Please Turn Off All Electronic Devices

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Please Turn Off All Electronic Devices

Will your cell phone crash a plane? How about your iPad? Or blackberry? Ever wondered why we have rules on using personal electronic devices (PED) on airplanes? Read on.

Believe it or not, it’s the Federal Communications Commission that bans the use of cell phones on domestic flights. It’s not a direct safety issue – the real concern with cell phones is potential interference to wireless networks on the ground.

In fact, NASA and other scientific research organizations have done tests for more than 20 years and failed to come up with any conclusive evidence linking mobile phones with instrument problems.

But that doesn’t mean the ban will be lifted, because even if the FCC were to lift its ban, each air carrier would have to show that there was no interference with each phone model on each kind of aircraft…not an easy feat.

The ban on electronic devices like iPads and portable DVD players comes from the FAA. PED’s cannot be used below 10,000 feet, before cruising altitude. The reasoning here is that if the devices’ collective interference caused a problem, the crew would have time and focus to respond. But once again, there’s virtually no evidence that they’ve ever caused an electrical/electronic or mechanical problem, let alone an accident.

The latest evidence should seal the deal that there is no electronic interference. Some major airlines are now even encouraging their pilots —  with FAA also giving permission — to use iPads instead of bulky flight manuals in the cockpit—so that tells you everything you need to know about the real danger — or lack of it — from electronic devices.

In recent months, the FAA has said it would begin to reassess the current restrictions on using personal electronic devices on planes but I’m not holding my breath on how quickly that will happen.

Bottom line: for the moment the rules that are in place are the rules and I don’t recommend trying to circumvent them. Remember, violating a direct order from a flight crew member (as in, “turn your device off”) constitutes a federal offense.