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Why the FAA May Finally Relax In-Flight Device Rules 278

Posted by timothy
from the sanity-a-good-last-ditch-option dept.
Nick Bilton at the New York Times has been writing skeptically for years about the FAA's ban on even the most benign electronic devices during takeoff and landing on commercial passenger flights. He writes in the NYT's Bits column about the gradual transformation that may (real soon now) result in slightly more sensible rules; a committee established to review some of those in-flight rules has recommended the FAA ease up, at least on devices with no plausible negative effect on navigation. From the article: "The New York Times employed EMT Labs, an independent testing facility in Mountain View, Calif., to see if a Kindle actually gave off enough electromagnetic emissions to affect a plane. The findings: An Amazon Kindle emitted less than 30 microvolts per meter when in use. That is only 0.00003 of a volt. A Boeing 747 must withstand 200 volts per square meter. That is millions of Kindles packed into each square meter of the plane. Still, the F.A.A. said “No.” ... But then something started to change: society." Of course, the rules that committees recommend aren't always the ones that prevail on the ground or in the sky.
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Why the FAA May Finally Relax In-Flight Device Rules

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  • WHEN WILL I BE ALLOWED TO HAVE A CONSENSUAL, PRIVATE RELATIONSHIP WITH A COWBELL ON THE AIRLINE OF MY PERSONAL CHOICE, AMERICA?

    This is a matter of human rights that concerns all living and mineral beings, like you. even if you think i am yelling, you are wrong, i am only demonstrating the injustice of america and its war on cowbells.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 06, 2013 @05:45PM (#45053669)

    There is zero evidence, so the FAA should change the rules.

    Oh wait, this is federal government bureaucracy here. They will discuss ad nauseam for several years, then decide it's not worth the political risk.

    • by msauve (701917) on Sunday October 06, 2013 @07:07PM (#45054135)
      "The findings: An Amazon Kindle emitted less than 30 microvolts per meter when in use. That is only 0.00003 of a volt. A Boeing 747 must withstand 200 volts per square meter. "

      EMF fields are measured in V/m. He's got one side right, but the "200 volts per square meter," is nonsense. Additionally, the actual 200 V/m measure is from RTCA DO-160 Section 20 [wikipedia.org], and refers to external fields, which are in large part shielded by an aircraft's metal skin. And, the criteria for success is not a lack of interference, but whether the aircraft will continue to operate after experiencing a brief event of that magnitude. Indeed, there is every expectation that normal communications will be lost when subject to that level of signal.

      A better, and more honest, comparison for that 30 uV/m the Kindle put out would be to consider that a decent FM radio can get stereo reception with a signal of 2 uV/M. That's reasonable, as FM frequencies (88-108 MHz) have similar characteristics compared to those used for aircraft communications (108-137 MHz), which are immediately adjacent. RTCA DO-196 [rtca.org] assumes a radio sensitivity of 20 uV. So, a Kindle can compete in signal strength with those normally received by an aircraft communications receiver.

      This issue is not what level of emissions from a device will cause damage, but whether they can interfere with aircraft operations. Just as the author conflates uV/m with uV/m^2, he's also ignorant of what's really important.

      Having said that, it's unlikely that a Kindle (the example given) emits enough in the aircraft radio band to cause problems. I'd be more concerned with a bunch of cell phones, each with a GPS receiver built in, interfering with the aircraft's GPS based systems. GPS operates at even lower levels. But, I'd trust someone who actually understands the issues to make a real study to determine the risks, rather than take the word of an obviously biased ("writing skeptically for years") writer who gets even the basics wrong, after years of writing about the subject (or is being deliberately disingenuous).
      • by Anonymous Coward
        Please explain how a GPS receiver could interfere with anything.
        • by thygate (1590197) on Sunday October 06, 2013 @08:34PM (#45054825)
          In many radio reception techniques the signal is down-converted to a much lower frequency for easier processing. This is done through so called "heterodyning", which takes the carrier signal and mixes it with the signal from a Local Oscillator (LO) to create an Intermediate Frequency (IF). The IF and LO signals will radiate and need to be properly shielded.
      • by pepty (1976012) on Sunday October 06, 2013 @07:49PM (#45054425)
        I always thought the issue wasn't properly functioning cell phones, kindles, walkmen, etc interfering with VOR or HF bands (the rules predate GPS on phones) ; the problem was electronic gadgets that generated lots of RF interference due to malfunction or due to being cheap imports that were never UL approved in the first place. Airlines could test everyone's electronics for interference during or right after boarding ... or just make everyone turn every damn thing off. I know which is simpler and faster.
        • by Entropius (188861) on Sunday October 06, 2013 @07:53PM (#45054465)

          If a malfunctioning kindle can generate enough RF to possibly interfere with a plane, then a malicious attacker could *certainly* interfere with a plane. If a device running on a few watts of power can fuck up a plane this badly then I don't want to get on it.

          • by msauve (701917) on Sunday October 06, 2013 @08:17PM (#45054681)
            It's not a matter of taking a plane down. It's a matter of increasing the risk. Deliberately causing that much interference on a single flight is unlikely to cause a crash, so it's not a good strategy - it would get noticed. But lessor, unintentional interference, spread across millions of flights per year, may increase the risk so that one (or more) has a life threatening problem.

            A 1:1000 chance isn't good enough for a bad guy, who risks being caught. But doubling the risk of flying so people can use doodads for 30 minutes more per flight isn't good for the public, either.

            The burden of proof is to show, not that personal electronics cause problems, but to show that they don't. And that's across all of the ones encountered, not just the ones working to factory specifications.
            • by sl149q (1537343)

              More than a few good EE types work for Al Qaeda... IFF it was possible to easily modify these devices to cause jets to crash it would have happened by now.

            • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 06, 2013 @10:39PM (#45055651)

              But lessor, unintentional interference, spread across millions of flights per year, may increase the risk so that one (or more) has a life threatening problem.

              A person boarding the craft (Lets say a sexy blonde) may catch the eye of the pilot, who may start fantasizing about them mid-flight, and miss an important indicator. Therefore, no sexy blondes on board the plane. Sure, it's not likely to happen, but "lessor, unintentional interference, spread across millions of flights per year, may increase the risk"....

              A tiny, tiny, tiny chance that something MAY increase the RISK of something bad happening, and we're banning all electronic devices in flight. Sheesh. Pussies.

            • by sjames (1099)

              So let's decrease the risk even more. No more air travel unless it can be documented as essential. We wouldn't want any risk, now would we?

          • It has EVERYTHING to do with an authoritarian mind-set that when you get on the plane, you will behave as you are told or get a jelly finger up the ass.

            If all these gizmos could crash a plane, help me understand how no plane crash has ever been attributed to one because I assure you, many passengers merely slip their cellphones into a pocket and don't bother turning them off at all.

        • by crakbone (860662) on Sunday October 06, 2013 @09:14PM (#45055119)
          If there is the possibility it could cause a problem with the flight it should be scanned before going on. Because trusting someone to turn it off on a flight where such a device could cause interruption to sensitive electronics on takeoff and landing is crazy. Considering a little while ago you were not trusted to carry finger nail clippers on. But here your trusted that you will not VOLUNTARILY mess with the the actual controls of the aircraft. But you could be setting up forced manicures of the planes occupants and that must be stopped.
      • by emt377 (610337)

        It's also not all about a properly functioning device, but what about a defective one? What are all the different failure modes for something containing a lipo battery, a transceiver, and an antenna? It could have a bad wifi transceiver or antenna, or poor shielding without the owner even noticing anything wrong. Or they just think poor wifi reception is normal. When turned on the owner is completely unaware it lights up the EM spectrum.

        Clearly there is no way for cabin personnel or even a pilot to dete

      • by Waffle Iron (339739) on Sunday October 06, 2013 @09:58PM (#45055401)

        I'd be more concerned with a bunch of cell phones, each with a GPS receiver built in, interfering with the aircraft's GPS based systems.

        You can rest assured that that scenario has been thoroughly tested. When the flight attendants tell people to shut off their electronic devices and stow them, many if not most people simply shut off the screen, believing that means "off", or simply not giving a damn. The GPS and cell functions continue merrily running for the whole flight, including takeoff and landing. Since planes aren't falling out of the sky already, it's almost certainly safe enough.

        A lot of people have no clue what "airplane mode" is or what it's for, and there probably are also a lot people who have no inkling of even how to actually power down their phones. None of this is enforced anyway, beyond checking that someone isn't blatantly operating a screen.

        • by mbone (558574) on Monday October 07, 2013 @07:41AM (#45057531)

          Even if you know perfectly well what "airplane mode" is, if the plane is about to take off and you remember that your phone is in your briefcase, in the overheard storage compartment 5 rows from your seat*, do you ask to abort the takeoff so you can get up and turn it off? I didn't think so.

          I bet every commercial airline flight takes off with at least one fully activated phone.

          * Has happened to me, when I am in a rush and stick my phone in the briefcase going through security.

          • by SlippyToad (240532) on Monday October 07, 2013 @09:13AM (#45058333)

            More than one. How many people absent-mindedly carry a GUN to the airport? Now imagine how many people ignore or defy the order to shut off the phone, just because.

            I'm sure in the last decade every plane in the sky has carried at least 3-4 fully activated, broadcasting devices onboard, and in the last 5 years it's probably more like 10-15. These things are everywhere in our lives now.

          • by gravis777 (123605) on Monday October 07, 2013 @10:34AM (#45059427)

            Shoot, I will tell you there are a few times I have forgotten to turn my phone to airplane mode. I have gone to get my phone out of my pocket when we get to the gate to tell my ride I have arrived and found my phone on, with the GPS functioning, with text messages and e-mails that somehow came through while we were in the air (not sure what the range of a cell tower is - I certainly doubt that I could place a phone call - or rather maintain a signal if I were to acquire one). Guess what, the plane didn't fall out of the sky.

            I normally just put the phone into airplane mode to save my battery.

            As for tablett / ereader - I just normally just turn the screen off during take off and landing as they take a while to power up from a complete shutdown. The eReader has no WiFi, and I rarely turn the WiFi on on the tablett. Even if the WiFi is on, is anything in the plane operating in the 2.4GHz spectrum?

            I know many people who have shot video out of the plane window during takeoff and landing. No planes have fallen from the sky.

            If planes were really that sensitive, they should be askign to check all electronic devices and have no one carry them on board, then the xray screeners and bag handlers would be required to open up each bag and verify it to be shut off.

            Also, if planes were that sensitive, they shouldn't be allowed to fly. Every piece of consumer electronic device out there has requirements where - not only must it limit how much interfearence it puts out, but it has to be able to accept a certain piece of interference. Otherwise - OH NO, my reciever is going to cause my Blu-Ray player to shut off! My speakers are going to cause distortions to my monitor (actually had this issue with my first pair of PC speakers). If consumer electronics are regulated to accept certain levels of interfearence, certainly planes are.

            You know, I have even had some flight attendants come by and tell me to put up my eReader. Not shut it off, just put it away. No radio, barely draws power except when it redraws the screen. For the first and last 20 minutes of the flight.

            I have friends who are pilot hobbiest. Single and twin engine planes. They say that they have their phones on, laptop powered up, iPod going, tablett powered up in the cockpit, and it has never caused as much as a glitch.

            Pretty much, unless someone is trying to operate a ham radio on board or trying to operate a high-power radio station from in the air or running a power plant, I doubt that any electronic device would have any effect whatsoever on the plane's electronics.

            Here is an interesting question - what are the regulations on flights that do not cross US airspace? Do they have these regulations? Can someone living in Europe, Asia, India, Africa, Austrailia, or South America let me know how flights are regulated there?

      • by girlintraining (1395911) on Sunday October 06, 2013 @10:03PM (#45055429)

        I'd be more concerned with a bunch of cell phones, each with a GPS receiver built in, interfering with the aircraft's GPS based systems.

        Erm, for a guy who managed to get most of the technical detail right, you flubbed this one pretty bad; a GPS receiver is just that, a receiver. With the exception of the RF front end, it's all processed inside a chunk of silicon. So there should be very, very little interference from one, or even fifty, of them, unless there's a defect in the cell phone itself that is causing EMI -- something unintentionally functioning as an antenna.

        All electronic devices emit EMI, but suggesting that the GPS receiver portion of a cell phone is any more or less capable of causing interference to the GPS signal absent any testing to support this, is flat out bogus. Anything can interfere with a GPS signal; A GPS receiver is no more or less likely to do so -- they don't have crystals in them that oscillate at the same frequency like old shortwave radios. Unless you can provide some documentation that the design of all cell phone GPS receivers has some flaw that causes it to emit enough EMI to disrupt the same signals its designed to receive, I have to call this myth busted.

      • by Mr. Freeman (933986) on Monday October 07, 2013 @01:23AM (#45056263)
        That sounded really good until you mentioned that GPS receivers could compromise the plane's GPS. You didn't just shoot yourself in the foot, you blew your entire God damn leg off. GPS receivers RECEIVE GPS signals and don't emit anything. They also don't use heterodyne, so don't try and play that card. You sounded like you knew what you were talking about, but clearly you don't.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by murdocj (543661)

      There is zero need to use electronic devices during taking and landing, so the FAA should play it safe.

      • by gl4ss (559668)

        well, you could have a laptop on your lap.

        but by the rules everything that could fly off your hands should be stowed away during takeoff and landing.

        but then again it seems for some people it's too fucking hard to even keep sitting down as the plane is powering up the engines..

      • by qbast (1265706) on Monday October 07, 2013 @04:33AM (#45056811)
        There is no need wear anything red (or whatever colour you hate), so the FAA should play it safe.
        There is no need to allow electronic devices, books or any other forms of entertainment for duration of whole flight, so the FAA should play it safe.
        There is no need to fly without my patented 'crash averting' rocks, so the FAA should play it safe.
    • by Joce640k (829181)

      There is zero evidence, so the FAA should change the rules.

      I thought the rule was there because flight attendants can't be expected to know the tech specs of every single device on the market, which have WiFi, which have cellphone connection, whether or not they're in "flight" mode, etc., etc.

      Given that problem, the only sensible solution is to ban everything.

      Anybody who can't put down their Facebook feeds for a few minutes during takeoff/landing doesn't deserve to fly anyway.

      • Anybody who can't put down their Facebook feeds for a few minutes during takeoff/landing doesn't deserve to fly anyway.

        Based on what? Your personal estimation of how important their time is? Based on your priorities of what is or is not important?

        Sometimes people's astounding high-handed arrogance just boggles my mind. Who the fuck do you think you are?

    • by Atzanteol (99067)

      Oh, and don't forget that some busty actress will make a claim that using a Kindle on an airplane causes childhood cancer. Her evidence will of course be HOW DARE YOU QUESTION MY MOMMY-SENSE I JUST KNOW IT'S TRUE OKAY!?!?!?

      This will of course me much more effective than "there is no clear evidence" and thus we'll never have nice things.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 06, 2013 @05:55PM (#45053717)

    Withstand 200V per square meter? If that's not just a typo, we are talking about a change in magnetic flow density. 30uV/m, in contrast, is an electric field strength. The electric field around any battery is much larger than that, but nobody wants to prohibit carrying batteries around. You don't get any magnetic flow from that, but you can get magnetic flow from a change in electric field change. In fact, depending on the frequency of the change, the change in magnetic flow density can get arbitrarily large even when we are talking about an amplitude of just 30uV/m.

  • Questions (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Phroggy (441) <slashdot3NO@SPAMphroggy.com> on Sunday October 06, 2013 @05:56PM (#45053729) Homepage

    How does the government shutdown affect the FAA's ability to make these sorts of policy changes? I would assume that the people who make these decisions have been furloughed, so all existing regulations stand until Congress gets their heads out of their asses?

    Also, is there any danger posed by dozens of Kindles flying around the cabin in the event of a crash landing? I realize the current regulations allow non-electronic items such as books, but is this a concern at all?

    It's encouraging to see these kinds of changes coming. I'm glad the FAA is revisiting this issue (or will be once we start paying them again).

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I'd rather someone's kindle hit me than the latest "Game of Thrones" novel.

    • by fuckface (32611)

      I always fly with a giant book that I read prominently during takeoff and landing in the hopes that it will take off someone's head in the event of an emergency and I can point at the episode and say "See??? Electronics has nothing to do with it. Fuck your regulations!"

  • Silly (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 06, 2013 @06:01PM (#45053743)

    During most flights, about half of the cell phones remain turned on because passengers don't really know how to turn them off. Cell phone transmitters are a lot more powerful than wifi transmitters. the best way to stop cell phone use is to have a pico-cell in the airplane that intercepts teh calls and tells the passengers to shut down. The picocell is also so stong that the cell phones redujce thier TX power to almost nothing instead of ontreasing their power to reach cell towers outside of the aircraft.

    The real reason to prohibit use of these devices is that takeoff and landing is statistically the most crash-prone and crash-survivable part of a flight, so the passengers should be paying attention. But this is true only for about one minute, not for the entire gate-to-10,000 ft time or 10.000 ft-to-landing time.

    • by Joe_Dragon (2206452) on Sunday October 06, 2013 @06:06PM (#45053763)

      no set the pico-cell to be a non US one and the roaming fees will make people trun them off after they get the bill from 1 flight

    • Re:Silly (Score:5, Insightful)

      by M. Baranczak (726671) on Sunday October 06, 2013 @06:21PM (#45053821)

      so the passengers should be paying attention

      Paying attention to what? The fuel pressure? The air speed? The angle of the flaps?

      If the plane's about to crash, get on the intercom and tell them you're about to crash. I guarantee you'll get their attention.

    • by Entropius (188861)

      So should they ban me from having a book or talking to the passenger next to me, too?

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by PopeRatzo (965947)

        So should they ban me from having a book or talking to the passenger next to me, too?

        Yes. And for god's sake, stop staring at the flight attendant's ass like a rabbi studying the Torah.

    • by sl149q (1537343)

      Exactly, the ongoing experiment demonstrating the safety of powered on devices has been happening for years. N times 1000's of flights per day with M times 100's of passengers on each flight. Virtually every one of those passengers owns and is carrying one or more devices (cell phone, reader, etc.)

      What is the estimated percentage of those who will either a) ignore, b) forget, c) be unable to actually turn off their device. Is it 1%, 10%, 50%? Estimate the average number of devices left on and probability o

    • by qbast (1265706)

      During most flights, about half of the cell phones remain turned on because passengers don't really give a damn.

      FTFY

  • In a crash, unstowed gear represent potential projectiles:

    http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/story?id=128062&page=1 [go.com]

    • by Octorian (14086)

      "Unstowed gear" does not exclusively equal "Personal electronic devices"

      There are other rules about what does or doesn't have to be stowed during takeoff and landing, which have nothing to do with whether the item in question is "electronic."

    • by pepty (1976012)
      I wonder if Apple's design patent for rounded corners on its widgets has a claim for "less likely to poke into user's skull when launched at high speed".
    • by msauve (701917)
      Reminds me of an old Shelley Berman joke - âoeYou put on your seat belt. That way, when the plane comes to a sudden stop, say against a mountain, only the top half of you will fly through the cabin, while the bottom half remains, legs crossed, in the seat.â
    • by Entropius (188861)

      So I am allowed to hold a two-pound book, then?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 06, 2013 @06:07PM (#45053769)

    There may well be solid technical arguments for reversing the current FAA policy, but Nick Bilton's articles certainly don't make them. Nor does the explanation attributed to the EMT Labs engineers, at least if it was described accurately. On the other hand, statements like "An Amazon Kindle emitted less than 30 microvolts per meter when in use. That is only 0.00003 of a volt" are clearly designed to make what sounds like a convincing argument to non-scientists, whether or not this argument actually has any technical merit.

    As an illustration: the nominal signal strength of a GPS signal at the antenna of a receiver is specified to be -160 dBW (this is for a standard "reference" antenna, i.e. right-hand circularly polarized, under open sky conditions). That's one-ten-thousandth of one-one-millionth of one-one-millionth of a watt. In a standard 50-ohm RF system, this corresponds to a voltage of about 0.000000071, which is over four hundred times smaller (weaker) than the "only 0.00003 of a volt" signal measured off the Kindle. Viewed in that light, it's hardly clear that the Kindle's emissions are negligible. (Never mind the fact that no mention whatsoever is made of what frequency or frequencies they've measured in that setup, and that the anechoic chamber pictured in the article is typically configured to measure direct line-of-sight field strength, whereas inside an aircraft there are all sorts of complicated effects -- absorption by passengers and seats, reflection by metal surfaces, etc. So I'm not sure this is even a meaningful measurement to be making in the first place.) In any case, since GPS is considered a safety-of-life system in aircraft navigation, anything that can even come close to disrupting its ability to acquire and track signals is a potential problem.

    The bottom line is that the kind of pseudo-scientific argumentation in this article isn't really helpful. As I said, there may well be sound technical reasons to relax the devices ban. But this doesn't really present any of them.

    -CF

    • It also doesn't help the argument when the pilots themselves are allowed to use iPads!

    • by Paltin (983254)

      An additional weakness in these arguments is that they are using perfectly functioning devices.

      What happens when you have some dumbass with a wildly broken thing get on a plane? Testing needs to occur under the worst possible conditions, not the best possible.

      We already knew it was safe in the best possible conditions.

      600 million people fly each year. A HUGE number. They need to find out if it is safe for every device in all possible combinations and all possible conditions, because the real world will pres

    • No need to read article, just this ^

  • by Trip6 (1184883) on Sunday October 06, 2013 @06:12PM (#45053789)
    it would have happened by now. Everybody leaves them on.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 06, 2013 @07:09PM (#45054145)

      Didn't the plane headed for Washington D.C. on September 11 crash prematurely after frantic mobile phone use?

    • It'd be pretty easy for a terrorist type to make something you could use from the ground. If the very small amount of EMF generated by electronic devices on the plane was a problem, well someone could make something that emits a lot more, but not a ton, down a fairly narrow beam from the ground and it would have the same effect.

      Planes are shielded, it just isn't an issue. This is just the FAA refusing to admit they've been being stupid. The FCC has told them they are being stupid, but they won't back down.

  • This took so long to fix for the same reason pocket knives aren't allowed on planes, despite the fact they're no more useful a tool for mayhem than many implements that are allowed: a relatively small group of people highly motivated to maintain the status quo (in this case a confederacy of hysterical air-hostesses) always wins out over a much larger group of people who are far less motivated to see change.

    This is the same reason the tax code is so hard to fix: for every loophole you have a small group of i

    • Im rather glad pocket knives are not allowed on planes. Some idiot accidentally lacerates himself at 30,000 feet can be problematic

      The idea that an unopened can of coca cola is a threat is loopy.

    • by PPH (736903)

      Think about 9/11. Compare the size of a pocket knife blade to that of a box cutter. Most pocket knifes I've seen have larger blades than box cutters.

      The 'confederacy of hysterical air-hostesses' included the ones who were getting their throats slit on 9/11. So I can sort of see their point.

      • by bitt3n (941736)
        Even they themselves allow that such knives could not be used to hijack a plane again.
        • by PPH (736903)

          Right. They'd never be given access to the cockpit. But nutcases can still do some damage with them. Including killing people.

          • by Rich0 (548339)

            Right. They'd never be given access to the cockpit. But nutcases can still do some damage with them. Including killing people.

            I guess aircraft are just higher-profile targets, but if a nutcase wants to kill people, there really isn't anything that can be done to stop it. Kid shoots up other kids at school, and now every school buys metal detectors. Next thing you know kid shoots up other kids on the bus - do we now screen kids before they get on the bus? Then what happens when they shoot everybody at their bus stop? At some point you need to stop focusing on how you deny anybody the ability to kill anybody else and start addre

  • by wiredlogic (135348) on Sunday October 06, 2013 @06:23PM (#45053839)

    Most portable electronics aren't an issue since their unintentional radiation is regulated to reasonably low levels and intentional emitters tend to be in the 2.4GHz band where no critical flight systems should be sensitive. GSM phones, however, have widely been reported to produce notable interference with aircraft radios.

    • by emt377 (610337)

      Back when I had a GSM phone I could hear incoming calls before it rang, if I put it on the desk within a couple of feet of my computer. The speakers would buzz. It's not why I switched to Verizon but it made that particular annoyance go away. (I only use GSM these days when traveling. Usually by air. With my phone shut off.)

  • by jbolden (176878) on Sunday October 06, 2013 @06:56PM (#45054037) Homepage

    I think we should give credit here. Congress has been hassling the FAA on this. In particular U.S. Senator for Missouri Claire McCaskill. Let's give her some credit for a job well done.

  • That's with WiFi on?

    And I don't quite understand, WiFi is included on my leg from LaGuardia->DFW, and part of the trip to NY, I plan on using my kindle to watch Netflix. Hope the speeds are sufficient.

    Are they talking about allowing electronics throughout; from boarding to grabbing your stuff to exit?

  • Rules? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by no-body (127863) on Sunday October 06, 2013 @07:18PM (#45054209)
    Cranky stewardesses are the rulers: "take that headphone off!", me: "it's not connected", she, with stern voice: "take it off now!".

    Sure nullyfies any FAA relaxation.
    • by BZ (40346)

      This has nothing to do with electronics and everything to do with them needing you to be able to hear directions clearly in an emergency.

    • by Draknor (745036)

      Yeah, sometimes it's just obnoxious. I splurged on the Bose noise-canceling headphones, so I can actually hear the flight attendants BETTER when my headphones are on! Not that I pay attention to the safety briefing anyway - I'm often asleep already :-)

      Most of the time they just let it go, but everyone once in awhile someone decides to exert their authority.

  • From TFS

    An Amazon Kindle emitted less than 30 microvolts per meter when in use. That is only 0.00003 of a volt. A Boeing 747 must withstand 200 volts per square meter. That is millions of Kindles packed into each square meter of the plane

    This assume the radiations of each device adds up, which is not likely to be the case. Unless their emission is specifically engineered, electromagnetism waves from different devices cancel each other in destructive interference patterns.

  • by n1ywb (555767)
    Most consumer electronics of the types that people bring on planes do not generate significant RF, with the radios turned off. However they can generate a crapload of RFI in the HF bands, as any ham knows. Guess what band aircraft use on intercontinental flights? HF.
    • by Rich0 (548339)

      Guess what band aircraft use on intercontinental flights? HF.

      They actually use text-based communication over satellite now, for the most part. HF is only used as a backup to that. They do check in via HF all the same to confirm that they're able to communicate, but all transmissions tend to be via satellite other than tests. The HF is muted unless the aircraft receives a transmission coded to the aircraft which sounds an alarm to alert the crew that they should unmute the radio.

      That isn't to say that losing HF is by any means acceptable. It just isn't as essentia

  • Sure, it seems perfectly reasonable that most electronic devices would be pretty well entirely harmless to the plane. However, there are some real world considerations that need to be looked into before the FAA changes the rules:
    • First, the rules need to be dumbed down to make sense to the least technologically literate person on the aircraft. If grandma can't understand whether these apply to her phone, her reading device, her watch, and/or her hearing aid, then we have failed. If we divide this up too
  • by Chris Mattern (191822) on Monday October 07, 2013 @08:13AM (#45057717)

    The bureaucrat who approves in-flight device use might get fired the next time a plane crashes, even if it turns out in the end that it had nothing to with device use.

    The bureaucrat who refuses to approve in-flight device use almost certainly *won't* get fired because of his decision.

    It's that simple.

Things equal to nothing else are equal to each other.

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