Reports were circulating Friday that the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration is looking to relax its rules on use of electronic devices during the takeoff and landing phases of plane flight. According to the panel reviewing a possible lift, 30% of travelers reported to leaving a device on by accident during takeoff and landing.
The FAA claims that when aggregated, electromagnetic fields emitted from mobile devices are harmful to the pilot’s ability to receive navigation signals. Scientific research and analysis negates that. EMT Labs, a Mountain View-based laboratory that does testing on devices for electronic manufacturers, says the fields emitted by handheld devices are too weak to interfere with flight telemetry. Furthermore, the electromagnetic fields are not cumulative; the field of two iPads is similar to that of 200.
High-profile cases such as Alec Baldwin being escorted off a plane for refusing to stop playing Words With Friends, and a 65-year-old who punched a teen for not turning off a cellphone (and later saying it was for the safety of passengers) have brought scrutiny to the rule. Additionally, iPads are being looked at as a new tool for in-flight entertainment. Australian company Quantas announced in March that it would give its passengers iPads with options for inflight entertainment instead of the televisions installed in the backseats. In addition to being up-to-date, the iPad solution is cheaper than the traditional screens.
Pilots are also using the iPad to supplement their traditional landing methods, and in cases of malfunction, using it as a backup. (The iPad is the only tablet the FAA has approved to replace the paper-manual of flight charts.) Mobile devices on planes could also be helpful in security and medical safety. It might be time airlines stopped treating those devices as odd intruders and started seeing them as the logical next step for inflight services and entertainment.