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back to article Fondling slabs during takeoff WON'T end in a fireball of death - report

The Federal Aviation Administration's advisory committee reckons it's safe for air passengers to read ebooks and use tablets during takeoff and landing – as long as the built-in radios remain switched off. The US governmental body in charge of air transport isn't obliged to follow the recommendation of the 28-member committee, …

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Bronze badge
Coat

Fondling slabs during takeoff WON'T end in a fireball of death...

"...Unless, of course, you happen to be the pilot"

No, the pilot needs a mobe that randomly sounds a klaxon and shouts "Wake up! Wake up! No kipping now, you moron; you're flying a bloody plane!"

(I left my cope in the departure lounge. If I lend you a parachute, could you get it for me?)

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Silver badge

Re: Fondling slabs during takeoff WON'T end in a fireball of death...

And increasingly their iPad or Android tablet to call up the flight manual and do the pre-flight checks.

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Re: Fondling slabs during takeoff WON'T end in a fireball of death...

I was once sat in the front row of a domestic flight in Italy, with the air hostess sat directly opposite and facing e as we came in to land. Next to me was sat a sweating, overweight passenger whose BO and waistline overflow I'd had the pleasure of sharing for the previous hour. He'd obviously not bothered turning his iPhone off during the flight and with perfect timing, the second the wheels touched down, his phone starting ringing with the (very loud) klaxon ringtone.

The look of sheer terror on the air hostess's face (and presumably other passengers in earshot) was only eclipsed by the look of rage that replaced it about 10 seconds later when she realised where the sound was coming from and although I don't speak Italian, I got the gist that she wasn't thanking him for flying Alitalia.

Sadly, I discovered that my own instant mental association on hearing a klaxon is with an iPhone ringtone, rather than an imminent call to "brace brace brace". Sign of the times, I guess.

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Better to have no gadgets during take off

I think they should probably keep the ban for take off and landing. These are the most critical times for a flight. If the airline needs full attention, they won't get it if people are listening to music or are totally engrossed in their novel.

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Facepalm

Re: Better to have no gadgets during take off

You can be totally engrossed in your 'Dead Tree' version of your novel already.

I do agree about no headphones or ear-buds during takeoff and landing though.

Personally, I never work while on flights anyway. It is 'me' time. No Phone, no Internet. bliss.

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Re:Better to have no gadgets during take off

as far as i'm concerned there is no difference between reading a book on a dead tree and a kindle, and for the most part that includes electrical emissions as well (assuming you've got a proper e-reader with a passive screen as opposed to the "poor man's ipad" type)

I don't even bother trying to explain to the stewardess that my kindle can't be turned off; I just put it in the seat pocket until she's gone past.

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Bronze badge

Re: Better to have no gadgets during take off

What sort of situation do you envisage happening, without your awareness, that will require you to take action? Because, for sure, I can't think of a single thing.

Planes nowadays, especially in Europe, are methods of travel. You get on one. You sit for an hour. You get off one. Ignoring all the crap like spending three times that time sitting in the airport/customs/collecting your luggage, the plane journey is boring and - to me - annoying.

I do not WANT to listen to the safety briefing. Unlike everyone else, I read the damn card the second I sat down and that's more than enough for me to go on after HUNDREDS of such safety briefings. In the event I need it, it won't be me inflating my life-jacket in the cabin, it'll be some other prat who DID sit through the demo attentively. I do not care what scratchcards or food or bus tickets are coming around. I will not buy them. Don't even bother to stop at my aisle, just keep going.

As such, I want to cut myself off from the screaming kids, the snoring adults (surely sleeping would be worse than anything, so why don't we wake people up to ask if they want to hear the safety briefing?), the arguing couples, the damn hostesses constantly bothering me. I will do that by reading or going on the computer or sleeping. And I know 100% that if my computer affected the flight in any way, you'd actually NEED to confiscate such devices from me as I entered the plane, not half-heartedly trust me to turn it off or put it in flight mode (and, yes, sorry, but on any particular flight I guarantee you that half the people have their phones on and in their bag, not in flight mode at all). Therefore, my laptop / Kindle / phone does NOTHING to the plane. It might interfere with the cell networks a bit, so I do turn on any flight mode, etc. but a blanket "you have to turn it off or the plane will crash" is utter tripe. Or else you wouldn't allow the damn things in the first place.

Take-off and landing have precisely zero importance to the passengers except for those who are scared of flying to distract themselves. The current policy REMOVES that opportunity for no verifiable "safety" reason. It's utter tripe. I'm not scared of flying but if I were, I'd want earplugs and blindfolds and to bury my head in a book rather than listen to what I should do if the plane crashes and/or hear the build-up of the engines at some random time that I can't predict.

Yet there is a much bigger factor here. People who are relaxed and not tense respond better to emergency situations. But airlines nowadays remove ALL methods of relaxation. You can barely sleep on them nowadays. You can't do anything on takeoff or landing. You're constantly told off for things. You are crammed into uncomfortable seats with no provided distractions, and get bossed about if you provide your own. You are frequently disturbed and in close proximity to people you didn't choose and whose behaviour is not regulated. You have limited access to toilet facilities. And you cannot escape for a long time.

If airlines actually gave a damn about safety, they'd make the aisles wider, and the gap between seats bigger. See how long it takes to clear a RyanAir flight on landing? That's how long it's going to take in an emergency, and some more. Imagine the back of the plane is slowly burning next time you decamp a plane from even 1/3rd of the way from the front. Now add panic, confusion, and people trying to save possessions and being trampled and people trying to help. You'll be dead.

They'd make the safety equipment more intuitive if they cared (where does my oxygen mask drop down from? Why do I have to tug it to start airflow? Why do some seats have different arrangements? Why does my lifejacket allow inflation outside of water? Why does it have a valve capable of "deflation" at all? Why aren't children provided with one made for them as they enter the aircraft?).

They'd take passengers minds off the flight in a way they could interrupt (e.g. show a movie, like they all used to do - that honestly must cost pence), rather than relying on everyone to bring a personal device with them that they have to spend hours telling people off for having it switched on at the wrong time.

None of this is about safety. And in situations requiring it, EVERYONE will forget at least one rule. Guaranteed. Absolute. No matter how many times you plug it into their brain. Watch the programmes where they follow stewardesses in training - it can take them months or years to get it right themselves, even in organised training. So why the hell do we still rely on people doing these things to ensure their safety instead of redesigning to make them unnecessary?

(The answer, of course, is money, and change being expensive, and perceived liability being even more so).

If a plane crashes, the people who come out the other end will be random, and have little correlation to their attention to the safety briefing and/or their general outlook on safety (in fact, it's likely to be those who trample other people, who inflated their life jacket and hindered others, and those near the doors who collected their luggage first). Putting your head between your legs might increase the chance of a dummy in a fake plane surviving, but it's so miniscule it's barely worth knowing. It won't kill you (like some urban myths state), but it won't do much to help you survive either.

Road vehicles are infinitely more dangerous, yet we don't have compulsory safety briefings on buses and coaches. Ships are more dangerous, and though we do have a safety drill on large ships - again, it's largely tradition more than anything else. On the Costa Concordia most of those who jumped (contrary to all safety briefings) survived. Not all of those who stayed did. And all the lifeboat drill is POINTLESS if some fool is in charge of your ship and doesn't tell you what's happening or refuses to let you lower them.

It's an outdated, pointless, waste of time. Just let people get on with their flight undisturbed. I'd rather be in a plane full of people who had slept well and weren't uncomfortable and annoyed, than one where we all had the safety briefing shoved down our throat (and the biggest factor for me in such a decision is what OTHER people would do, not what I would do).

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Silver badge

Re: Better to have no gadgets during take off

Rant deserves an upvote.

And, for what it is worth, I carry a mobile in my pocket as I go home from work. And I have frequently put petrol into the car. I'm still here, nothing blew up, and I'm not aware of petrol stations randomly exploding due to mobile phones. So where did these rumours and myths originate?

To my mind, if delicate devices explode David Lynch style just because a mobile phone is nearby, God help them in a thunderstorm or doing a solar flare...

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Black Helicopters

Re: Better to have no gadgets during take off

Instead it leads to Rage when the BA Steward cannot get to grips with the magnetic sensor on my Nexus 7 putting it to sleep.

<<Close case>> "Let me check..<<open case>>..see it's still on!"

<<Close case>> "Let me check..<<open case>>..see it's still on!"

<<Close case>> "Let me check..<<open case>>..see it's still on!"

Just let me read my book on the darned kindle App rather than staring around the distraction-free cabin for 15 minutes seeing peoples faces fill with dread as whirring motors push and pull control surfaces in and out!!

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Silver badge

Re: Better to have no gadgets during take off

"Rant deserves an upvote"

Yes.

This bit in particular, which really does deserve to be repeated:

"If airlines actually gave a damn about safety, they'd make the aisles wider, and the gap between seats bigger. See how long it takes to clear a RyanAir flight on landing? That's how long it's going to take in an emergency, and some more. Imagine the back of the plane is slowly burning next time you decamp a plane from even 1/3rd of the way from the front. Now add panic, confusion, and people trying to save possessions and being trampled and people trying to help. You'll be dead."

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Re: Better to have no gadgets during take off

It should be a lot quicker getting off in an emergency for several reasons. Firstly there will be more exits available than just the one at one end of the plane. Secondly the passengers won't be stopping to thank the cabin crew for a pleasant flight and thirdly I hope they are not all stood up trying to get their bags out of the overhead lockers.

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Bronze badge

It should..

.. but I still want to sit next to an emergency exit.

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Re: Better to have no gadgets during take off

Re: safety briefings.

Just wait until you've had the briefing for a tourist submarine... (Pedant mode: submersible)

They explain how to use the rebreather gear under your seat so you won't die of chlorine poisoning if seawater gets into the batteries...

*THAT'S* a safety briefing.

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Bronze badge

Re: Better to have no gadgets during take off

Good rant, Lee D. You're right about everything but the brace position, though: it does actually work rather well.

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Re: Better to have no gadgets during take off

Another point. Even if it were true that mobile phones interfered with aircraft in some way, that was excusable up till, say, 1998. For any aircraft built since then not to have been redesigned without the vulnerability is totally inexcusable.

Anyone else remember the airlines saying all the same crap about Walkmans? They had fuck all in common with a modern mobile phone, yet apparently had exactly the same disastrous effects.

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Bronze badge

Re: Better to have no gadgets during take off

heyrick,

The phone ban at petrol stations apparently dates back to the days when phones had a couple of little metal contacts at the bottom for charging, so if you dropped the phone onto the ground at exactly the right angle it was possible that it could create a spark. There are cases of people starting fires at petrol stations by wearing nylon jackets, yet they're not banned.

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Re: Better to have no gadgets during take off

Rest assured Lee D - if I'm on a flight that crashes that you're on I'd quite happily let you drown for your complete arrogance. I bet you are one of those who takes his seatbelt off as soon as the sign goes out (or probably undoes it when no-one is looking).

Unlike other modes of transport - planes can hit turbulence that will impact your head on the underside of the overhead lockers.

Try to take safety seriously - if you don't give a toss why should anyone else? If airlines knew you had this attitude to safety I doubt that any would let you on a plane.

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Re: Better to have no gadgets during take off

@Lee

You wrote "I do not WANT to listen to the safety briefing" and also "in situations requiring it, EVERYONE will forget at least one rule". Apart from yourself, presumably. Personally I take my lead from the guys / gals up at the pointy end. Here's a typical comment from one of them: "When the safety briefing starts, I stop what I am doing, then watch and listen to the Flight Attendant's speech or videoed safety briefing, no matter how many times I've heard it or how many times I've traveled or actually flown that type of aircraft" and then a comment aimed at someone making much the same noises as you: "But I'm very impressed that you must know a hell of a lot more about aircraft than I do, after all I only flew them for 42 years".

There's numerous reasons for paying attention to the briefing EVERY time - the fact that ignoring the cabin crew is rude should be sufficient.

"my laptop / Kindle / phone does NOTHING to the plane." Actually there's numerous cases. Here's Boeing's take:

http://www.boeing.com/commercial/aeromagazine/aero_10/interfere_story.html

Here's a more recent incident.

http://www.theaustralian.com.au/australian-it/iphone-blamed-for-flight-malfunction/story-e6frgakx-1226644142011

It's not just mobile phones.

The crucial thing is that although the avionics *should* be shielded, and the electronic device *should* be designed not to emit large quantities of radiation, there is no *guarantee* that both these things are true. Think human nature and poor maintenance on the one hand, and cheap-as-chips far-eastern manufacturing on the other.

There's lots of reports of instruments giving out dicky readings in the cruise, due to dodgy passenger

electronics. But it's not a crucial phase of flight and the passengers would not have noticed anything wrong.

"See how long it takes to clear a RyanAir flight on landing? That's how long it's going to take in an emergency". To get type approval they need to demonstrate that they can get a full complement off in 90 seconds or less, using only half of the emergency exits. And it can be done in real life - here's one where it took two minutes to get 309 people off:

http://www.cntraveler.com/dam/2005/11/air-france-2005-airbus-crash-infographic.png

"If a plane crashes, the people who come out the other end will be random" is not true either. It's the people who head for the nearest exit-which-may-be-behind-them, and don't hang about.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Better to have no gadgets during take off

"I have frequently put petrol into the car. I'm still here, nothing blew up, "

Readers here have never been killed in traffic incidents.

Some readers here definitely know people who have been killed in traffic incidents. In my case, I know people who have died on the roads and other people who have died on aircraft.

Just because it's never happened to you, do you really think it can never happen to anybody?

Me Me Me, is that all folk like you care to think about?

Massive logic and vision FAIL.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Better to have no gadgets during take off

"if delicate devices explode just because a mobile phone is nearby, God help them in a thunderstorm or doing a solar flare..."

Those things are outside the aircraft and are designed and (in theory at least) tested for.

In a twenty year old airframe, or even in a modern one, those things are not expected inside the airfcraft, and nor are radio transmitters.

Do you understand why there's a difference?

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How will the cabin crew be able to confirm that the device is in flight mode?

You can't trust everyone to ensure that their devices are in flight mode by themselves, not everyone knows how to do it and even those that do can make a mistake. I've landed before and suddenly felt my phone vibrate as a text came in when I was pretty sure that I had flight mode on.

What about devices with buggy operating systems that cant be trusted to do what they are told.

There has to be a way to jam the frequencies of gsm . wifi etc without also jamming the critical flight systems?

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Silver badge

Plains that operate onboard wi-Fi have a display that indicates how many radios are turned on in the plane. I suppose they can extrapolate from there. The fact that there's some guesswork involved means there is no real risk with the electronics being used.

If switching one on could cause a crash they'd never allow them onboard. They don't trust passengers to not misuse toothpaste, they certainly wouldn't allow them to have a game ending device.

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"You can't trust everyone to ensure that their devices are in flight mode by themselves, not everyone knows how to do it and even those that do can make a mistake. I've landed before and suddenly felt my phone vibrate as a text came in when I was pretty sure that I had flight mode on."

I'm sure that every day hundreds of thousands of "live" phones are transported by air with no problems whatsoever. There's no way the cabin crew can check that passengers have turned off their phones, and there's no way of getting to phones in hold baggage once loaded.

If mobile phones are sufficient to endanger flight safety, then its about time that any aircraft not certified as fully mobile phone proof at all stages of flight had their air worthiness certificate revoked. I'm not in favour of allowing @rseholes to yap into their mobiles on planes, but lets not pretend this has anything to do with flight safety (other than the possibility of fisticuffs between passengers).

The only real safety dimension is perhaps the fire risk of lithium batteries. We've all seen the exploding laptop/tablet/phone stories, and sooner or later somebody's device is going to catch fire on an aircraft, and I hope I'm not on that flight. The subsequent reaction of the authorities will be interesting, since the only logical action is to accept the risk, or ban the transport of lithium powered devices by air....

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Anonymous Coward

There has to be a way to jam the frequencies of gsm . wifi etc without also jamming the critical flight systems?

Nope. From the point of view of the flight systems, they'll both be noisy microwave emitters.

It would be more sensible to make those systems in such a way that doesn't result in flaming death when exposed to a few watts of WiFi.

Or better yet, given that people leave phones on all the time and there seem to have been zero flaming death incidents that have been blamed on a rogue mobile (and I rather suspect that every commerical passenger flight has at least one such active device), stop worrying about the things all together.

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Anonymous Coward

Aren't there already low power "fake" base stations to shut mobiles up?

"From the point of view of the flight systems, they'll both be noisy microwave emitters."

"stop worrying about the things all together."

Aiui, it's perfectly practical sensible to put a low power fake base station on the aircraft.

The way that sensible mobiles work, the transmitter shouts as loud as it needs to so that a base station can hear it (your batteries run down faster in areas of marginal coverage, right?)

A low power fake base station (a) persuades mobiles to keep their transmit levels low (b) because it's a fake, it prevents actual calls being established.

In considering whether or not doing so makes sense, there is a risk assessment to perform: suppose for some reason there is actual value in having mobile calls or data access from inside (or maybe very close to) the aircraft. Suppose the fake base station prevents that. Then what?

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Unhappy

I'm confused...

Some (considerable) time ago, the FAA permitted pilots to carry on and use iPads containing flight data (such approach plates, flight plans, manifests and the aircraft manual) during "all phases of the flight". The rationale being that the physical size and weight of the paper was exceeding safe limits - together with the real problem of: "where is that sodding check list?". The FAA also identified that using a slab meant that they could routinely check compliance with (for example) check list use.

So why has it taken this long to allow the cattle in the back to fondle their slabs?

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Silver badge

Re: I'm confused...

Now they have to stop the pilots playing Angry Birds during take-off. Although most have a full star quota on all levels...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: I'm confused...

"FAA permitted pilots to carry on and use iPads containing flight data (such approach plates, flight plans, manifests and the aircraft manual) during "all phases of the flight". "

There are a handful of offically approved Electronic Flight Bags at the front of the vehicle (maybe none, maybe one, maybe a couple).

The ones up front have been certified for Electronic Flight Bag use, typically in one of three categories. There is some information about the UK rules for this at:

http://www.caa.co.uk/default.aspx?catid=220&pagetype=90&pageid=8200

it includes the following sentence: ". A communications interface, for example GSM telephone connection or built-in phone card, may be part of such equipment. In such cases, acceptable precautions of inadvertent transmissions will be required."

In the self loading cargo area, there are goodness knows how many handheld radio transmitters, which are not type approved for in flight use.

Do you really not see any difference? No I don't work for the CAA or an EFB manufacturer but I want to maximise my fellow passengers chances of reaching their destinations safely.

I realise the commentards here mostly aren't listening to common sense and engineering logic, but if you are sufficiently open minded as to want to listen to facts rather than rubbish, please listen to the CAA (and local equivalents).

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Silver badge

Save their money...

they could have saved their money and just asked me. My ex flew several times a week and was always "forgetting" to turn off her Motorola flip phone. She had the flight personnel come up to her on several occasions and politely ask her to turn off her phone, once they were airborne.

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Why you can't do this stuff on planes.

Sorry if you've seen it - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JYAq-7sOzXQ (some mild swearing)

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Why you can't do this stuff on planes.

Because men in uniforms will be summoned to escort you from the plane to a holding cell.

That noise you can now hear is all the women thinking about that.

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DJV
Happy

http://dilbert.com/strips/comic/1997-09-10/

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Bronze badge

I was on a flight a couple of weeks ago where the captain's phone started ringing during his welcome announcement. Oooooooooops.

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Anonymous Coward

"I was on a flight a couple of weeks ago where the captain's phone started ringing during his welcome announcement. Oooooooooops."

Mistakes happen. Most of them are harmless. Are they all harmless?

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Boffin

Let's get some perspective here...

Have a look at the figures cited by the Air Crashes Records Office here.

Note that, for instance, in 2012, there were 119 accidents and 794 deaths. That's the *GLOBAL* figure.

Now compare that with the approximately 1.23 *MILLION* road deaths last year

But aircraft crashes are big and spectacular and make for great TV news, so we keep worrying about the wrong thing because too many people can't see the bigger picture.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Let's get some perspective here...

If we're going to compare statistics, at least try to sensibly compare relevant statistics.

Yes lots more folk die on the roads than in aircraft. There are many reasons for that, but two of the main ones might be:

1) a lot more people spend a lot more time and do a lot more journeys in cars than in aircraft

2) commercial aircraft (and the folks that design, fly and maintain them) have in recent years been a lot more tightly regulated than road vehicles (and the people that design, drive and maintain them).

Car safety is generally improving because of changes in technology (crumple zones etc) and in many parts of the world, changes in rules (no drink driving, no mobile phones while driving).

There is arguably a case for better regulation of cars and the people that design drive and maintain them. But given the number of folks who are happy to break the existing rules and are allowed to get away with it, I don't personally see things improving much via that route.

Maybe there is a case for relaxing some of the current rules that apply to aircraft (and the people that design, fly and maintain them). But lets's base the deregulation on sensible analysis not silly comparison of statistics (but this is El Reg, so carry on with the silly statistics for now).

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