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According to researchers at EMT Labs, tablets and e-readers such as the Amazon Kindle do not pose much of a threat at all

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has banned airplane passengers' use of mobile electronics like iPads and Kindles during takeoff and landing due to interference, but recent results from EMT Labs challenge this ban and further raise the question, "Why not?"

Earlier this month, it was discovered that the FAA decided to allow American Airlines pilots to use iPads instead of paper flight manuals in the cockpit. This raised a few eyebrows, since passengers are banned from using such electronic devices during takeoff and landing due to possible interference with sensitive airplane electronics.

Many wondered how the iPads would affect these important electronics when used so closely to such equipment, but the FAA justified the decision after conducting a test of the use of mobile electronics in the cockpit. It also said that having one iPad per pilot versus an iPad or Kindle for every passenger made a big difference in the level of interference.

However, The New York Times now disagrees with the FAA's reasoning after taking a trip to EMT Labs, which is an independent testing facility in California that screens the electrical emissions from different gadgets.

According to researchers at EMT Labs, tablets and e-readers such as the Amazon Kindle do not pose much of a threat at all. The FAA has specified that a plane is only approved as safe if it can withstand up to 100 volts per meter of electrical interference; EMT Labs says an Amazon e-reader emits under 30 microvolts per meter when in use, which is 0.00003 of a volt.

"The power coming off a Kindle is completely miniscule and can't do anything to interfere with a plane," said Jay Gandhi, chief executive of EMT Labs. "It's so low that it just isn't sending out any real interference."

In addition, the FAA is apparently wrong when it comes to the "two tablets versus many" theory. EMT Labs argued that electromagnetic energy doesn't add up as more e-readers are used on the plane; rather, the "noise" from such gadgets decreases as more are used.

The FAA does allow gadgets such as voice recorders to be used during takeoff and landing, but as it turns out, a Sony voice recorder emits more electrical interference than a Kindle.

According to Bill Ruck, CSI Telecommunications' lead engineer, the FAA only bans tablets and e-readers during takeoff and landing because of "agency inertia and paranoia."

While the EMT Labs tests didn't provide specific results concerning iPads instead of e-readers, which are the devices in question regarding use in the cockpit during takeoff and landing, this is a solid first step in finding out why the FAA is really banning these gadgets.

Source: The New York Times

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Better safe than sorry
By franciumgoesboom on 12/27/2011 9:12:13 AM , Rating: 0
This is only an issue during take off and landing. This is about 10 minutes worth of flight time. If there is a slight chance of an issue I'd rather error on the side of safe than deal with a malfunction.

RE: Better safe than sorry
By Gondor on 12/27/2011 10:00:40 AM , Rating: 2
There is a slight chance that you not using e-reader during take-ioff or landing will cause universe to spawn giant pink elephant right in the path of your airplane, resulting in a fatal collision (both for people onboard and the giant pink elephant).

So how do you intend to err next time when taking a flight ?

RE: Better safe than sorry
By Urbanmech on 12/27/2011 10:06:34 AM , Rating: 5
There is no "slight chance", there is no chance at all that using a iPad, Kindle, or having your phone on will cause any problems.

RE: Better safe than sorry
By fic2 on 12/27/2011 10:21:18 AM , Rating: 2
How about using a Chinese knock-off of an iPad? Any chance there? How about a netbook? Laptop? Taser?

RE: Better safe than sorry
By Dorkyman on 12/27/2011 10:45:14 AM , Rating: 4
That's right, we can't do ANYTHING because there is always that teeny-tiny chance that something might possibly interfere.

Life is about living with risk. You could be hit by a truck today. A meteorite could split your skull. A crocodile could be around that next corner and cut you to shreds.

But all these things are exceedingly remote. Same with "interference" on modern aircraft.

Then why the strict prohibition? Because of inertia and a "we say so" attitude within the FAA.

I never turn my phone off on a plane and I suspect a large percentage of others don't, either. It's just not an issue, as numerous studies have shown over the years.

RE: Better safe than sorry
By Natch on 12/27/2011 11:57:03 AM , Rating: 5
Truth: An iPad, Kindle, netbook or pretty much any other device is simply not going to put out much energy. Wi-fi, bluetooth, maybe a cell phone signal.

Truth: Take off and landing is the most dangerous part of any flight, as the aircraft is configured to fly low and slow, and your chances of recovery, if something goes wrong, are pretty slim.

Truth: The FAA will simply take the attitude of, "We're the government, and we said NO!!" End of story.

Bitching about it is an American freedom, but at the end of the day, whatever the FAA decides, right or wrong, is what we're stuck with.

RE: Better safe than sorry
By mchentz on 12/27/2011 9:27:21 PM , Rating: 2
How about any of these units using 3G that is built in to some models?

RE: Better safe than sorry
By drycrust3 on 12/28/2011 2:26:44 PM , Rating: 2
Truth: An iPad uses a Broadcom BCM4329 chip to manage its WiFi, Bluetooth, and FM radio TRANSMISSION and RECEPTION!
Even if we ignored the FM radio transmission capability, the receiving part of the chip could easily use a Superhetrodyne process to demodulate the received commercial FM radio station, and that process requires the chip to generate frequencies within the commercial aviation aircraft band.
That means there is a theoretical possibility that a passenger, like yourself, who, against all rules, is "innocently" listening to an FM radio station, is hindering the reception of the transmissions between the control tower and the pilot. We need Apple or Broadcom to tell us whether that possibility is real or not, and if they can't or won't, then the ban should stay until they can.
So what is the difference between a pilot using an iPad and a passenger using one? If the pilot is using an iPad, and it happens to be causing interference because he WAS listening to a local radio station with it, then (assuming he or she is aware an iPad could cause interference) all he needs to do is close down that application and the problem is solved. In addition, if the airline provided the iPads then they should have removed the FM radio application prior to issuing it to the pilot, and told her or him the reasons why.
On the other hand, trying to find which of the 30 or so tablet users on the plane is the cause of interference is quite another matter.
As such, if the WiFi chip in a tablet could cause a problem, then to be fair to all passengers and aircrew (who aren't expected to be trained on the inner workings of every tablet on the market), it is a whole lot easier and fairer to have a blanket ban that covers all tablets rather than having long lists of brands and models, some of which are banned and some which aren't.

RE: Better safe than sorry
By augiem on 12/27/2011 2:02:20 PM , Rating: 1
The fact that you impose your beliefs on the other 100+ passengers and choose to place that risk on their lives, however small, shows a whole lot about you as a person. You choose to say YOU are single handedly capable of determining what is or isn't safe and acceptable for everyone on board, nevermind you likely know nothing about aircraft electronics, how to fly a plane, or even how to begin the process of testing for interference. I'm sorry, that's just plain selfish and wreckless. You don't like the rules, don't fly. Plain and simple. Flying is already risky enough without people like you trying to stick it to "the man".

RE: Better safe than sorry
By V-Money on 12/27/2011 2:15:05 PM , Rating: 3
I think the bigger issue is the failure of the FAA to simply test it. All supporting evidence seems to indicate that it wouldn't have any drastic (or any) effect on a flight, and if they did a test and found out otherwise, there would be no argument. It reminds me of going to the gas station and seeing the "Do not use your cell phone while fueling" stickers, when there is no evidence supporting that cell phones cause explosions.

RE: Better safe than sorry
By e36Jeff on 12/27/2011 5:20:28 PM , Rating: 2
So you want the FAA to piss away millions of your tax dollars to study the interaction of any mobile eletronic device in exestince with any commerical airplane in every possible configuration? I'd be shocked if you could fund that study for anything under $50 million dollars(and thats before the inevitable pork). Its a hell of a lot cheaper to just say 'dont use them during the most dangerous part of the flight.' And quite frankly, if you cant go 10 min without your phone, you need to get a life. I'm perfectly happy with just turning off my electronics for 10 min than to have a crap load of my tax money spent on a study to allow us to to use them for those 10 min.

RE: Better safe than sorry
By foolsgambit11 on 12/27/2011 7:26:44 PM , Rating: 2
There's no point in the FAA testing each and every product for interference. Flight attendants aren't going to be trained to distinguish a Kindle from a cheap (let's say) local Chinese tablet that doesn't need to pass American regulations. The FAA can't safely or efficiently implement a white-list policy for electronic devices, so all must be restricted.

Besides, even when devices do pass muster, damage or defects can cause unexpected issues. Or how about that cell phone that turned a guy's oven on?

RE: Better safe than sorry
By Reclaimer77 on 12/27/2011 8:27:08 PM , Rating: 2
There's never been a SINGLE documented incident because of EMI. I think if there was a real risk something would have happened by now.

So please, go away with that crap. Nobody's life is being put at risk because someone fired up an E-reader or whatever.

RE: Better safe than sorry
By jconan on 12/27/2011 2:08:50 PM , Rating: 2
Cept that they're all made in China including the iPad. Even some people eschew the iPad over any android.

RE: Better safe than sorry
By MrBlastman on 12/27/2011 10:46:58 AM , Rating: 2
Exactly. People need to get a grip on their lives. Those ten minutes at both ends of the flight do not mean the end of the world for them. They can part with their electronics for a short time and everything will be just fine.

I'm perfectly aware of the data and testing that has been done on this issue. The thing is, until the FAA changes their policy, people need to suck it up and deal with it. It's not like being forced to sit and think for a few minutes at a time is a bad thing.

RE: Better safe than sorry
By Stuka on 12/27/2011 12:50:28 PM , Rating: 3
You don't understand the need to debate things do you? Everyone is always honest and correct and their is no need to discuss anything?

By the logic you put forth, they shouldn't be on the plane AT ALL. There's no reason a person can't go 2hrs without their electronics, right?

If there is this slight chance of interference at 100ft, there is the exact same chance of interference at 10000ft. If there is ANY chance of interrupting a critical system, I don't want it on MY plane at any altitude. The idea that something is safer the higher you are in the air is absurd. I don't NEED my Kindle at takeoff, but telling me it might kill everyone for no reason is silly and I don't care for misinformation.

RE: Better safe than sorry
By augiem on 12/27/2011 2:11:01 PM , Rating: 2
Even if they let you leave it on, how do you expect to be able to use your precious iPad on takeoff/landing when they make you stow away everything under the seat? The argument is just plain silly! They don't want any objects flying around the cabin that can hit someone if something goes wrong.

RE: Better safe than sorry
By MrBlastman on 12/27/2011 4:22:29 PM , Rating: 2
You don't understand the need to debate things do you? Everyone is always honest and correct and their is no need to discuss anything?

What the heck does my reply have to do at all with not understanding the need to debate things? Seriously, I love how you infer that from my post.

Here's a hint: Like it or not, my post was an opinion. As such, it implies that due to it being just that, it is subject to debate.

By the logic you put forth, they shouldn't be on the plane AT ALL. There's no reason a person can't go 2hrs without their electronics, right?

What logic was that? I didn't say anything that could have lead to your forming that thought. How do:

Those ten minutes at both ends of the flight do not mean the end of the world for them.


I'm perfectly aware of the data and testing that has been done on this issue. The thing is, until the FAA changes their policy

... promote a logical pathway that concludes that they shouldn't be on the plane at all.

I guess you need to read it again. Your comprehension is slacking here. I did state that I'm aware of the data from testing, right? You're aware of that data too, right? If you aren't, I'll summarize--the majority of testing to date on the issue indicates there is a very minimal risk, if any at all to the aircraft.

So, how on earth do you think I logically suggested we remove electronics from the full flight? I don't see it.

I did get a chuckle out of this, though when you said:

The idea that something is safer the higher you are in the air is absurd.

You're being sarcastic, right? I think you are, at least... I hope. There's a big difference from being 30,000 feet up in the air and 50 feet. It all revolves around the fundamental kinematics of flight and the simplicity between altitude equating to potential energy (a battery). When you have little altitude, you have little in the battery, thus, are far more at risk and less likely to correct from an error or a problem. For brevity's sake, I'll leave it at that and continue to assume you were being sarcastic. :)

RE: Better safe than sorry
By tamalero on 12/28/2011 12:09:49 AM , Rating: 2
Pretty sure that if you're flying at 10,000 ft.. You can review, analyze and discard wrong displayed data in your electronics..
while if you're landing or specially.. take off..
you have almost NO CHANCE to recover.

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