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FCC Chief Urges FAA To Ease Airplane Electronics Ban 242

Posted by Soulskill
from the select-a-champion-and-decide-this-through-single-combat dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "AFP reports that Federal Communications Commission chairman Julius Genachowski is calling for an easing of the ban on using mobile phones and other electronic devices on airplanes during takeoff and landing, saying devices such as smartphones 'empower people' and can boost economic productivity. 'I write to urge the FAA to enable greater use of tablets, e-readers and other portable electronic devices during flight, consistent with public safety,' the FCC chief said in the letter to FAA Administrator Michael Huerta. The ban is in place based on the assumption that devices could interfere with an airplane's navigation equipment. But a number of news stories have questioned the validity of this claim, and many point out that some people forget to turn off their devices during flights. The FCC studied the question several years ago but found insufficient evidence to support lifting the ban at the time. But not everyone has been forced to put their gadgets away. Earlier this year the FAA approved iPads instead of paper flight manuals in the cockpit for pilots, but the agency still refuses to allow passengers to read on Kindles and iPads during takeoff and landing."
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FCC Chief Urges FAA To Ease Airplane Electronics Ban

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  • by murdocj (543661) on Saturday December 08, 2012 @09:31AM (#42224863)

    Wow... 10 minutes when I can't use my iPad. If this is your biggest problem in your life, celebrate like there's no tomorrow.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 08, 2012 @09:35AM (#42224881)

    Is this for real? Can people really not go without using their stupid devices for 5 minutes at takeoff and another 5 minutes at landing?

    SERIOUSLY! You're going to be in the plane, in the air, for an hour, if not far longer. A few minutes at the beginning and end of the trip won't have much impact at all on "economic productivity".

  • Crash and burn (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Jetra (2622687) on Saturday December 08, 2012 @09:37AM (#42224891)
    If they ease the ban and it turns out that there IS a device that could mess with an airplane's electronics, people will be complaining that the FAA didn't warn them. The FCC should stay out of matters that could potentially kill hundreds as well as cost airlines money and costumers. It's better to be safe than falling to your death from a couple of miles up.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 08, 2012 @09:39AM (#42224917)

    Do people who use "first world problem" realize how utterly stupid that phrase that makes them look, how meaningless it is and how condescending it is to people who aren't in the "first world"?

  • Re:Crash and burn (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Samantha Wright (1324923) on Saturday December 08, 2012 @09:41AM (#42224929) Homepage Journal
    I'm strongly of the opinion that the question of interference was mostly just an excuse to get people to put their gadgets away and pay attention. Takeoff and landing have the potential to be pretty dangerous, despite their routine nature, and it's not in your best interest to be distracted instead of alert. It seemed like a little bit of a childish lie to make, but, honestly, understandable given the human tendency to get used to safety.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 08, 2012 @09:44AM (#42224951)

    That's not the point. Senseless regulations just for the sake of their being regulations is dumb. Pilots can use them, passengers can't? - and there is no valid reason why not. If they want to say, "No it won't bring the plane down, but we need everyone's attention to listen to this important safety announcement about belt buckles" fine - just be honest about it. Don't treat me like an idiot.

    Just don't feed me a line of bullshit about it might interfere with the electronics of the aircraft. The people that buy in to that irritate me almost as much as the control freaks pushing the message. Have rules that make sense and I'm cool. Foist rules that are bullshit and that treat me like an idiot and we have an issue.

    So chill out, cupcake. Don't be all "stop your whining" and sarcasm. Whether it is someones big or small problem, it is "their problem" and it shouldn't be A problem if it was based on honesty.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 08, 2012 @09:49AM (#42224985)

    Honestly, do people *really* need to have phone and other electronic devices during takeoff and landing? They can't put the stuff aside for 15 minutes? Are they that dependent? What next, you HAVE to leave the tray table down, you MUST leave your seat back? You're on a fricking plane. Put your stuff away and prepare for landing/takeoff.

    I've never really understood why it's so difficult to stop using these things during the crucial parts of the flight. Aside from the electronic signals part, it's also better not to have a bunch of hard, breakable glass, and/or relatively heavy objects floating around the cabin space. Stuff should be stowed below the seats in case there is turbulence or some other issue with the takeoff/landing. It might also be a good idea to have passengers' full attention in case the phrase "brace for impact" comes over the sound system.

  • Blanket Ban (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 08, 2012 @09:51AM (#42225001)

    I'm a pilot, and as much as I think the ban is BS, I also understand. The problem is that the FAA cannot (practically) garuentee any level of quality or standard compliance for any piece of electronics that a passenger may bring on board (think $50 imitation iPad that may have bad or poorly designed radio components and transmits way outside the frequency band and power limits of wifi).

    Another half truth I've heard is that it keeps passengers more focused on their surroundings, so you may be able to take instructions from flight attendants faster if there were an emergency, versus oblivious to the outside world, buried in your work.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 08, 2012 @09:51AM (#42225005)

    An account that was created today, has first post and endorses a Microsoft product? I've seen this before.

    Shill.

  • Re:Blanket Ban (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 08, 2012 @09:55AM (#42225035)

    If a piece of consumer electronics can bring down a plane, don't you think you should... fix the plane?

    As for 'more focused', when the people on the plane tell me to turn off my Kindle, I close my eyes and try to sleep instead. So I'm far less focused.

    All it really does is make regular flyers regard anything the crew say as stupid BS.

  • Re:Crash and burn (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Jetra (2622687) on Saturday December 08, 2012 @09:57AM (#42225039)
    A new piece of hardware comes out faster than news is made. Out of the millions, perhaps tens of millions of devices being made around the world, don't you think that there might be one with that "perfect frequency?" I'm all for safety and I'm all for using my phone. I agree it might be an excuse, but heck it works. All of my friends require a 24/7 connection to some kind of device so I think a bit of a breather from all the gadgetry is helpful to the populace as a whole.
  • Re:Crash and burn (Score:5, Insightful)

    by quacking duck (607555) on Saturday December 08, 2012 @09:57AM (#42225041)

    The "pay attention" rationale doesn't hold water since they're not preventing people reading paper books or the newspapers they sometimes give out when you board.

    Also, it's pretty well proven portable electronics like smartphones and tablets do not affect takeoffs/landings. Although there's airplane modes in many of them to disable wifi and cell transmissions, the idea is that all electronics are supposed to be off... and simply "sleeping" them does not turn it off. Even moving electronic components aren't a big deal--people were taping takeoffs and landings on camcorders long before solid state memory recorders came around.

    Disallowing kindles/ereaders is especially hilarious considering they're effectively "off" all the time except when changing pages... and who remembers to turn off their kindle's wifi? I just realized I've flown 4 times without doing that (it's the basic version--the wifi disables airplane mode at some point to try downloading new ads).

    No, I think the old rule was indeed to prohibit electrical/electronic devices back when they were new enough that they didn't know how to shield aircraft systems properly from a wide range of devices, and the "pay attention" rationale, while a good idea regardless, is just a way to avoid making significant bureaucratic/regulatory changes.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 08, 2012 @10:06AM (#42225093)

    I agree. The forced photography of one's nude body is a far more egregious violation of our liberties than ten minutes of not using your iPad. I wish more people cared about this.

  • by whizbang77045 (1342005) on Saturday December 08, 2012 @10:07AM (#42225099)
    This isn't just a ban on consumer electronics. The FAA doesn't allow much of anything to be used on aircraft until it has been thoroughly tested, and shown not to interfere with the operation of the aircraft. It's been this way since just about day one at the FAA.

    If you demonstrate, for example, that a Nintendo does not cause interference, then the approval would apply only to the model tested, and not to any other gaming devices.

    One could argue that this is overly cautious, but there are devices out there which do interfere with the aircraft. FM radios, for example, can and often do interfere with VOR navigation receivers. If they err, it is on the side of safety. It would take one really bad accident traced to an unapproved device to have the NTSB screaming for the head of everyone concerned.

    Disclaimer: I hold airframe and powerplant mechanics certificates, an inspection authorization (lets me inspect aircraft on behalf of the FAA each year), and a general radiotelephone certificate.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 08, 2012 @10:11AM (#42225125)

    If what you are saying is true, then shouldn't people who are reading hardcopy books or newspapers also be required to put those away?

  • by Drathos (1092) on Saturday December 08, 2012 @10:11AM (#42225127)

    How about a half hour on each end of a 2 hour leg were I can't read because brought a Kindle instead of 3 paper books.

    When you board, they tell you that when they close the door, you have to turn off your electronic devices and they won't leave the gate until you do. Ostensibly, that's to prevent interference with the radio while they talk to the tower. After you land, while still taxiing, they announce that you can turn on your cell phones, but have to leave everything else turned off. Wait, I thought they said the cell phones were causing interference?

    The rule is not just idiotic, it's inconsistently applied.

  • by Orphis (1356561) on Saturday December 08, 2012 @10:13AM (#42225139)

    I vote for banning hard cover books too. I think they hurt far more than a kindle when thrown at you.

  • stupid rule (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Charliemopps (1157495) on Saturday December 08, 2012 @10:58AM (#42225387)

    If my tablet/phone/anything can bring down your fucking plane, you made the plane wrong, and why the fuck am I allowed to even have it on the aircraft in the firstplace?!? Oh, that's right, because it can't bring down a plane. At all. Not possible. The plane is flying over hundreds of thousands of cell towers during it's entire flight. During take off and landing it's within METERS of these towers broadcasting at several orders of magnitude more power than your damned phone.

    The ban on these devices is simple. The airlines lobbied for it. Not because it keeps you safer, but because it makes you bored and more likely to buy their in-flight services like the ridiculous back of the seat computer bullshit. Learn to know when you're being manipulated.

  • Re:Crash and burn (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Dekker3D (989692) on Saturday December 08, 2012 @11:07AM (#42225439)

    You're willing to sell him the TSA? That's cool-... we should start a Kickstarter to collect the funds to buy it and throw it in the trash :D

  • by meerling (1487879) on Saturday December 08, 2012 @11:38AM (#42225597)
    If it were really because of electronic interference potentially causing the plane to crash, I'd be terrified if there was lightning within 2 miles, or an active radar station at the airport.

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