Touch, unlabeled current generation Kindle and Paperwhite) need 7 seconds instead of 4.

Looking over the manual for Kindle 1, it's the only model that doesn't mention the screen blanking if the power switch is held for either 4 or 7 seconds, but that model also didn't have the sleep function overloaded onto the power button, you had to press alt and textsize to put it to sleep.
posted by radwolf76 at 5:44 PM on December 31, 2012


... since we're in the realm of Magical Thinking where an electronic device is going to crash a plane ...

oh ffs, nobody is saying this but you. the claim is that EM emmissions *may* increase the *risk* of problematic interference with aircraft avionics.

"I flew on a plane without turning off my phone and we didn't crash" just means that some combination of the following we're true:

a) your device produces no interfering emmissions
b) any interfering emmissions occurred at a non-critical time
c) a problem occurred but the flight crew dealt with it
d) etc, etc.

but hey, obviously you really want to use your device so therefore you should be allowed to.
posted by russm at 6:05 PM on December 31, 2012 [1 favorite]




The number of people whose contribution to this thread consists of "just submit, stop challenging strictures that are without sense or meaning" is shameful.

Whatever can be killed by truth must be.
posted by Pope Guilty at 6:26 PM on December 31, 2012 [18 favorites]


This is idiotic. How is 3oz liquid more dangerous than leaving my cellphone on during takeoff again?
posted by Monkey0nCrack at 6:36 PM on December 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


Doesn't this seem to be approaching the problem from the wrong angle? I mean, on one side, you have millions of passengers, some of whom are going to keep their electric box going no matter what.

On the other side, you can endeavor to make the plane immune to the minor interference these devices are potentially capable of. So it would make your $200M plane cost $201M...but it's a war which will never be won from the passenger side.
posted by maxwelton at 6:39 PM on December 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


I will never understand people who get such boners over The Rules and Following The Captain. People are people. Sometimes they are wrong.
posted by dame at 6:44 PM on December 31, 2012 [2 favorites]


This looks like really old data, but interesting:

Interference from Electronic Devices (Boeing)
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.
1998, 747 airplane.
A passenger’s palmtop computer was reported to cause the airplane to initiate a shallow bank turn. One minute after turning the PED off, the airplane returned to "on course." When the unit was brought to the flight deck, the flight crew noticed a strong correlation by turning the unit back on and watching the anomaly return, then turning the unit off and watching the anomaly stop. Boeing was not able to purchase the actual PED, but contacted the PED manufacturer and purchased the same model. Boeing laboratory emission testing revealed that the unit exceeded Boeing airplane equipment emission levels by up to 37 dB by demonstrating energy levels in the frequency range of 150 to 700 kHz. In the Boeing navigation laboratory the unit was placed next to the FMCs, control display unit, and integrated display unit, but the reported anomaly could not be duplicated.
posted by Golden Eternity at 6:57 PM on December 31, 2012 [3 favorites]


On the other side, you can endeavor to make the plane immune to the minor interference these devices are potentially capable of. So it would make your $200M plane cost $201M...but it's a war which will never be won from the passenger side.

You can immunize your plane against a known understood threat, you can never immunize it against WE JUST DON'T KNOW (boggles eyes, waves hands) because it's By definition undefined. And a pile of horseshit.
posted by Artw at 7:01 PM on December 31, 2012 [5 favorites]


When the unit was brought to the flight deck, the flight crew noticed a strong correlation by turning the unit back on and watching the anomaly return, then turning the unit off and watching the anomaly stop.

"Hahahahaha! Awesome, cap'n! Now let's see what it does when you open PowerPoint! GOD DAMN! Uh, Madge, get on the horn and tell the cabin air pocket or some shit. What about Excel!?"
posted by mph at 7:03 PM on December 31, 2012 [3 favorites]


For all of the people who don't believe iPhone owners don't know how to turn them off:

I spent about 10 months doing customer support for a "major wireless carrier". I had MANY people say "it's off, it's on" way too quickly when asked to reboot, and at least one person a week who had no idea how to turn their phone all the way off.

One woman who had had multiple models of iPhone for many years, multiple family members with iPhones, and her response was "OOOHHHHHHH, REALLY?! I thought I was turning it off when I hit the button!" after I explained that she had to hold, then slide to power off.

So...yeah, LOTS of people buy things and don't know how to use them. Consider all of the stories of people turning off monitors and thinking their computer is shut down, etc etc.
posted by HermitDog at 7:06 PM on December 31, 2012 [2 favorites]


The number of people whose contribution to this thread consists of "just submit, stop challenging strictures that are without sense or meaning" is shameful.

Whatever can be killed by truth must be.


That's RIGHT! Do you hear me Mom? There are no scientific studies demonstrating that beets are necessary for my diet so I'm not going to eat them! I'll sit right here at this dinner table all night and not eat them! I'll show you!

Or maybe I'll demonstrate a slightly more grown up sense of proportion and priorities and go do something useful.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 7:11 PM on December 31, 2012 [4 favorites]



So, please illuminate me how a fully functioning device (i.e. not a broken device that may be transmitting even though it's not supposed to, because failure modes also have to include battery combustion, would they not?) in airplane mode poses any more risk during taxi and takeoff than the device does if switched off.


What about the morons?

Won't somebody please, think of the morons?

I have twice turned on my iPhone after takeoff, to discover it was still not in airplane mode. No matter. At that altitude, even if I had caused a problem, there was enough time to turn the iPhone off, for the pilot to correct any problem I might have caused, and for the other passengers to share with me their opinion of my character and ancestry.

During takeoff and landing, there is no time. Turn your fucking gadget off.
posted by ocschwar at 7:17 PM on December 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


That's RIGHT! Do you hear me Mom? There are no scientific studies demonstrating that beets are necessary for my diet so I'm not going to eat them! I'll sit right here at this dinner table all night and not eat them! I'll show you!

Dude - it's electrosensitivity for planes, backed up by the same logic that antivaxxers use. Your "no, listen ti the grown ups!" routine really doesn't apply unless you grew up in a house of superstitious kooks.
posted by Artw at 7:19 PM on December 31, 2012 [5 favorites]


We're already in a world where every plane takes off fine with hundreds of active devices shooting their deadly rays directly into the Not-Crash-O-Tron.

Mine is one. I gave up following this rule a long time ago, and I'm certain I'm not the only one. The real rule, judged by what I see other airplane passengers doing, is "don't be too obvious about checking your phone during takeoff and landing".

I don't bother to put my cosmetics in a ziploc, either. In ten years, the TSA has complained exactly once. Take that, bureaucrats.
posted by Mars Saxman at 7:26 PM on December 31, 2012 [4 favorites]


Yeah, turned out that my wife did not know how to switch her iPhone (or the LG windows phone she used for a few months) off until last week. She had it for three years. I didn't know she didn't know either. This is apparently more common than most tech-savvy people think.

The FAA rules only apply on US flights, yeah?

Maybe the agency could "begin a review of its policies" by looking for similar policies elsewhere, and failing.


I remember reading somewhere that this is all kosher on Airforce One? Or was that walking about when the plane is about to land?
posted by the cydonian at 7:27 PM on December 31, 2012


As someone who listened to books on tape on planes long before they started making an announcement at 10000 feet (the old rule of thumb was when they got the drinks cart out per some flight attendant), I find it deeply amusing that people seem to think this rule was invented out of the blue once everyone but me got an iPhone. You just didn't know the rule existed (presumably because you ignored the safety briefing, where it was mentioned).
posted by hoyland at 7:28 PM on December 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


But let me be clear, that flight attendant put a gun to my head over information I was likely not to have known.

And don't act like I'm exaggerating. Disobeying the orders of a flight attendant is a federal offense, the officers would have been armed, and I'd have been looking at a criminal record and an expensive legal bill.


Of course you're exaggerating. The flight attendant was not armed and did not put a gun to your head. Even if she was armed (which she wasn't) she didn't put the gun to your head. If they had called ahead and armed police officers had shown up to arrest you, they still wouldn't have put a gun to your head. "Looking at a criminal record and an expensive legal bill" isn't the same thing as having a gun to your head. You can tell because different words are used to describe the different situations.
posted by ActingTheGoat at 9:27 PM on December 31, 2012


I find it deeply amusing that people seem to think this rule was invented out of the blue once everyone but me got an iPhone.

One time, I was editing an excel spreadsheet when the plane was boarding, and i just kept at it until I felt the plane start to take off and lurch. Suddenly I was able to control the plane by editing cell formulas on the fly, and I decided to fly to Toronto instead of Kansas City. Unfortunately I wasn't quick enough with the hotkeys, and I ended up planting the plane into a flower bed outside of Cleveland. Turns out, it was the flower bed of the wife of the head of the FAA at the time, and she didn't get her blue ribbon that year at the county fair.

That's why the rule was invented.
posted by hellojed at 9:29 PM on December 31, 2012 [7 favorites]


Every time I'm flying a lot I find myself wishing for wireless earbuds that look like hearing aids.

I really want these most of the time. They'd be great for jobs that don't allow listening to earbuds too.
posted by NoraReed at 9:40 PM on December 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


For all of the people who don't believe iPhone owners don't know how to turn them off:
[...]
So...yeah, LOTS of people buy things and don't know how to use them.

For the most part Apple doesn't think customers need to be able to power their devices completely down, it's not well documented.
posted by JHarris at 9:47 PM on December 31, 2012


Put me in the camp of people who wonder, if cellphones and other intentionally emitting electronics pose such a threat to avionics safety, why "the terrists" don't use them to make more "911s" or whatever it is they do while hating our way of life.

However, I was interested to learn that (according to boeing) it is the operators, not the manufacturers or the government, who are responsible for governing the use of portable electronic devices on their airplanes (first paragraph), which explains why there is at least some variability in the rules.

PS Put me among the group of people who has, at least once, put his device in airplane mode and blanked the screen, rather than turning it off.
posted by jepler at 6:55 AM on January 1, 2013


My impression was the rule was the result of the FAA and FCC having overlapping turf and reaching a no-one-can-say-our-agency-ignored-safety "compromise".

Still, after STUXNET, the story taking over a plane, or at least twacking some critical embedded component seems more and more possible ~ create a worm that infects phones, uses the phones GPS to determine altitude and location, swaps the phones broadcast frequency to the target components frequency or relay commands between the same type of plane on the tarmac, etc. I am not a network security guy, but it seems like there is probably lots new territory and real problems that could be introduced as phones become more powerful and airlines look to accommodate these devices.
posted by relish at 6:58 AM on January 1, 2013


JetBlue is definetly in the camp of telling passengers "Don't black the screen or lock the phone, turn it OFF" camp.

As for the. "You can't have a device on but there's a movie on your seat back screen & 15 other DirectTv channels", most of the time ( I'd say every flight I've been on except the last one because I was flirting with my seat mate* instead of watching the screen) they turn the entertainment off when passengers have to have situational awareness.

*representative image, I wasn't going to freak out her person by asking to snap a picture.
posted by tilde at 7:11 AM on January 1, 2013


I know um, people who stubbornly refuse to turn off their electronics at the required times, and have never had an incident. Ever.

I also am made to wonder: If the avionics in commercial airlines are so fragile that an iPad's emissions can take them down, why is the FAA not requiring airlines to update and harden the airplanes' systems? Isn't telling passengers "Please turn off your Kindle because it could crash the plane" rather like hanging a billboard that says HEY TERRORISTS, I HAVE AN IDEA YOU MIGHT BE INTERESTED IN!

The idea that a Kindle or an iPad can interfere with a modern plane's systems is so ludicrous, it has to be something else. A first step toward information suppression, maybe?
posted by xedrik at 9:04 AM on January 1, 2013


The situational awareness issue is probably the bigger reason, and while a lot of people scoff at it, the situational awareness is not so "passenger in 39C can save the plane," but rather passenger in 39C can save his or her ass, or at least have enough S.A. so that passengers in 40 A,B,C don't die because 39C is disoriented for a second or two. (in a large flammable vessel seconds do count!) Small chance? Yes but enough to stop whining and comply.

Also, if a plane short stops just before V1, or runs off the runway at speed, those PEDs are little flying missiles. There is a *good* chance that at least a few will be inadvertently released from their owners to smash into the backs of heads of people a few seats down.

Now I can guarantee that the retort will be, "what about books, especially hardbacks?" Fair point! I think the answer is probably those are grandfathered in that people have been doing that for years. I also think that books, when transformed into projectiles will slow down due to their drag, all the pages fluttering, etc. The only way to prove this is to stand by a wall and have someone hurl a paperback, hardback, and PED at your head from about 30 feet away. Which causes the most damage, which is most likely to hit you in the head could then be ascertained.

Finally on many US airlines, you can't even listen to the inflight entertainment. I was asked to take my noise-cancelling headphones off even though I was listening to inflight entertainment and thus would've heard any pilots command to prepare for accident. But as the FA pointed out, I was tethered to my seat because of that and there is a small, but significant risk that in my rush to get out, I would trip or be held back until the cord broke or I remembered to rip the plug from the seat. Again burning tube, seconds count.

So, seriously, all those who roll their eyes at this rule, this is about as freedom-killing as being required to wear seatbelts. As a matter of fact, I would hazard to guess that not a single person who gripes about the PED ban gripes about being OMG FORCED to wear seatbelts for takeoff and landing. Why?
posted by xetere at 9:39 AM on January 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


In principle one could build devices that caused problems so some restrictions seem reasonable. Yet, all the over broad regulations serve only to discredit the FAA. eInk displays? iPod shuffles? wtf?!?
posted by jeffburdges at 10:14 AM on January 1, 2013


I know um, people who stubbornly refuse to turn off their electronics at the required times, and have never had an incident. Ever.

I also am made to wonder: If the avionics in commercial airlines are so fragile that an iPad's emissions can take them down, why is the FAA not requiring airlines to update and harden the airplanes' systems? Isn't telling passengers "Please turn off your Kindle because it could crash the plane" rather like hanging a billboard that says HEY TERRORISTS, I HAVE AN IDEA YOU MIGHT BE INTERESTED IN!

The idea that a Kindle or an iPad can interfere with a modern plane's systems is so ludicrous, it has to be something else. A first step toward information suppression, maybe?


The problem is not first order effects. Those are rare. (Although I have seen malfunctioning fluorescent ballasts cause wired ethernet networks to drop packets and cause cell phones to not work at all.)

The problem that they are concerned about is much more subtle and rare. In an emergency, when 1000 other things have gone wrong, can a bunch of gadgets desperately searching for a WiFi connection be the 1001st thing that goes wrong, with fatal effects? Can the 200 ipads in the back interfere with the pilot's iPad containing the necessary checklist or navigation information?

From a quote above: "The F.A.A. then told me that 'two iPads are very different than 200. But experts at EMT Labs, an independent testing facility in Mountain View, Calif., say there is no difference in radio output between two iPads and 200. 'Electromagnetic energy doesn’t add up like that,' said Kevin Bothmann, the EMT Labs testing manager.

Actually, it does. Or at least it can. There is a radio station near me whose license requires that it broadcasts away from a certain area. Its signal is allowed to go far to the southwest, but can't go very far at all to the northeast. So they have 5 antennas in a row that points to the southwest. Between the spacing and phasing of the signals they emit, each builds a stronger wave toward the southwest and cancels the signal going toward the northeast. Result: electromagnetic energy "adding up like that".

A bunch of radios broadcasting in a small, ungrounded metal tube probably won't cause any issues. But they have the ability to accidentally, randomly get into phase with each other and maybe aim a destructive signal somewhere it wouldn't be received well. On a normal day, even that would probably be fine. When 1000 other things have gone wrong, it might not be fine. And that's why they are cautious.
posted by gjc at 10:41 AM on January 1, 2013


When 1000 other things have gone wrong, it might not be fine

This is a rehash, but you can make the same argument about a thousand things that are permitted (off the top of my head, lets go with blankets. They and large coats are likely to impede fast egress). For those things airlines (and customers) have decided the benefit outweighed the risk.

With electronic devices, the benefit (people stop pretending) already outweighs the risk (which is zero, because we've all been pretending).
posted by Popular Ethics at 11:44 AM on January 1, 2013 [4 favorites]


xetere: "The situational awareness issue is probably the bigger reason"

If it were, then magazines and newspapers should be similarly banned. They aren't.
posted by radwolf76 at 12:41 PM on January 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


If it's unsafe to have electronics switched on, why doesn't the Taliban or Al Qaeda or Al Shabaab or whoever just fly their people around all the time in monkey class with a bunch of devices switched on in their hand luggage? It has the advantage of being nearly impossible to discover and not actually illegal if you're stopped in security.
posted by brokkr at 1:12 PM on January 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


Chundo, one time we were flying into Dallas, and in the late stages of runway approach we noticed that the plane to the right of us was getting closer and closer, without seeming to change location in the window. It had been minutes like that.

This very much resembled the warning signs from the visual hack of determining if you are going to (eventually) collide with a car merging onto a freeway, by the constant angle, over time, formed by the line to the other car relative to the line of your path.

Embarrassed, I signalled for a flight attendant, and after apologizing, asked about the plane we could see on the right side of the aircraft, and wondered if we might not be heading for the same runway. A number of other people in earshot agreed. The flight attendant said that she would ask the captain (!).

After a few minutes, someone addressed all of us "concerned about the plane visible from the right side of the cabin", and said that our runway had been "de-conflicted" from theirs.

That was the word for the rest of the flight and the deboarding. You could hear it over and over again in pieces of conversation on the plane, on the boarding ramp, and on the concourse. "De-conflicted."

I think it was a pilot or ATC error, though, and I think I was in 15F :-)
posted by the Real Dan at 1:48 PM on January 1, 2013 [8 favorites]


The only way to prove this is to stand by a wall and have someone hurl a paperback, hardback, and PED at your head from about 30 feet away.

It is? It's the only way? I guess that's why Mythbusters hasn't done that one yet...
posted by Kirth Gerson at 2:51 PM on January 1, 2013


I'd be perfectly happy to see rules that allowed use of silent electronics and no cell phone conversations.

On that note, I would support a serious crackdown on non-silent electronics in general - the number of children (and adults, even!) playing games that beep-boop constantly or watching movies or whatever at full volume without headphones is shocking, and I have been on enough planes in the last few weeks that am basically one several-rows-ahead-of-me Dora the Explorer episode from homicide.
posted by naoko at 7:47 PM on January 1, 2013


As someone who always still has her iPhone and Kindle on (though in airplane mode/sleep) on flights, and who pulls out her Kindle if she thinks she can get away with it, let me explain why this rule bothers me.

Contrary to popular belief, I have no desire to make noise on an airplane. I do not wish to text, make phone calls, Skype, watch loud movies without headphones, or anything else. Even when I'm traveling with my partner or coworkers, I don't even want to talk. It (irrationally) annoys me when people laugh out loud at movies on the plane. Airplane time is quiet time, as far as I'm concerned. So I'm not so caught up in my Important Phone Calls or whatever that I refuse to turn off my phone, and I fully support a permanent ban on phone (or Skype) conversations on airplanes. Make it like the Quiet Carriage on trains.

But. Even if it's "just ten minutes" between takeoff and when I can use my PEDs, sometimes it's not. Sometimes it's longer, if you're stuck at the gate, or waiting forever on the tarmac, or in a long line for takeoff, or being de-iced. And who among us has not reached for Skymall in those instances? So why is it so wrong for me to want to reach for my quality, happens-to-be-electronic reading material instead? All I want is my Kindle. All I want is to be able to read my ebook when everyone else is allowed to read their paper. Right now it just feels completely arbitrary that the person next to me can read their book and I can't because of the difference in media.

And I have my Kindle in the first place because I travel so much, on extremely long flights, and I read fast enough that I'd have to take multiple physical books with me to get me through a trip, and that becomes prohibitive to pack. So I got a Kindle to be more volume-efficient so I can read more. We all like reading, right? We all agree reading is a good thing? Not a symptom of being a mindless iZombie?

And all the CAN'T YOU PUT YOUR GLOWING RECTANGLES AWAY FOR TEN MINUTES PEOPLE, JEEZ folks: it's a BOOK I want to have. It's not Angry Birds or Twitter or anything like that. I just want to read a book. My book happens to be electronic. So don't get all condescending. I want to read. Other people want to be doing work. And frankly if someone does want to be playing Angry Birds while you do the Sudoku in the back of the in-flight magazine, I don't honestly see a problem with that either. But accusing us all of being obsessed with our devices is not the way to go about this argument.

If reading and playing games on paper is a desirable activity for passengers on an airplane in between the gate and takeoff or landing, then barring any safety issue (aka genuinely harmful electronic interference), passengers should also be able to read and play games on electronic devices. Thus the argument should be only whether or not electronic devices do cause problematic interference. Moral judgements about iThings and eStuff need not apply.
posted by olinerd at 5:56 AM on January 2, 2013 [8 favorites]


I miss the year after the first Kindle came out, when flight attendants didn't seem to realize that the Kindle was an electronic device, and you could read it unmolested the whole flight.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 6:17 AM on January 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


If reading and playing games on paper is a desirable activity for passengers on an airplane in between the gate and takeoff or landing, then barring any safety issue (aka genuinely harmful electronic interference), passengers should also be able to read and play games on electronic devices. Thus the argument should be only whether or not electronic devices do cause problematic interference. Moral judgements about iThings and eStuff need not apply.

My moral judgement is about your failure to follow a simple rule because you view it as an inconvenience. In most situations, that's neither here not there, but I'd prefer the airplane not crash, thank you very much. My preference for that is great enough that I'm willing to sit around bored in the tarmac given even the low, but known to be nonzero, chance of catastrophic interference and I'd kind of appreciate it if others would participate in the not dying effort.
posted by hoyland at 6:31 AM on January 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


given even the low, but known to be nonzero

Known by who?
posted by chundo at 7:27 AM on January 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Known by who?

NASA?

Here's an article from the IEEE magazine. It's not like no one with qualifications thinks about whether this rule makes sense.
posted by hoyland at 8:07 AM on January 2, 2013


More accurately, the probability threshold they work with for catastrophic accidents is 1 in a billion. If the airlines can demonstrate that PEDs won't increase the likelihood of an accident above that limit, they will be able to allow the use of those devices. It is expensive to prove that for all likely failure cases and so the airlines have made a business decision not to do so.
posted by cardboard at 8:10 AM on January 2, 2013


given even the low, but known to be nonzero

Well, given quantum mechanics, this can be said of any danger you can dream up. The problem with this discussion is that both sides are pretending that there is a real dichotomy between safe and not safe, when the real discussion should be about trading off risk and benefits. All human activities have a degree of risk and the level of risk that is tolerated is always above zero. The actual level tolerated depends upon the benefits accrued, and we consider convenience (saved time or energy) a huge benefit (it's why we put up with the huge death toll and planet-changing pollution from internal combustion transportation, e.g.).

This is why pointing to vague "threats" by the FAA or the TSA to justify enormous cost or inconvenience is unacceptable to many of us. The inanity of the safe/not safe discussion drives us to distraction, not to mention the quick evolution of the arguments for risk as the old ones are batted down as minuscule or loony.
posted by Mental Wimp at 8:31 AM on January 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


NASA?

Here's an article from the IEEE magazine. It's not like no one with qualifications thinks about whether this rule makes sense.


Those articles are devoid of any objective measurement of risk, but rather just identify particular effects of EMI on plane systems. There is no attempt to compare them to other, existing impacts (e.g., ground-based transmissions) or quantify the probability of a failure leading to dysfunction of the aircraft.

No intelligent person doubts that scenarios can be constructed wherein EMI at a high enough level can cause observable effects. The question is how big that risk is and what are the benefits that we must forgo. Let's face it. If it were possible to bring down an aircraft with EMI using cell phones, they would have been banned by the TSA a long time ago, right? Because it's not all just theater, right?
posted by Mental Wimp at 8:49 AM on January 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


If it were possible to bring down an aircraft with EMI using cell phones, they would have been banned by the TSA a long time ago, right? Because it's not all just theater, right?

I doubt the concern is that an ipad would bring down the plane directly (planes should be designed to withstand a lightning strike without going down I would hope). Rather, the concern may be that EM interference causes a bad instrument reading or a glitch of some kind that becomes a causal factor in a pilot error:

Dave Carson of Boeing, the co-chair of a federal advisory committee that investigated the problem of electronic interference from portable devices, says that PEDs radiate signals that can hit and disrupt highly sensitive electronic sensors hidden in the plane's passenger area, including those for an instrument landing system used in bad weather.

"It could be you that you were to the right of the runway when in fact, you were to the left of the runway," said Carson, "or just completely wipe out the signal so that you didn't get any indication of where you are coming in."

There are still doubters, including ABC News's own aviation expert, John Nance.

"There is a lot of anecdotal evidence out there, but it's not evidence at all," said Nance, a former Air Force and commercial pilot. "It's pilots, like myself, who thought they saw something but they couldn't pin it to anything in particular. And those stories are not rampant enough, considering 32,000 flights a day over the U.S., to be convincing."


Anyway, Boeing's engineers seem to have done a pretty good job of designing safe airplanes. I'd just as soon leave it up to them to make the best decisions on safety rules.
posted by Golden Eternity at 9:06 AM on January 2, 2013


Rather, the concern may be that EM interference causes a bad instrument reading or a glitch of some kind that becomes a causal factor in a pilot error:

Yes, I read those articles and that was what I was alluding to. As a terrorist, all I have to do is invest in a few thousand cheap mobiles and get people to carry them onto airplanes and they will crash. Or maybe not. If only we had millions of hours of flying experience with phones that were inadvertently or intentionally left on...

Boeing's engineers seem to have done a pretty good job of designing safe airplanes.

Ironically, they don't seem to think so.
posted by Mental Wimp at 11:10 AM on January 2, 2013


And all the CAN'T YOU PUT YOUR GLOWING RECTANGLES AWAY FOR TEN MINUTES PEOPLE, JEEZ folks: it's a BOOK I want to have.

Not to be pedantic but it is certainly not a book. Books are made from paper and card stock of varying thicknesses and ink. And they don't emit electro-magnetic radiation.

I've no particular opinion on whether electronic devices are the threat to safety that they are made to be. My specific concern is not causing trouble for the flight attendants that I'll be requesting gin and tonics from a few times. Which is why I pack an actual book and/or work papers in my carry on along with my laptop, DS, and mobile phone on longer flights.
posted by Hello, I'm David McGahan at 4:16 AM on January 3, 2013


Not to be pedantic but it is certainly not a book. Books are made from paper and card stock of varying thicknesses and ink. And they don't emit electro-magnetic radiation.

You know very well what is meant here, and you're choosing to ignore it.
posted by uberchet at 1:46 PM on January 3, 2013


As I understand it, eInk devices emit radiation only when they change the page, meaning one could be designed to be "off" whenever you're just reading once page. Ideally one should build it without an "off" screen image to drive this point home.
posted by jeffburdges at 2:12 PM on January 3, 2013


You know very well what is meant here, and you're choosing to ignore it.
posted by uberchet at 1:46 PM on January 3 [+] [!]


Yes I understand what is meant, but I'm not ignoring it. Rather I disagree with the premise.
posted by Hello, I'm David McGahan at 2:57 PM on January 3, 2013


Rather I disagree with the premise.

No, I think you missed the premise in your haste to be snarky and superior about what is and isn't a book.

Intentionally or not, you are definitely ignoring the point being made. And in so doing, you've also failed to refute it or comment on it or disagree with it in any coherent way.
posted by uberchet at 3:38 PM on January 3, 2013


As I understand it, eInk devices emit radiation only when they change the page, meaning one could be designed to be "off" whenever you're just reading once page. Ideally one should build it without an "off" screen image to drive this point home.

My Kindle emits wifi and 3G signals.
posted by stopgap at 5:44 PM on January 3, 2013


I'd argue that Kindle's are perverse tools of enslavement because they support restricted 3G but don't support DjVu, the format specifically designed for scanned ebooks. I'm therefore happy if another ebook readers lets users read during takeoff while a Kindle doesn't, but one must ask : Airplane mode?
posted by jeffburdges at 6:26 PM on January 3, 2013


Stopgap: All Kindles make it trivial to turn wireless off. I think the prior statement was taking that for granted, which seems reasonable.

burdges: See above. It's a two-click operation on mine (Menu -> turn wireless off). Lots of folks keep their wireless off all the time, except when they want to download something or sync up progress, because it changes the battery life from merely unfeasibly long to completely ridiculously long.
posted by uberchet at 7:51 AM on January 4, 2013


No, I think you missed the premise in your haste to be snarky and superior about what is and isn't a book.

Intentionally or not, you are definitely ignoring the point being made. And in so doing, you've also failed to refute it or comment on it or disagree with it in any coherent way.
posted by uberchet at 3:38 PM on January 3 [+] [!]



Frankly, you can think whatever you want. At the same time you have not engaged with my argument but just used a lot of words to tell me I am wrong. The commenter I was referring to doesn't pack books because they are too heavy to carry the amount needed. That is one of the advantages of ebooks. The Disadvantage, wrongly or rightly, is that you're not allowed to use them for 10 minutes or so when a plane is taking off. Because they're not books but electronic devices.

Mediums are specific things, and it may be annoying but you can't take the benefits without the drawbacks.
posted by Hello, I'm David McGahan at 10:58 PM on January 4, 2013


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XIX0ZDqDljA this might help you out....
posted by Hello, I'm David McGahan at 1:03 AM on January 5, 2013


Hello, I'm David McGahn, the reason your comment was missing the point is that the person you replied to was saying, "I'm reading a book, not doing something frivolous like playing Angry Birds or checking Twitter." Your reply that an ebook is not the same as a paper book is irrelevant to the point that not everyone using a screen on a plane is playing games or addicted to social media.
posted by straight at 9:24 PM on January 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


but the notional point that H,IDMcG ignored is completely irrelevant to whether a ban on electronic devices due to EM emmissions is justifiable...
posted by russm at 3:28 AM on January 6, 2013


No, because some people seemed to be saying who cares if turning off electronic devices during takeoff/landing is reasonable, can't you idiots go five minutes without checking Twitter?

Sure you don't have to weigh costs and benefits of a policy if you just pretend there are no costs.
posted by straight at 3:32 PM on January 7, 2013


No, because some people seemed to be saying who cares if turning off electronic devices during takeoff/landing is reasonable, can't you idiots go five minutes without checking Twitter?

Sure you don't have to weigh costs and benefits of a policy if you just pretend there are no costs.


Here's the thing. You can use exactly the same reasoning to ban all electronic devices from the airplane, no? If we can ban a certain behavior when we don't know how big the risk and simply declare that it is bigger than the benefits, then that would apply to having any devices on at any time during the flight, since the evidence is just as strong for danger during the flight as for take-offs and landings. Heck, maybe we can ban cell phones altogether since they might mess with medical devices and kill people walking around. Do you see where this thinking leads logically? If it isn't resisted, what's to stop the powers that be to make arbitrary decisions based on no evidence but only their whims?
posted by Mental Wimp at 6:08 PM on January 7, 2013


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