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FAA May Let You Use Electronic Devices During Airplane Takeoff and Landing Soon 166

Posted by samzenpus
from the leave-it-on dept.
colinneagle writes "Members of an FAA advisory panel are reportedly meeting this week to make changes to the ban on the use of electronic devices on an airplane during takeoff and landing. The new regulations will allow the use of electronic devices to access content stored on the devices, including e-books, music, podcasts, and video. Sending emails, connecting to Wi-Fi, and making phone calls will still be prohibited. The announcement is expected to be made later this month, and the rules put into effect next year, according to the report."
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FAA May Let You Use Electronic Devices During Airplane Takeoff and Landing Soon

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  • So you are going to make the flight attendants know if someone is reading an ebook and not sending an email? Seems ridiculous, they have a lot to do on take off and landing already.

    • by sabri (584428) on Monday September 23, 2013 @06:18PM (#44928869)

      Seems ridiculous, they have a lot to do on take off and landing already.

      During take-off and landing they are usually strapped in their seats.

      But seriously, they're their to save your ass, not to kiss it.

      • by mythosaz (572040) on Monday September 23, 2013 @07:10PM (#44929307)

        ...and this is why I miss the good old days of flying - when they WERE there to kiss it.

        • Do you miss paying twice as much for tickets?

          • by Lumpy (12016) on Monday September 23, 2013 @08:09PM (#44929743) Homepage

            YES I DO. Because we had 1st class treatment all over the plane and we did not have cheapskates trying to stuff TWO carry ons that are too fat for the overhead in there or asking, "can you put this under your seat" No I cant take up my foot space because you are too damn cheap to check your fricking bag.

            • by rockout (1039072)

              It's nice that you have to money to be willing to pay twice as much for tickets. But wait, here's a revelation for you: you still can! It's called first or business class, and you'll still get your ass kissed, and you'll have plenty of space for your carry-on, and no one will mess with your legroom (and you'll have more of it).

              on the other hand, if you're still buying coach fares, then you're full of shit, and don't really miss paying double. Pick one.

              • I'd consider it if it was only *twice* the price. We're talking something about five times the base fare.

                Paying double gets you "economy plus" which means you're paying for a meal, a pair of socks and a sleeping mask...

            • by isorox (205688)

              YES I DO. Because we had 1st class treatment all over the plane and we did not have cheapskates trying to stuff TWO carry ons that are too fat for the overhead in there or asking, "can you put this under your seat" No I cant take up my foot space because you are too damn cheap to check your fricking bag.

              Don't fly in coach.

              Free bags in the hold doesn't make any difference -- people often don't use them anyway. BA offer checked bags, but in europe I often struggle to find anywhere for my bag unless I leave the lounge early. That applies in club europe too, as economy pax walk through the "cabin" and drop their cases in the overhead on the way through.

              Fortunately most of my flying is long haul, where this isn't a problem.

      • Wait, who was the "they" that already had a lot to do while strapped in their seats?

        I can see the the tweets streaming in from pilots now.... "OK, landing gear is coming out..."

      • During take-off and landing they are usually strapped in their seats.

        Even if they were hovering right over everyone's shoulders, knowing whether a user is using wireless or not is impossible.

        But seriously, they're their to save your ass, not to kiss it.

        I'm not sure what to make of this statement... is this abject hero worship?

    • by WillgasM (1646719)
      How do they currently do it during the flight?
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        I mean, why don't the terrorist just bring a bunch of Kindles on the plane and refuse to turn them off?

        • by durrr (1316311)

          Can you actually turn a kindle off? I just flick mine to screensaver mode for 30 seconds if they ask, otherwise I just continue reading.
          Anyhow, a heart, not to mention a pacemaker, probably have a larger electromagnetic footprint than a kindle and they're not asking passengers to turn those off.

          • You can turn it off, just hold the power button for 15 seconds (or something). This is recommended if you store your Kindle without using it for a long time.
    • by rsborg (111459)

      So you are going to make the flight attendants know if someone is reading an ebook and not sending an email? Seems ridiculous, they have a lot to do on take off and landing already.

      I'm assuming to make this easier, services like gogoinflight will also be disabled during this period - so laptops aren't the issue. It's the cell radios that carriers don't want you using because you move too fast and spam too many cell towers in a plane.

      They just ask if your device is in airplane mode (or Android/Win equivalent). If the plane has issues during that period, and they find your device is *not* in airplane mode, you get fined/sued/put on no-fly list.

      Hell, the tinpot-fascist that works in TS

      • by Lumpy (12016)

        "If the plane has issues during that period, and they find your device is *not* in airplane mode, you get fined/sued/put on no-fly list."

        I prefer they allow all the other passengers to kick the crap out of the person and break their toy. People need the fear of getting an ass whoopin for their actions, it is a big problem with the USA today. People get to act like babies without repercussion.

        • by rockout (1039072)
          Yes, vigilante justice is the best answer to all of our problems. It's worked out so well in the past.
          • Yes, vigilante justice is the best answer to all of our problems. It's worked out so well in the past.

            As long as you weren't a minority, and you didn't care about actually resolving the crime, it was great!

  • Now all that I need to do is to get my home made EMP device small enough to carry on ....

  • Airplane Mode (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Finally!
    A use for the "airplane mode", except "I want to play and not be disturbed".

    • by isorox (205688)

      Finally!
      A use for the "airplane mode", except "I want to play and not be disturbed".

      Or for the 12 hours that you're on the plane and not on approach/landing/taxiing

  • Because the undercover air marshal will be the only one not fooling around with electronic gizmos during takeoff. :)

    Possibly the pilot, too.

  • by multiben (1916126) on Monday September 23, 2013 @06:36PM (#44929023)
    That 20 minutes or so where I was disconnected from grid was intolerable. Sometimes it would be as long as half an hour! Half an hour without 'liking' anything! Also, my virtual farm was practically in ruins and my digital pets were thirsty.
    • by antdude (79039)

      For serious stuff, I am waiting for faster flights and TSA to go away. :P

    • by theNAM666 (179776)

      Yeah yeah yeah. Guess you don't fly much.

      Oh the 32-34 minute flight from BNA-ATL, ATL having really poor WiFi and equally bad 3G/4G/LTE, even in the lounges-- that time below 10K can really matter. It can mean a few minutes of catching up with family, before a long-haul to Amman with no connectivity out of ATL (last month). It can mean, catching and responding to a client email that's *critical* ($10K, $100K on the line...), even deciding to skip the next flight and reschedule to make sure the clie

      • Some suggestions for those situations:

        * Before you head to the airport to fly to the area of potential harm, why not spend some time with your family in person. If that is not possible, then perhaps the priorities of where you are and what you are doing should be reexamined.
        * If that client e-mail is so important that it cannot wait, what are you going to do about it when it arrives one minute later, after you are on the plane instead of before? This is where delegation comes in. Since that client is so imp

  • by quacking duck (607555) on Monday September 23, 2013 @06:45PM (#44929109)

    Considering all the passenger videos of takeoff and landings that are on Youtube, some all the way from the gate pushback, taxi, all the way up to level flight, they haven't been doing a good job of enforcement anyway. And it's pretty clear modern personal electronic has little to no impact on operational safety of the aircraft.

    • by UnknownSoldier (67820) on Monday September 23, 2013 @07:00PM (#44929245)

      Yeah the phone ban is total theater security. I was flying last week. It was funny to see the older couple dig out their dumb phones when we landed and they both went "Oh, I guess we forgot to turn off our phones. Oh well."

      I had heard that supposedly when cell phones were the size of bricks and used a different band they *might* of caused interference at one point but I have never seen nor heard a plane lose access to its key navigation systems due to a phone or ever heard of it crash because of cell phones. I really wish MythBusters would have busted this "safety" myth years ago.

      • by tompaulco (629533)

        I had heard that supposedly when cell phones were the size of bricks and used a different band they *might* of caused interference at one point but I have never seen nor heard a plane lose access to its key navigation systems due to a phone or ever heard of it crash because of cell phones.

        No, I don't think even back then there was ever any interference data from cell phones. It has always been about not having loose heavy (not so much anymore) articles flying around in the cabin in the event of an accident. And also, partly about cell phones spamming towers, but the FAA doesn't really care about that.

      • Who said it's only about interference.

        It's also about keeping the passengers alert and conentrated during the most dangerous phases of flight. Simply no personal headphones that might block security announcements from the cockpit. That side benefit is larger than the very small risk of actual interefernce.

      • Here's the real way you know it's all bullshit - if just leaving something you bought at Radio Shack turned on could somehow flummox the avionics and cause a problem, do you really think they would let you take it on the plane in the first place?

        I think the restriction is more about reducing the amount of free-flying projectiles in the cabin, should there be an emergency.

    • Consumer digital cameras and portable camcorders were available before the takeoff/landing ban and they were used. But some of the high-sensitivity motion-capable DSLRs and EVIL cameras would be able to capture much more of the beauty of flight. It would nice to see these taken off the ban as they are mostly harmless. I've often thought of bringing a vintage wind-up (mechanical) 8mm or 16mm movie or 35mm film camera to photograph the interesting early part of a flight.

      During later parts of the flight atm
      • by Lumpy (12016)

        Get a haze filter. works wonders.
        Also get an old fully manual camera, Fight attendants ask from time to time but all I say is "mechanical" and they say ok...
        I am starting to carry a medium format old manual camera now on trips as I can take better photos and take them whenever I want Plus it's cheaper than most low end DSLR's if you are sane and accept used gear.

    • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

      So are you not allowed to have your device on at all? Whenever I fly from Europe or Japan they ask that you set airplane mode which disables all radio transmission, but allows things like the camera and GPS to work.

  • Test Team (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dohzer (867770) on Monday September 23, 2013 @06:49PM (#44929149) Homepage
    For the last ten years I've been part of an unofficial and unpaid test team that has been examining how safe it is to use mobile phones and similar transceivers during take-off and landing. My planes have never had problems.
    • Re:Test Team (Score:5, Insightful)

      by t4ng* (1092951) on Monday September 23, 2013 @07:15PM (#44929345)

      Back in late 90's/early 00's I was working for Qualcomm on a system that used eight GlobalStar UTs in parallel to offer a mix of phone and data service. In the experimental jet we had wifi routers connected into this system, and the jet's diagnostic bus was wired into it too, also a GPS receiver going full time as well (part of the UTs actually). We had several laptops, webcams, and phone calls going all the time - on the ground, in the air, during take off and landing - not one single problem, ever.

      The ban on electronics, with the claim that it interferes with the plane's electronics, has always been bullshit. If that were true the ban would be for the entire duration of the flight, and it would be pretty scarey if flight electronics were so delicate that anyone with a cell phone turned on could screw it up. It's about controlling people, nothing more.

      • Re:Test Team (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Ungrounded Lightning (62228) on Monday September 23, 2013 @08:26PM (#44929875) Journal

        The ban on electronics, with the claim that it interferes with the plane's electronics, has always been bullshit.

        The old analog phones put a strong, continuous, signal in a narrow band. This was both an interference problem for communications and navigation equipment (due to effects like front-end quieting and intermodulation, even though the plane's gear wasn't operating on the same frequency) and a signal corruption problem for any electronic device with a metallic structure in its wiring that picked up enough signal to drive the electronics out of proper operating conditions.

        Digital cellphone signals, whether CDMA or OFDM based (as well as the OFDM based WiFi) are spread-spectrum. The energy is spread out over a broad band and looks like background radio noise to equipment that isn't designed to collect and concentrate it. This is much less of a problem. Any electronics that would be interfered with it (if the phone wasn't within inches of it) would also be interfered with by so much other stuff that it wouldn't be suitable for aircraft at all.

        Now that the Analog cellphone network is shut down (and most analog-capable cellphones are retired), and most modern portable computer gear is also designed with spread-spectrum clocks internally (to avoid generating narrowband radio interference due to all those gates switching simultaneously and periodically), these devices are much less of a source of problematic radio interference.

        Meanwhile, the avionics has gone through a couple more generations of engineering, with avoiding dangerous failures from passenger electronics interference as a design criterion.

        So now is a much safer time to let the passengers play with their toys than even a few years ago.

        If that were true the ban would be for the entire duration of the flight, and it would be pretty scarey if flight electronics were so delicate that anyone with a cell phone turned on could screw it up.

        "You can do anything you want [when flying] a plane, as long as you don't do it near the ground." This is doubly true for operating a not-designed-for-air-flight radio transmitter in the plane:

          - When flying "up there" you have a lot of room to manouver and a lot of time to correct errors or switch modes if something goes wrong with a system. When taking off or landing you have only seconds to react, and have to be accurate with a couple inches vertically, feet right-left, and tens of yards fore-aft to land ON, rather than under, beside, or off-the-end-of the runway (and avoid all the other planes, buildings, trees, antennas, etc.)

          - When taking off and landing you're using a LOT of additional electrical, and radio, systems.

        • by t4ng* (1092951)

          FYI, GlobalStar was a low earth orbit satellite communication system. Same CDMA signal, but different RF bands, higher power levels (about 5W max), and usually connected to multiple satellites simultaneously (instead of connecting to multiple cell towers simultaneously, which is typical for CDMA cell phones).

          But I get what you are saying. It is true that there was some concern about radio interference in the past. But it hasn't been for at least a decade now. And speaking of close to the ground, even wh

          • Yes there was significant energy outside the plane. (But anything near an airport that systematically fouled the planes' avionics would have been detected, hunted down, and suppressed.)

            On the other hand, inverse-square makes for a LOT of signal right next to the phone. So does being inside a conductive can (along with the avionics), where the energy just accumulates in a handy resonance until it is pumped up enough that the absorption and leakage equals the input. (See the recent article on how hard it i

        • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

          The problem is that they can't control what devices are taken on the aircraft. It's unlikely that anyone would bring an old analogue phone with them, but when you are dealing with international travellers with electronics that may not have been certified to the same standards we expect you can't rely on the device to behave. Even a certified device can malfunction.

          Therefore the certification has to be for the aircraft, which is why it has taken so long to get done. They have to make sure that given any conc

      • by theNAM666 (179776)

        Ah crap. 15 mod points to burn, and I just commented.

        RTFA. Just *READ THE FUCKING ARTICLE.* This goes for you who are reading this, too.

        (Mod parent down, as parent ignores something well-explained in the article, among other problems that make this a run-of-the-mill ignorant comment, not "insightful," not to mention a 1M+ UID claiming unique years deep experience out of their rear orifice.... all I can say, is that if Qualcomm paid this guy anything, they paid ...)

    • by tlhIngan (30335)

      For the last ten years I've been part of an unofficial and unpaid test team that has been examining how safe it is to use mobile phones and similar transceivers during take-off and landing. My planes have never had problems.

      Let's try it again with a 108-144MHz oscillator.

      (For those who don't know, that's the VHF aviation band. It starts right above the FM band, and ends just below the 2m ham band).

      It's a bit of a problem because a lot of LCD screens we were driving had pixel clocks somewhere in that range,

    • by theNAM666 (179776)

      > My planes have never had problems.

      That's amusing. Kind of like saying, the STS flights I flew on, never had any problems with the O-Rings...

      (hat tip to Mr. Feynman...)

  • Who cares? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Culture20 (968837) on Monday September 23, 2013 @06:52PM (#44929177)
    The FAA gives us some crumbs while the TSA takes the main course. I'd rather have my electronics have the batteries temporarily confiscated than have to endure radiation or gropings.
  • Oh man, I'll be so glad if they start letting us listen to headphones during takeoff again. When I was a teen with a discman, that was the highlight of every flight for me...choosing a kickass track, and cranking it while accelerating down the runway.
    • by mark-t (151149)
      Uhmmm.... I'd imagine that it comes with a caveat that it not be creating any kind of disturbance for other passengers.
  • It seems to me that while this is good, the FAA should be concentrating more on the bad press from the security nonsense and unreasonable searches (why I don't fly into the US any more) than worrying about using my iCrap on take off and landing.
    • Why should the FAA care what the TSA is doing?

      (Two different federal agencies with little overlap. I'm sure the FAA is jealous of the TSA's budget but other than that not much interaction.)

  • Hmm... Thought most of the reasoning against iPods and other mp3 devices which had no ability to transmit/receive was that by wearing the earbuds you were inhibiting your ability to hear any announcements or instructions by the flight attendants...

    • Here is a protip from an experienced traveler: If the cabin starts rotating past 30 degrees, or if it pitches or yaws significantly, stop whatever you're doing and look up.

  • I just want to be able to read my Kindle during takeoff and landing. I'm a nervous flyer, and having something to distract me from the mass violation of the law of gravity and the impending death that I fear every time we push away from the stand would really help!

    It does keep me buying books in the airport stores though :)

  • A single iPod isn't going to cause any interference with flight electronics. But I've wondered what it might be like if everyone on the plane were using cellular devices at maximum power. Could that be a problem?

    Also, during times when the plane is not completely level or experiencing turbulence or headed for an uncomfortable emergency water landing, I would not appreciate having someone's iPad slip out of their hand and fly into my face. Just saying.

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