Print 27 comment(s) - last by tamalero.. on Nov 4 at 11:11 AM

Many airlines will allow passengers to use their electronics during all phases of flight by the end of the year

The official word is in: you'll now be able to use many of your electronic devices during all phases of flight

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced today that it is safe for airlines to allow passengers expanded use of their electronic devices from takeoff to landing. The FAA is already guiding airlines on what to do.

“We believe today’s decision honors both our commitment to safety and consumer’s increasing desire to use their electronic devices during all phases of their flights,” said Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “These guidelines reflect input from passengers, pilots, manufacturers, and flight attendants, and I look forward to seeing airlines implement these much anticipated guidelines in the near future.”     

But this doesn't mean there's free rein to do whatever you want on the plane. There are a few minor restrictions, and they include holding or putting electronics in the back pocket of the seat during actual takeoff and landing; cell phones need to be in airplane mode or cellular service disabled, and cell phones cannot be used for voice communications because that treads in the Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) area.

The new rules mean that airline passengers are free to use electronics like tablets and e-readers from gate to gate. Implementation is expected to vary from airline to airline, but the FAA is providing guidelines for all of them to avoid confusion. 

Many carriers are expected to allow passengers to use their electronics during all phases of flight by the end of the year.

The rules regarding the use of electronics on planes were in need of an update. The rules in place before the FAA's announcement today were set in 1966, when it was believed that electromagnetic interference would cause problems with radios and navigation systems onboard the plane. The general rule is to turn all electronic devices off during takeoffs and landings, and can be turned on once the plane reaches about 10,000 feet. 

However, with the flood of portable devices available today, it's nearly impossible to make sure each and every tablet or smartphone is off during takeoffs and landings.

That's why the FAA created the advisory board in August 2012. Not only was it looking for recommendations, but also didn't want each airline to create a different set of rules that would confuse passengers. 

In June of this year, the 28-member panel consisting of government, industry and pilot union representatives released its draft recommendations saying that the weak wireless signals and tighter range of frequencies from electronic devices are not enough to interfere with plane systems. Approved devices, such as e-readers, could even be used during all phases of the flight. 

Later in September, The New York Times reported that an advisory panel for the FAA was meeting to finish its recommendations concerning electronics use onboard planes. These recommendations were given to the FAA at the end of the month.

The old rules seemed to cause more harm than good. For instance, a 68-year-old man punched a 15-year-old on a plane when the teenager refused to turn off his smartphone during a flight. According to the man, he was doing it to save the entire plane from any harmful consequences.

Another passenger was arrested in El Paso when he decided not to turn off his cell phone during landing. In yet another instance, a passenger did the same when landing in New York and a swarm of cop cars were waiting for him once he exited the plane.

Of course, many also remember the incident where Alec Baldwin was kicked off a plane in 2011 for playing Words With Friends.

Source: Federal Aviation Administration

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Who actually followed the old rule?
By tayb on 10/31/13, Rating: 0
RE: Who actually followed the old rule?
By kattanna on 10/31/2013 12:18:20 PM , Rating: 2

I would only switch off the phone as once you get up in the air you lose cell signal anyways, and it just drains the battery looking for it.

RE: Who actually followed the old rule?
By kingmotley on 10/31/2013 12:45:20 PM , Rating: 2
Actually, quite often you don't lose the signal. But you will tie up all the cellular towers, ruining cellular reception for everyone. Instead of only being able to contact a couple or a few towers, you will now be able to send to dozens of them. Add in that you are traveling so quick that you will be switching towers so often that it causes a massive strain on the cellular network, and if you have planes full of people just like you, it'll overload the cellular network completely.

RE: Who actually followed the old rule?
By Reclaimer77 on 10/31/2013 3:39:28 PM , Rating: 3
I call BS.

RE: Who actually followed the old rule?
By Solandri on 10/31/2013 5:31:51 PM , Rating: 5
No, he's right. Simplify the problem to one dimension and think of towers as spaced 5 miles apart on a line.

If you're on the ground, the distance to the towers are (say):

2 miles
3 miles
7 miles
8 miles
12 miles
13 miles

Because signal strength drops off as distance squared, the signal strength relative to the nearest tower is:

2 miles = 100%
3 miles = 44%
7 miles = 8.2%
8 miles = 6.3%
12 miles = 2.8%
13 miles = 2.4%

Just from the relative signal strength, it's very obvious to the carrier which tower should be handling your call. And your phone's signal interferes less with phones trying to communicate with the more distant towers.

If you're 7 miles up in the air over the same spot, because the distance to the towers is at an angle, the distance and relative signal strengths are:

7.3 miles = 100%
7.6 miles = 91%
9.9 miles = 54%
10.6 miles = 47%
13.9 miles = 27%
14.8 miles = 24%

It's not as obvious to the carrier which tower you should be handling your call, nor which tower it should hand you off to as you move, and your transmissions generate (relatively) stronger interference with the towers which are further away. (Your phone cranks up its RF output to maintain a certain signal strength with the nearest tower, so calling both the 2 mile tower and 7.3 mile tower signal strength 100% is correct.)

Our cellular network very much depends on the assumption that everyone is on or near the ground.

By Dorkyman on 11/1/2013 12:03:33 AM , Rating: 2
This was a potential issue many years ago, when cellular was first becoming popular. I used my new cellphone (the one that looked like a brick) many times when I flew myself (Mooney IFR rating, 1,200 hours). No issues back then, either, but they later tweaked the software so that towers wouldn't become confused with a signal that appeared to have nearly the same strength over a wide area.

By euclidean on 11/1/2013 8:27:16 AM , Rating: 4
Odd..the times I've left my cell service on while flying the phone has said 'No Service' with a big red circle and a line through it over my Signal icon...

By Solandri on 10/31/2013 1:43:03 PM , Rating: 3
The rule never made any sense and no one followed it. If there was actually any danger every flight I've ever been on would have crashed as half the people around me are doing exactly what I'm doing.

The rule made sense when it was implemented. A radio you brought aboard would typically broadcast with several watts of power, and electronics could bleed a fraction of a watt of RF noise.

Modern phones transmit at a few dozen milliwatts, and RF noise from modern electronics is even less. The FAA was just erring on the safe side and taking their sweet time scaling back the restrictions.

RE: Who actually followed the old rule?
By bitmover461 on 10/31/2013 2:18:13 PM , Rating: 5
Actually, most people did. Only the a+holes didn't.

RE: Who actually followed the old rule?
By inighthawki on 10/31/2013 5:28:07 PM , Rating: 5
As much as I agree with the ridiculousness of the laws, I agree. Why is it so difficult for people to stop using their phones for like 15 minutes?

RE: Who actually followed the old rule?
By Dorkyman on 11/1/2013 12:05:05 AM , Rating: 2
Because many of us are not sheeple; we know some rules make no sense and are just there because they're there.

By marvdmartian on 11/4/2013 8:05:39 AM , Rating: 2're simply too self-important to care about the alleged well being of others, and bemoan the fact that you have to follow the rules like everyone else does. I'm guessing my explanation is closer to the truth.

By marvdmartian on 10/31/2013 2:30:07 PM , Rating: 2
Now I just want to punch you in the head. You know, just to save the entire plane from any harmful consequences. ;)

RE: Who actually followed the old rule?
By Bateluer on 10/31/2013 7:07:33 PM , Rating: 3
"I have never turned my phone off during takeoff or landing. I hide it while they check the rows but as soon as they are gone I keep right on using it. I'm not making phone calls but I might be texting or surfing the web. As soon as we get in the air I switch to airplane mode but only to save battery and then keep on using it."

Seems risky knowing there could be a swarm of police cars when you land to arrest you. Or if you delayed a takeoff while authorities dragged you off the plane, I'd imagine a lot of passengers would be pretty annoyed with you, to say the least.

Is it really so hard to stop dicking with your phone/tablet for 15 minutes during take off and landings?

By Dorkyman on 11/1/2013 12:07:32 AM , Rating: 1
Some folks like to think for themselves, others like being told how to live.

By euclidean on 11/1/2013 8:31:56 AM , Rating: 2
I switched mine to Airplane mode, left my music running with one earpiece in. Held the phone on my lap.

Never had any issues, and as it turns out, the FAA agreed with me.

It's not hard, but the rules didn't make sense. There are some rules that do - but if everyone followed the rules and they were never broken, would anything ever improve?

I'm not saying improvement requires anarchy - but just like other scenarios, civil disobedience is sometimes the only way to get things changed for the better.

RE: Who actually followed the old rule?
By pandemonium on 11/1/2013 1:56:10 AM , Rating: 2
It was a ridiculous rule, but they were being cautious.

I don't understand why more people didn't just use airplane mode. It's been on all of my phones since 1998 IIRC. I mean, if you can't disconnect yourself from the net for 5-20 minutes while a plane is taking off or landing, you probably have larger issues that need attention.

By tamalero on 11/4/2013 11:11:15 AM , Rating: 2
and the "holier than thou attitude".
most of the time I see teenagers( specially girls and young men...)who are the ones who refuse to shut down their devices (most of the time).

Cell phones on Mute
By BernardP on 10/31/2013 11:54:36 AM , Rating: 5
It's a good thing that cell phones will not be allowed to be used in voice mode. The yapping would have been unbearable.

RE: Cell phones on Mute
By spamreader1 on 10/31/2013 11:57:25 AM , Rating: 2

RE: Cell phones on Mute
By Zok on 10/31/2013 12:20:44 PM , Rating: 2
The plane is too high/fast to permit a reliable connection at cruising altitude anyways. I have no doubts that people will try to FaceTime/Skype/GTalk/etc over WiFi though.

RE: Cell phones on Mute
By kattanna on 10/31/2013 4:07:10 PM , Rating: 2
people will try to FaceTime/Skype/GTalk/etc over WiFi though.

only if the plane is offering such service

RE: Cell phones on Mute
By Murloc on 11/1/2013 8:26:51 AM , Rating: 2
take-off/taxi/landing often last 20 minutes or more.
I don't want to hear constant yapping.

iPads in the cockpit
By ssobol on 10/31/2013 1:22:52 PM , Rating: 2
It was pretty hypocritical for the FAA to say none of the passengers could have PEDs on during takeoff and landing because of potential electronic interference when a large number of pilots have airline issued regular iPads in the cockpit and are required to be using them (for the nav charts) during takeoff and landing. The iPads the pilots use are supposed to be in airplane mode as well, but who knows how often that actually happens.

The Delta pilots recently got in a tizzy because the airline decided to go with Surface tablets instead of iPads. They wanted iPads like everyone else got.

RE: iPads in the cockpit
By Colin1497 on 10/31/2013 2:24:48 PM , Rating: 2
Actually, it wasn't hypocritical, as those EFB iPads were certified in a specific configuration with specific aircraft. They didn't just say "hey, I like this, let's use it."

Alec Baldwin
By thefrozentin on 10/31/2013 1:26:40 PM , Rating: 2
Could this be Alec Baldwin's greatest accomplishment?

RE: Alec Baldwin
By Labotomizer on 10/31/2013 3:34:37 PM , Rating: 2
And here I thought I was the only one that thought of him at this news. I can picture him on SNL as the airline pilot apologizing to himself because "we all know there's no actual danger".

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