Flying Into Modern Times

If you’ve been on a flight recently, you may have noticed some archaic rules in place, such as restrictions on electronic devices during flight. In the U.S., there exists a ban on mobile phone use during flights, while European regulations allow some limited use of mobile phones. It’s nice that airlines allow the use of laptops and e-readers while cruising in the stratosphere, but why can’t passengers use their cellphones as well?

For a long time in the U.S., the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has mandated a ban on the use of mobile phones during flights. The cited reason was essentially electromagnetic interference with aircraft navigation and communication systems. There’s a great deal of doubt that such small battery powered devices could interfere with an aircraft’s shielded electronics. While the debates for both sides are long and heated, neither have concrete evidence linking the use of electronic devices to interference with avionics, much less any critical failures resulting from the use of electronic devices.

This past week, the FAA announced that it will lift the restrictions on electronic devices. Passengers may now use their device during all phases of their flight. Now that the FAA has announced this wonderful news, it’s up to the individual airlines themselves to submit a safety assessment for FAA approval. In fact two airlines, Delta and JetBlue, have already submitted for FAA assessment, with American Airlines submitting theirs soon after.

Expect this new regulation to move through the airlines quickly, as you’re not the only one who wants to fly this holiday. In a statement to Ars Technica, Sen. Claire McCaskill said, “I expect the airlines, as key partner stakeholders who helped produce the recommendations to relax current restrictions, to move quickly so that Americans flying for the holidays no longer face restrictions that make no sense.” I’m sure many gadget users agree with her – I know I certainly do. This kind of development shouldn’t be limited to the air travel industry; other businesses, such as automotive, musical, and film should look to see if there are any nonsense rules and regulations they can change.

The past few flights I have experienced were filled with sleep and dull in-flight movies, but now I should have a few more entertainment options. I’m actually excited to fly again. Before, when the flight attendants told us to turn off our phones, I just put mine in airplane mode and didn’t touch it until we landed. I don’t think I caused an accident or enough interference to crash the plane. I dare say flights are more threatened by flocks of birds than personal electronic devices.

If you were annoyed that you couldn’t work on finishing the next season of Breaking Bad between JFK and LAX due to the airlines’ “no electronics during flight” rule, thank the FAA for coming to their senses. They’re now allowing passengers to use their devices during takeoff and landing, and it’s happening right now. Some major airlines like Delta and JetBlue are waiting for FAA approval to let passengers use their devices during flight, which should really only take a few days. If you’re looking to fly somewhere warm this holiday season, you can look forward to using your personal electronic devices as well.

Alberto Vergara

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