Feeds

back to article FAA mulls scrapping in-flight iPad, Kindle ban

The FAA is planning a "fresh look" at the use of gadgets during take off and landing, reasoning that if pilots are using them then it's probably OK for passengers too. Talking to the New York Times, the US Federal Aviation Authority said it was bored of waiting for airlines to take the initiative in testing whether electronics …

COMMENTS

This topic is closed for new posts.

Page:

Unhappy

Frustrating

This in one of many instances where airlines/airports do something pointless but annoying. A good example of a non-technical piece of idiocy is the one bag rule on some domestic flights. I have been through the charade of taking a large carrier bag out of my luggage, putting my two pieces of luggage into that bag in front of the security staff before security clearance and then immediately taking them out again. That apparently, is OK whereas having the same two separate pieces of luggage not in a large carrier bag is not OK.

Every other flight I go on either the flight crew (evidenced by the recognisable mobile phone interference on the intercom) or a passenger (evidenced by recognisable beeps and ringtones coming from luggage) has forgotten (or declined) to turn off their phone. You will not be surprised to hear that none of those aeroplanes dropped out of the sky.

If any of this really were dangerous, planes would crash on a daily basis. They do not so let's stop worrying about it.

14
1
Silver badge

Re: Frustrating

United have a strictly enforced 10lb weight limit for carry-on. Except it doesn't include laptops.

Bag is overweight.

Remove laptop/power-supply/ipad/etc

re-Weigh bag

Replace all the heavy electronic junk in bag.

1
0
Silver badge

while flying a friend down to Gloucester

He had forgotton to switch off his mobile and as we were decending to join the circuit to land his phone went off. The caller tried 7 times including on our final approach.

It was a distraction, it did interfere with the radios and caused interference in my headset.

However, the aircraft a Piper Warrior was over 25 years old. I would have thought electronics have come a long way since....

1
2
Boffin

Re: Frustrating

The main problem this causes is not for the airplane - it's the phone networks straining under the load of a plane load of passengers zipping past cell towers at 200+mph during take off and landing approach. Up high you're less likely to get a signal as the towers try not to point up as it's a waste of energy.

Newer planes are offering cellular service via in-plane femto solutions - which are naturally certified appropriately. But, even so, just how many incidents on *any* plane have ever been attributed to wireless interference from a phone?

1
0
Silver badge
FAIL

Re: Frustrating

And then there is Schiphol.

If you go from non-Schengen to Schengen space, you have to open the laptop to prove it has a keyboard and has not been hollowed out.

If you go the other way they don't want you to do that.

0
0
Bronze badge

Re: Frustrating

I've seen people on multiple flights in the 90s using camcorders and digital cameras and such during take-off AND landing, domestically AND overseas, and not once did the flight crew say anything in person or on the PA.

Maybe they're afraid a recording device will capture contentious or newsworthy footage just prior to a crash, depriving the airline of the chance to put a lid on events. Imagine an intact, functioning passenger device capturing the final 45 seconds of spins, aerobatics, and the terminal dive or mid-air explosion only to land in a cornfield or in someone's garden, and ending up on the news after the airing agency makes a pristine copy prior to handing over the original to the FAA and NTSB.

I declare NOW that if my device ever is found and suspected of having informative crash footage, my device may be and can be copied by any civilian, news-apprising party so long as only the news bits get released.

I am not saying impede a proper investigation, but some of them take way too damned long to be publicized, and often the public short-memory-effect works to the advantage of the industry and investigators who don't want pressure to find a cause quicker than they are comfortable with. OTOH, if someone has a film camera and captures footage of a plane from nearby crashing, it seems okay (or not contested) that a TV station gets footage on the air pronto. I don't EVER recall seeing any print on a ticket saying I and my property may be seized to to aid investigations.

If none of that is the issue, then what is? Passenger electronics aren't that powerful to bring down a plane. EVERYONE would need to be simultaneously running them, and possibly actively running illegal transmitters of some kind to really start messing with the plane. Maybe they just want to be in a commanding position to demand everyone's attention. That in and of itself is not bad, but once the safety announcements are made, it should be permissible to fire up one's gizmos if they are low-power like phones in airplane mode, calculators with no real Bluetooth power, cameras with no transmitters or satellite links, and laptops with the antennae turned off.

0
2
Silver badge

Re: Frustrating

@ JetSetJim

"But, even so, just how many incidents on *any* plane have ever been attributed to wireless interference from a phone?"

I think the problem there is that it would be very difficult to attribute an incident or crash to a mobile phone.

Say a phone did cause some catastrophic interference. At best, all that would show up in a black box recording would be some erroneous behaviour on the the part of the aircraft's systems. Now this might be caused by the software being fed duff information (because of the interference), or it might be because the software is just plain buggy, or perhaps a cable connection went bad. Who's to tell?

In effect we're getting to a point were an experiment is going to be tried out on the paying public. Nothing wrong with that, the odds are likely to be heavily in favour of crash-free flying. But we're going to have to accept that the price might be some unexplained incidents.

BTW Qantas had a frightening incident with an aircraft that suddenly went defective in mid flight, started going all over the place. Apparently it took a reset to restore normality. I don't know if they know why yet. But incidences like this occurring when in flight mobile use *is* permitted will likely leave investigators with a nagging doubt. At least at the moment they can definitively blame the aircraft's system, find the cause and make positive recommendations.

0
0
Anonymous Coward

Re: while flying a friend down to Gloucester

by coincidence my phone rang as I was landing at Gloucester a few years ago. It did so as I was at about 100 feet. As I was the only person on board I really only had myself to blame.

Wonder what it is abut Gloucester!

0
0

Re: while flying a friend down to Gloucester

Your Piper Warrior was newer than most commercial airline aircraft.

Most airlines are still using planes like 737's built in the 70's, that have just undergone a few refits.

0
1

Re: while flying a friend down to Gloucester

Actually most airline fleets use the newest aircraft they can because they're more fuel efficient. Certainly in Europe/North America the 737s being used will have been built in the last decade or so.

I have used a mobile phone in an aircraft but as its electronics were hardened against the EMP from a nuclear blast it wasn't really a problem.

0
0

Re: Frustrating

Uhm... No they don't? In all the years of flying (weekly :-( ) with United, never ever, ever has any carry-on luggage been weighed or measured.

And that's something they should start enforcing - like they're saying on all the signs, placards and speeches before the cattle is herded into the trailer.

Sorry, I meant to say before their loyal customers are being asked to board per their seating area.

0
0
Headmaster

Re: Frustrating

"If any of this really were dangerous, planes would crash on a daily basis. They do not so let's stop worrying about it."

Thirteen months ago you would have argued living next to a Japanese reactor has never shown any bad consequences so it's 100% safe.

Not argueing that ipads could cause problems, just that your populist argumentation is a strawman.

0
0
Go

Alternatively...

They could test the aircraft to see if they can be upset by passenger's gadgets.

Obviously it makes sense to err on the side of caution, but there does seem to be an awful lot of urban myth and anecdotal tales surrounding this issue.

1
1
Thumb Up

Re: Alternatively...

Although I am sure as I can be that there are no safety issues caused by passengers using mobile phones, I too would rather they ran a quick test or two.

Fly by wire aircraft may be more vulnerable to RFI at certain places than others and I would rather somebody do some actual testing than rely on the rather worryingly simplistic and unscientific "reasoning that if pilots are using them then it's probably OK for passengers too" approach.

Of course no one will do any testing because if anything subsequently goes wrong and a plane crash is deemed to have been caused by a passenger's phone, whoever did the testing would have their tits sued off. Welcome to modern capitalism. :-)

0
0
Silver badge
Facepalm

Re: Alternatively...

A Lufthansa study from a few years ago estimated that there are an average of 2 mobile phones left on, on every single flight around the world (thousands a day). I think that rather counts as "a quick test or two". Every radio/electronic gadget that is sold in the EU has a "CE" sticker that certifies that it is resistant to interference and does not cause any interference (not sure about the rest of the world, most likely there are equivalent certifications).

The only reason airlines insist mobile phones are switched off is that this is requested by mobile phone companies, because their masts can't handle 300+ phones going past at 300+mph. The reasons airlines insist other electronics be switched off during takeoff / landing are (a) too much effort for flight-crew to police and (b) cover-your-arse. No-one wants to be responsible for reversing current policy, just in case. Although I guess the first airline that declares it's planes to be safe from all interference and allows any and all gadgets to be used at all times including take-off/landing will score quite a marketing coup

0
0

Not being able to use these things in flight has always felt much like the ban on mobile phones on petrol station forecourts, for fear they might create a spark or something.

I mean, come on - I've just driven a hulking great mash of electrical wires connected to various electrical motors and generators, not forgetting the massive fiery combustion engine, onto the forecourt, and I'm going to fire it back up in a minute. Nothing happened the million times before I did this, so what exactly is my phone (which to my knowledge has never sparked away in my pocket) going to achieve that the mess of electricity and fire I drive couldn't?

6
0
Headmaster

Even better

Are the British Army vehicles (Mastiff for example) which has a warning next to the fuel filler cap warning not to have any transmitters on whilst refueling.

Its a diesel engine.

Bet the elf and safty twonk who came one up with that one has never tried to set light to diesel with rf sparks....or even a match (probably the same one who wanted 'danger of electrocution' stickers plastered over equipment running off 24 volts. He didn't understand that 24V is not 240V.).

1
0

This post has been deleted by its author

Silver badge

Terrestrial vs. Aerial

When a terrestrial vehicle suffers a glitch and breaks down, what's likely to happen? The vehicle comes to a stop and (barring a rear-ender) you just sit there. Gravity has no play on you because you're already on the ground.

When an aerial vehicle (like an airplane) suffers a glitch and breaks down, there's a chance the engines will stop running. As aircraft need those engines to fight gravity, you now have a problem. It certainly doesn't help when 200-plus other people are also along for the ride.

0
0
Silver badge

Re: Even better

I used to live in a house with kerosene oil heating (aka Jet-A)

You couldn't light this with anything less than a magnesium flare

Yet I can't use my phone until I'm inside the terminal building because planes are being refueled.

Except in the US where I can use the phone while taxi-ing, they must have less flammable Jet-A

0
0
Coat

Oh the old petrol station turn mobile phones off drama lama

We had this with petrol stations and turn your mobile phones of period in the early days, funny how that stopped happening.

Seriously though, why would anybody travel in a vechile of any form that had risk of being hit by lightnight and yet is more in danger of being taken out of by a small weak radio signal. Sheilding that bad you have to ask.

if I find that this is some way to have the TSA PAT test my electronics when I board a plane then I'm going to start not putting down the toilet seat in protest!

0
0
Silver badge

Re: Oh the old petrol station turn mobile phones off drama lama

In much of the US, gas stations close during the night, unless there is an employee inside. This was baffling to European me, considering petrol stations over here are regularly open all night. This is not a payment issue, every pump has its card reader. I was told it was for security reasons.

0
0
Silver badge

Re: Oh the old petrol station turn mobile phones off drama lama

The cell phone ban is, I suspect, left over from the CB radio ban.

Because some early electronic devices (are you listening Dresser) could be zeroed just by keying a 25W transmitter next to them, garages put up spurious "transmitting can cause an explosion" notices, and the meme appears to have stuck.

'course, the transmitters were not the problem in the first place....

2
0
Anonymous Coward

Re: Oh the old petrol station turn mobile phones off drama lama

Ah yes, that little gem...

Do you know what the biggest cause of emergency shutdowns and calls to the fire brigade from a petrol station is?

People pulling off the road and onto the the forecourt when their car is already on fire!

0
0
Anonymous Coward

Re: Oh the old petrol station turn mobile phones off drama lama

Turning the phone off was more to do with the older pumps not measuring the delivery properly when there was RFI from CB radio (I think) which they then extended to include mobile phones, using the "ooh it might blow up" argument to cover up the fact that it was to prevent you dimishing their profits. Modern pumps are well screened but the "ooh it might blow up" seems to have stuck.

1
0
Silver badge

Re: Oh the old petrol station turn mobile phones off drama lama

The risk was a lot higher in the early days of mobile phones. Base stations were few and far between, possibly up to 35km away in those days. That meant that a phone could easily be putting out 2 Watts of RF power. That doesn't sound a lot, but it's quite capable of generating an RF spark in the right sort of resonant gap.

The trouble is that no RF engineer would ever say with 100% confidence that such a gap couldn't be formed by, for example, the pump nozzle and filler pipe. It's not that straight forward to analytically prove that it's impossible. You can say empirically that it's highly unlikely (and we all know that - petrol stations are notorious for not blowing up on a regular basis). Your RF engineer might therefore use the word 'er' when asked. And there's nothing like the word 'er' for causing some health and safety type to print up a sticker as quick as a flash.

Nowadays there's so many base stations around a phone hardly ever has to put out 2 Watts, so the risk (whatever it actually was) is now correspondingly less. From what I hear most garage forecourt signs have a mobile base station in them anyway, which is a rather neat way of dealing with the fact that people tend to ignore sensible but only very rarely critically important advice.

0
0
Anonymous Coward

Re: Oh the old petrol station turn mobile phones off drama lama

Well, if you're going to go up in flames, might as well do it in style.

0
0
xyz
Devil

There is obviously always going to be some joker....

....whose ringtone will be "BRACE!, BRACE!, BRACE!" and will get his mate next to him to call him just as the wheels are about to touch the ground. Plus the last thing the cabin crew will want to hear is assorted "Well, I said to Darren after I found him shagging Kylie...", "I want to speak to your manager NOW!" and "dum, dum,dum,dum-de-dum" going off around them when they're preparing for landing or take off, when things can go wrong really fast.

5
0
JDX
Gold badge

Someone should make a special Kindle case that looks like a real book... like in films where someone hides a key/computer chip/chocolate bar inside a book with a hole cut out.

0
0
Anonymous Coward

Dear Sir....

...we thank your idea for a kindle in a book will never take. If in the future a device should appear from us that seems the same, you are mistaken and we've never heard of you. If you try to say otherwise, speak to our patent lawyers who may or may not be patenting this already.

Your's

Big Mega Global Corp

1
0
Bronze badge
WTF?

Never had an issue

on any (european) flight with reading the kindle from boarding to leaving.

To be fair the kindle isn't actually DOING anything different in "reading" mode from "standby" mode - with the exception of a few (infrequent) page turns - I can't envisage those causing any significant RF.

PS - Yes the wireless was off - it always is unless I'm actively wanting to connect to something over WiFi.

2
0
JDX
Gold badge

Re: Never had an issue

I get told to turn it off. I suppose IF 3G is an issue you can see their point that turning it off is far easier than having their staff check things are in airplane mode.

0
0
Silver badge
Thumb Down

You turn off your crap at the start and end of every flight (1) so you don't have any excuse to not pay attention to the safety briefing and (2) the transition from flying to not flying or vice versa is the most dangerous point for anything to go wrong. Given that you've probably had or will soon have ample time sitting about in the airport or on the plane to dick around on Angry Birds, is it such a hardship to be ready to listen to the captain and crew during the very brief tricky bits?

If the FAA want to improve the traveller's lot they can tell the TSA to sort themselves out.

7
1
Silver badge

Won't you think about the children???

How can they think such things? Have they not seen the number of planes which fall from the sky on a daily basis because people leave their devices turned on?

I saw parts of a 747 scattered about a street only last night. Mr Cruise from down the road was looking at it.

Oh, hang on, that was War of the Worlds wasn't it.

So in summary, I'll be more worried about having a French crew or an Italian Captain. Then again, not many life boats to accidentally fall into on a plane.

4
1
Silver badge

Re: Won't you think about the children???

Ahhh, a down vote...

So which one... French or Italian?

0
0
FAIL

Wrong Angle

Can't we keep it banned on the grounds that take-off/Landing is normally the time you need to be paying attention to any intercom/flight crew instructions. I.e a sudden bird strike just before wheels down might give the pilot a chance to shout "Brace" over the tannoy before a heavy landing.

Try doing that when everyone has earbuds turned to 11 and tablets in front of the face and watch the lawsuits fly due to people needing bits of iWotsits removed from foreheads.

Seriously you are not a professor of super complicated brain surgery and only you can save little timmys life over the phone during your landing approach. i have not flown into heathrow (but have Brussels many times which is also a busy hub) and landing approach takes 10minsish can you not live without Angry Birds that long?

5
0
Silver badge

Re: Wrong Angle

I thought the instruction to stow electronics was an attempt to reduce the number of heavy, hard objects that would be flying around the cabin in the event of an accident during approach or takeoff?

0
0
Bronze badge
Facepalm

It's not really about RF

This ban shouldn't have anything to do with electronic interference and the likes. (That has already been pretty much bunked)

The problem is with a crap load of loose objects in the cabin! Imagine what happens if the plane hits heavy turbulence and people let go of their Ipodpadphone. These then become loose projectiles flying about the cabin. There's a reason lugage is required to be stowed in the overhead bins or below seats. To stop it from flying about!

1
0
CM
Megaphone

Hardbacks ok

Hard heavy objects? No, otherwise that Gideons bible you nicked from the hotel would be banned during take off/landing, in favour of $pulp.

I don't mind the no-lekky objects except when they force a too long off time. Many airlines have a release crew from seats beep when we're supposed to stay belted, said crew are busy firing up the sales carts full of dangerous liquids (bad for livers too!). Some like KLM release us quickly. some like that no longer lowcost lowcost lot keep us pinned in tiny seats for far too long.

0
2
Anonymous Coward

When in China

While I was in china it became apparent that these rules were for other people and touchdown meant practically every phone in the aircraft would receive texts and calls from people who obviously left their own phones on auto-redial until their friends came close enough to the base stations.

This also seemed to apply to seatbelts being optional and standing for take off and landing as you need to finish your conversations no matter what.

This was an international flight too from europe not an internal "bus" type flight.

Europeans are too good at rules but the other extreme is out there - its not a good place either.

1
1
Anonymous Coward

I mean Really

Anyone who can't live without their iPad or Kindle for 15 minutes when the plane departs or lands, should be escorted off the plane for professional psychological counseling.

3
0

Re: I mean Really

You must fly in and out of a better class of airports. I want to use my iPad while waiting the hour between pulling away from the gate and getting to the end of the runway so we can take off.

Or the 2 hours spent waiting for a gate to be available after landing.

I'm not that worried about the plane crashing when we're already sitting on the ground.

0
2
Anonymous Coward

Re: I mean Really

I've flown a lot and NEVER seen the flight crew make you shut off electronics until the flight was ready to taxi or if in the air, ready to land. I've never sat on a taxi way for more then 20 minutes to take off, so I guess you need to find better airlines to use. :)

1
0
Anonymous Coward

annoyed at having to keep turning off kindles and ipads

...at the start and end of every flight.

given that it's the most likely time during the whole flight when you're likely to crash and burn, I think it's a good idea to force people to reflect on how delicate this thread of life is, and how easily it can snap, when you go down in an oversight beer can.

unless people (that would be the apple fanbois) are already bonded to their pads so that to turn them off is equivalent to turning off their artificial heart. Flick off and they're gone. Off air. OMG.

0
0
Boffin

As someone who may* have a clue about this....

As I design aeroplane engine control and monitoring hardware. The main problem as I can see it would be from the engine vibration sensors. These piezoelectric sensors produce a pretty weak signal in the order of 10 pico coulombs per g, which is then converted to a voltage with a high gain op amp. If you get a rogue signal early in the signal path this may indicated to the pilot that the engine is broken, i.e. a turbine blade bent because of a foreign object entering the engine etc.

Since vibration monitoring is usually DAL-C level then it is not flight critical in that there is no auto shutdown, but a dodgy reading could result in a pilot manually shutting down an engine when there in fact was no problem.

However, using a mobile phone in flight mode emits next to feck all radiation anyway and this is of no concern. Only WiFi, GSM and to a lesser extent Bluetooth could potenetially cause a problem. The probabilty of this is still probably tiny, but none the less should not be completely ignored. Millions of flight hours a year.....

2
0
Mushroom

Re: As someone who may* have a clue about this....

I'm sure al-queada have never tried leaving a cell phone on!

1
1
Anonymous Coward

To those who actually do get annoyed at being asked to turn things off at take off and landing. Get a life. If that is too much of a hassle to you then you need help...

As said by others, it's more a case of the procedure theoretically allowing everyones attention to be utmost at such a time should the need arise rather than phones ringing or people talking when the attendants are giving their talk.

2
0
Unhappy

In flight calling?

"The regulator has already paved the way for in-flight mobile telephones, creating a technical framework within which in-flight calling is safe and leaving it to the airlines to decide if it's worth offering the service."

Please God let them decide it's not worth the hassle. It's bad enough being trapped in a sealed tube full of other people for several hours, without having to listen to one half of their bloody phone conversations. It's the one remaining redeeming feature of air travel that the annoying morons have to turn their phones off.

6
0

Re: In flight calling?

Yeah, the dumbasses want to impress friends by making phone calls at 30,000 ft. You can see loser written all over their foreheads...

2
0
Silver badge

Re: In flight calling?

"Yeah, the dumbasses want to impress friends by making phone calls at 30,000 ft."

Oh I don't know, I reckon quite a lot of business people would welcome the opportunity to carry on their work for the hours that are otherwise spent idle. But I doubt their fellow passengers would agree...

0
0

Page:

This topic is closed for new posts.