Alec Baldwin is hardly the only air traveler who doesn't like it when a flight attendant announces that all electronic devices must be powered down prior to takeoff. Experts and frequent fliers have long suspected that the rule — which ostensibly prevents our gadgets from interfering with the plane's complex equipment — is unnecessary, and might have been created just to torture us. After all, pilots are allowed to use iPads in the cockpit, so why can't we? Well, happier flights might be on the horizon: The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is giving the rules a "fresh look" to determine whether e-readers and tablets (but not smartphones) actually interfere with plane avionics. Will gadgets soon be welcome aboard?
Yes. And change can't come fast enough: "About. Bloody. Time," says Jamie Condliffe at Gizmodo. "Everybody hates having to stop reading e-books, listening to music, and playing Angry Birds during takeoff." It's been six years since the FAA last conducted a study on whether electronic devices mess with plane equipment, and in the meantime, the number of "passenger bags containing Kindles" has soared. "This time we might actually see a change."
"The FAA may soon allow electronic device use during takeoff"
It still might take a while. A long while: Don't blow past the bookstore at the airport "and start using your Kindle during takeoff just yet," says Nick Bilton at The New York Times. Airlines will have to go through plenty of "bureaucratic red tape" before they can allow passengers to use their devices uninterrupted. Under FAA rules, every airline (from JetBlue to United) will have to test every single device (that means the iPad, the iPad 2, and the newest iPad) in every single plane model. So don't hold your breath.
"Time to review FAA policy on gadgets"
At least we'll finally get to the bottom of this: It's unclear when exactly our iPads will get the all-clear, but we should all be glad that we'll "finally confirm or deny whether these devices pose any sort of threat at all," says Tiffany Kaiser at DailyTech. There is scant evidence that e-readers and tablets pose any harm. Most planes must be able to "withstand 100 volts per meter of electrical interference," and the Kindle unleashes a grand total of 30 microvolts per meter (which is 0.00003 of a volt for those who are counting). That's hardly a safety risk.
"FAA to review rules regarding table/e-reader use during takeoff, landing"