Print 18 comment(s) - last by palmira_friend.. on Sep 25 at 3:35 PM

Perhaps Alec Baldwin will now be able to keep his anger in check on airplanes. The paparazzi on the other hand; you're on your own.
The FAA advisory panel is finishing its recommendations this month

Airline passengers will likely be able to start using certain electronics during all phases of flight starting next year.

According to The New York Times, an advisory panel for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is meeting this week to finish its recommendations concerning electronics use onboard planes. These recommendations will be given to the FAA by the end of the month, and NYT says they'll likely go into effect next year.

The recommendations are expected to relax current rules for the use of electronics on planes during takeoffs and landings. According to NYT, the panel suggests that reading eBooks, listening to podcasts and watching videos will be allowed, but making phone calls, sending/receiving e-mails and text messages or using Wi-Fi will still be off limits. 

The rules in place 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 is it looking for recommendations, but also didn't want each airline to create a different set of rules that would confuse passengers. It looks like the board thinks it's time to relax the rules a little. 

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. 

Current rules for electronic device use has caused a lot of problems between passengers and even airline employees. 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: The New York Times

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Good to hear
By Guspaz on 9/23/2013 11:26:35 AM , Rating: 3
The existing rules are definitely horrendously out of date, and definitely need updating. The proof that leaving on electronic devices doesn't cause any issues is that there are tons of people on every single flight that leave their devices on (flight attendants aren't going to search your pockets for a cellphone that's not in airplane mode). So, if these devices are already effectively being used on every single flight, and aircraft aren't dropping out of the sky because of smartphones, clearly the rules need revision.

That said, anybody who refuses to obey the flight crew and turn off their devices deserves to spend a night in lockup. It doesn't matter what the reasoning behind the rules is, shut up and do what they say.

RE: Good to hear
By DrizztVD on 9/23/2013 1:28:53 PM , Rating: 3
I'd really like to see a study done on the effects of these devices on the airplane electronics. And if effects are found, I would argue that it would be worth investing some effort into properly shielding aircraft electronics so as to allow use of devices at any time.

It is definitely possible to ensure failure-proof communications within aircraft systems by ensuring the data rate of communications is below a rate known as the Shannon Limit that depends on the Signal to Noise Ratio (SNR) within the electrical cabling. Cell-phones will cause electromagnetic interference that increases the Noise in the system and therefore decreases the SNR of the system, but that decrease would be unimportant if the SNR is above the Shannon Limit for the data rate carried in the cable at that level.

Hence it's a waste to limit the SNR decrease (Noise increase) due to Electromagnetic (EM) interference if that has a theoretically zero effect on communications (the Shannon theorem states this). So really, I think people are unnecessarily super-afraid of electronics. I find it irritating if decisions that affect so many people are made out of fear. There are a thousand-and-one ways to safeguard electronics from interference. Just pick any one of them and allow people to use their toys to heart's content. Really, electronics serve the people, not 'people serve the electronics'.

RE: Good to hear
By dgingerich on 9/23/2013 1:55:04 PM , Rating: 2
I'd really like to see a study done on the effects of these devices on the airplane electronics. And if effects are found, I would argue that it would be worth investing some effort into properly shielding aircraft electronics so as to allow use of devices at any time.

Actually, they've been doing this for decades. The EM interference planes receive while in flight is over 1000 times as powerful as anything any portable device can put off.

Basically, someone can walk onto a plane with a hand held electromagnet powered by a car battery and leave it on and still not put off as much EM interference as a plane gets at 25,000 feet up.

So, our planes have been more than shielded enough to protect from handheld devices for more than 40 years. It's time to get the idiot rules out of government and get into doing things properly. The idiots have ruled long enough.

RE: Good to hear
By Solandri on 9/23/2013 6:34:43 PM , Rating: 2
The exterior of the plane is nearly a continuous metal shell (the only holes are windows) and thus create a Faraday cage. This shields the avionics from external interference like lightning strikes.

Unfortunately, electronic devices carried by the passengers are inside this cage, same as the avionics. So the avionics do not get the benefit of that shielding. While the current rules are probably excessive, it's completely inappropriate to compare outside EM interference to inside EM interference.

RE: Good to hear
By Dorkyman on 9/24/2013 1:11:16 PM , Rating: 2
No, the electronics are not inside a "cage." All avionics are extensively shielded, as is the cabling that connects them to the antennae outside the "cage." So the only way potential interference can get in is from outside that cage.

I'm surprised that people have very short-term memories regarding the Mythbusters episode that researched this issue. They also concluded that there was no interference, even when, for the sake of entertainment value, the offending signals were jacked up to wildly unrealistic levels. Aircraft avionics are tough; remember that they need to survive even a direct lighting strike on the aircraft.

The real reasons for the continued prohibition have more to do with control and inertia. As an aside, I used my cellphone frequently in my private plane while in the air; no issues and absolutely no effect on any avionics.

RE: Good to hear
By Jaybus on 9/24/2013 1:37:39 PM , Rating: 2
That is almost completely wrong. A 2.4 GHz signal has a wavelength of 12.5 cm. Any holes (windows) would have to be less than 1/4 wavelength. If the windows are larger than just over 3 cm, then WiFi, Bluetooth, cell signals will pass right through, as anyone who has ever been on their phone while waiting for push off from the terminal will realize.

On the other hand, a signal source in close proximity presents a stronger field to the avionics than a distant external source because of the inverse square law. If the signal intensity is 100 mW at 1 m, then it is only 1 mW at 10 m.

Assumptions are very risky when it comes to aviation. I only know that a bluetooth mouse messed with my WiFi connectivity, so I believe they should proceed with great caution before allowing unknown RF sources to operate on aircraft.

RE: Good to hear
By marvdmartian on 9/24/2013 10:15:37 AM , Rating: 2
The effect of a typical Kindle e-reader, with the WIFI turned off, is pretty much nothing. Just like many people with their smart phones simply switch it to standby for takeoff and landing (and yes, I've watched them do it), versus turning it off, I'm betting most people with e-readers do exactly the same thing.

Now if you're talking a "dinosaur" cell phone, that causes radio interference every time it's used, that's another story.

RE: Good to hear
By inperfectdarkness on 9/24/2013 2:55:09 AM , Rating: 3
I think everyone--including the airline officials passing new regs--know that electronic devices aren't a problem. The real problem is how annoying use of said devices is for other passengers (like a noisy, talkative MF gabbing on a cell-phone non-stop).

RE: Good to hear
By palmira_friend on 9/25/2013 3:35:46 PM , Rating: 1
my parents inlaw just got a 2013 Audi TT Convertible by working part time off of a computer. additional info..........

Not a shred of evidence ...
By danjw1 on 9/23/2013 1:59:23 PM , Rating: 2
There is absolutely zero evidence that cellphone and/or wifi signals would cause problems for any systems on an airliner. No one has actually done any study of the issue. So instead, we have a rule based on the lack of evidence. I do understand that it may occur, it isn't completely out of the question. But why not do a study, instead of going half way to a real answer to the problem?

RE: Not a shred of evidence ...
By Solandri on 9/23/2013 6:43:23 PM , Rating: 2
The way they're doing it is how you want it to work. There are four possible outcomes here with two failure modes.

PP) Devices cause a problem, and you prohibit them - right decision.

PA) Devices cause a problem, and you allow them - people potentially die.

NP) Devices don't cause a problem, and you prohibit them - people are inconvenienced.

NA) Device don't cause a problem, and you allow them - right decision.

The two failure modes are PA and NP. In one of them people are inconvenienced. In the other people die. Logically the outcome you want to avoid first and foremost is the one where people die. If you lack evidence (both for or against), you choose the safer option.

So that leaves NP and NA. Start off assuming devices cause a problem and prohibit them. Then after lots of study and you're convinced they're not a problem, allow them.

RE: Not a shred of evidence ...
By danjw1 on 9/24/2013 11:57:56 AM , Rating: 2
Oh, I do agree. But, this has gone on for decades. I expect that the economic cost business travelers not being able communicate in the air would have paid for the cost of doing a study long before now.

RE: Not a shred of evidence ...
By Keeir on 9/24/2013 12:34:48 PM , Rating: 2
I am confused.

I am fairly sure that only during take off and landing is electronic use prohibited. For years and years and years, electronics use during cruise has been allowed. For years and years and years, business travelers have been able to communicate with the ground while in the air (during cruise).

iPads in the cockpit
By ssobol on 9/24/2013 12:14:18 AM , Rating: 2
A lot of airlines issue iPads to all their pilots (e.g AA, HAL, Alaska). These iPads contain all the documents and charts that the pilots used to haul around as paper copies. The pilots can use these devices in all phases of flight including takeoff and landing. The pilot is likely to be looking at an iPad during the landing approach.

AA ordered something like 11000 iPads. These are not specially shielded or tested units. They are the same as ones you can buy anywhere.

It seems a tad hypocritical for the FAA to ban passengers from using electronic devices during take off and landing while also requiring the pilots in the cockpit to be using them.

(Airbus aircraft have a nice little table that is right in front of each pilot that can be used to hold their iPads. Yes, they also aren't required to stow the table during landing.)

RE: iPads in the cockpit
By Keeir on 9/24/2013 12:40:05 PM , Rating: 2
So... those iPads went through a special testing program during all phases of flight to be allowed. The issue isn't that its "impossible", just the logistics cost of performing the testing required to show each device, in each location, on multiple aircraft, and adminster this in such a way that people know they can use devices A, B, C and D but not E.

Why wait
By Granseth on 9/23/2013 12:38:59 PM , Rating: 2
How come the they make us wait 3 months for the rules to become effective, why not let us read on the ebook now?

By topkill on 9/24/2013 9:03:43 PM , Rating: 2
If they can make an intelligent decision after only decades of stupidity, then perhaps there is hope for our species after all.

By lexi222 on 9/23/13, Rating: 0
"And boy have we patented it!" -- Steve Jobs, Macworld 2007

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