FAA Changes Stance On Usage of iPads And Kindles During Takeoff And Landing

The New York Times writer Nick Bilton has made it his personal mission to get the Federal Aviation Administration (F.A.A.) to change its stance on usage of electronic gadgets during take-off and landing.

After calling out the F.A.A.’s policy of disallowing the use of these devices for no valid reason, Nick Bilton again spoke to the F.A.A., and this time they had a slightly different tone than earlier.

He writes:

When I called the F.A.A. last week to pester them about this regulation — citing experts and research that says these devices could not harm a plane — the F.A.A. responded differently than it usually does. Laura J. Brown, deputy assistant administrator for public affairs for the F.A.A., said that the agency has decided to take a “fresh look” at the use of personal electronics on planes.

In case you haven’t followed Nick’s past reports on this topic, his earlier conversations with the F.A.A. indicated that the organization had an attitude that essentially said “No, because I said so,” when it came to allowing the usage of electronics.


Now with the rising importance of tablets and e-book readers, the F.A.A. has finally given in. There would however be a long process involved before this changed attitude of the F.A.A. starts materializing. Current regulations require an airline to test every version of a device, each on a separate, empty flight, in order to be approved by the F.A.A.

This is obviously a very resource intensive task, and to a certain extent even redundant. Why does each airline have to do this separately, when in fact the testing can be done against each aircraft type irrespective of which airline owns the aircraft? Why can’t device manufacturers themselves do the testing? The F.A.A. is figuring out a way to simplify this process by bringing together “manufacturers, consumer electronic associations, aircraft and avionics manufacturers, airlines, pilots, flight attendants and passengers.” Smartphones like iPhones are not being considered for approval.

Nick has done a lot of research to attest to the fact that most electronic gadgets are harmless, and that most of these fears are unrealistic. Head over to this NYTimes link to read the entire article, including the research he’s done.

Related: Airlines deploying iPads to pilots for use in the cockpit.

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  • Danny

    Are we such slaves to our devices such that we can’t do without them for 10 minutes? I understand that there are no conclusive evidence that says electronic equipment may be affected by consumer gadgets…..yet. They have to play it safe because if a plane crash is traced to a passenger using an Ipad, imagine the lawsuits the FAA will face if the had allowed electronic gadgets to be used on takeoff and landing. . Does Nick want to be responsible when a plane crashes?

    • A1d3N

      I agree. Completely.

    • ijohn

      *sniff**sniff*Where’s my cokeiPad!

    • Justin

      Are we such slaves to our feet that we can’t just stand on our heads for 10 minutes every morning? Even though there’s no evidence that standing on your feet causes foot cancer, don’t you think it’s worth 10 minutes to potentially lower the risk? Who knows, it just might!

      To me this is about as rational of a statement as saying we should turn off iPads/cd players/laptops “just in case.” I could make up an infinite number of “just in cases” based on no logic or science whatsoever. That doesn’t mean they’re a good idea. No plane in the history of the world has ever been shown to crash because of the use of an electronic device.

      Now I’m going to go pray to George Carlin because, though it’s not based on science, doing so might, just maybe, help me win the lottery.

      • Danny

        I think you got the wrong point that I’m trying to convey. Look, Nick is a reporter. If he makes it his mission to either prove or disprove that electronic gadgets will affect the plane’s systems, then, I’m all for it. However, his mission is to disprove it. His mind is already set. No amount of research to the contrary will change his mind. In fact, he will only quote research that proves him right.
        Keep an open mind.

        • Justin

          Well, I actually *have* read a few other studies as well (not just from him) and 100% of those studies have yielded roughly the same conclusion: that there’s no risk whatsoever, and the law is more or less only a remnant of a time when such devices were new and not fully understood. But since it’s a hassle to change, they just leave it. I have several friends who are commercial pilots and they too all agree that it’s dumb and unnecessary. Our airwaves are jampacked with electrical interference of all sorts. Planes fly straight through electrical storms. I’ve flown dozens of domestic flights in third world countries on MUCH shoddier aircraft and they couldn’t care less about electronic devices. If they were causing planes to fall out of the sky, I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t allow it. I’ve also ridden domestic flights that offer onboard WiFi, as many of us have. The notion that the provably tiny, tiny, tiny cumulative output of even 100 laptops could cause any affect whatsoever on the avionics etc of a commercial airliner is pretty ridiculous – as every study I’ve ever seen agrees. So to me, saying “let’s just leave it like this, just in case” is pretty much as rational as the example I stated.

          Or perhaps a better example would be, continuing to use leeches for mainstream medical practice because, once upon a time, people thought it was a good idea. But we don’t. Why? Because now we know better, so we’ve changed. The FAA just doesn’t seem to want to.

          • Danny

            I agree with the points you brought up. It’s more convenient to follow outdated customs/laws rather than change them. That’s bureaucracy at work.
            However, I would like to point out that electronics are so complicated nowadays that it is sometimes very difficult to cover all bases. For example, look at the smart phones today. Why is it that some iPhones encounter battery issues, while others don’t. Even Apple is baffled (although they wouldn’t say it) On the Android side, there are so many different models and hardware, and custom ROMs. It would be virtually impossible to test each and every scenario.
            The point is to ensure that the plane’s electronics is closed looped, without any chance of outside interference, however minute it might be.
            Yes, I know that the EMF generated by consumer gadgets are PROBABLY not strong enough to interfere with the plane’s systems. But the keyword is probably, not definitely.

    • Alex

      I can’t listen to music on take off or landing? It is ridiculous. How is my ipod nano will interfere with airplane equipment? How is iPad will interfere with plane navigation in airplane mode? When Delta and other airlines are already using them in cockpits. They outlaw all electronics. Listening to music helps my anxiety on take offs and landings, but it is currently prohibited.

      • AppleCider

        How do you know that the 5 year old in seat 34C has turned his ipad to flight mode just before take off? Wouldn’t this make you more anxious?

  • mkimid

    I agree with his concern. Without any test or verification, FAA Just prohibit the electronics but some devices are absolutely harmless. Even the air plain use Video System while landing and take off ~

    • ijohn

      However, the video entertainment systems on the airlines are showing important safety information which you should pay attention to for your own benefit and for those around you. On a resent British Airways flight was surprised to see the flight attendants instructing everyone to remove earplugs in addition to headphones to be sure everyone listened to the safety briefing.

      • freqflier

        You should be paying attention to the safety instructions. And have these items tucked away. I don’t want an spinning iPad of death flying around the cabin during a safety manuever (much more likely during takeoff / landing).

        • Alex

          Then outlaw reading books and magazines. Every flight that I’ve been on people continue reading books and magazines on take offs and landing. If my iPad will be flying we have a problem, “Apollo 13” size problem.

  • elim

    hi all. just for a few minutes, refrain from any gadgets. after which, you can have all the time you wanted. at times, there are turbulence during takeoff and landing that looking at a gadget’s screen would makes you puke. just exaggerating though. 🙂

    • ijohn

      One time we hit turbulence and my iPad fell on the floor. That made me sad.

  • Ellecee

    On a recent flight from Boston to Florida with my mother ( who happens to be a nervous flyer) the man sitting next to us would not turn off his iPad or his iPhone and my mother kindly asked him to turn them off so he locks the screen for 30 seconds and them I heard the ding of a received text message. I thought it was rude and disrespectful. I am attached at the hip with my iPhone but on a flight where I am 30,000 ft in the air with 100 other people I can do without for 2 hours. People these days are more selfish than ever and that disgusts me that you would rather send a text message than possibly not put others in danger.

    • genXhippie

      What do you expect, we live in a culture that stresses “me” NOT “we”.

    • key

      once again, show proof that they in fact cause interruption in an airplane’s computer system.

      and if you’re already 30,000 ft in the air, then you’re already able to use your electronic device, and probably not receive a text message, unless you were using the iMessage app connected to the planes wi-fi….boom

    • Michael

      Get your neurotic mother an iPad, it will calm her down in flight.

  • augustine

    While it is cool that he is doing his research, I can give two sh*ts about an opinion of a journalist on a matter that they have no training on. unless this comes from a electrical magnetic engineer he can claim whatever he wants.

    So we should just build a nuclear plant on your backyard because your research shows they are safe?

    PLUS, i am with the guy that said can’t we just shut them off for 10 minutes? ADDITIONALLY , every piece of crap should be put away in case there is a problem during take off. If i need to get my a*s out of a plane i don’t want to be slipping over iPads

    • key

      show me the research on a nuclear plant. this journalist has the research of others, is that not good enough for you? those “others” could be magnetic engineers (if that title even exists) or some other profession that deals with that type of thing

    • His research was speaking to people who work in this field.
      “For answers, I headed down to EMT Labs, an independent testing facility in Mountain View, Calif., that screens electrical emissions of gadgets that need to pass health, safety and interference standards.”

  • Juan

    Whats all this then. It seems you all might agree there is a Bigfoot too. After all somebody said so, that there this big hairy thing that is very real to some people. There no evidence. That leaves the scary possibility. Yeah, and planes are falling out of the sky all over the place.
    Grow up, stop whining and take that iPhone to the lavoratory. Angry Birds awaits. Did you ever stop to thInk that someones iPad just might be more important than making chit chat. Does that make me selfish? Too bad. Ignore me.

  • Steven

    I don’t want no stupid i anything whacking in the head or face during take off or landing. That would make me sad. OMG, just put it away for a few minutes.

  • fas

    I am sure even the pilots keep it on at take off.

    • AppleCider

      Not in our country.

  • Richard

    I think the point is, since many airline pilots and military flight crews are being issued iPad and other electronic devices required during takeoffs and landings, its time to take a fresh look at where these devices actually impact flight performance or not.

    • key

      they are being issued those as a replacement to carrying flight charts, tons of papers, etc.

      why carry a rolodex when you can carry your iphone that has all the contact info in it ?

  • Michael

    I’m all for turning off and storing electronic devices during take off and landing as nobody wants to take an smart phone, tablet, notebook, gameboy, etc, to the head; I just want the FAA to be honest about it.

    When an authority figures lie, even if it’s due from ignorance on their part, we lose respect for them when the truth comes out. When the FAA to stands behind a policy based on false science how we suppose to go along with a new policy in the future that is able to be backed up? Yeah, they may be “reviewing” everything now, but that doesn’t change the fact that we are being told our notebooks can cause a plan to malfunction, so turn it off and watch directv on the LCD screen built into the seat in front of you.

  • Sirscottland

    The 10000ft rule has to do with the aircraft being on a critical phase of flight.. Planes usually at this altitude are flying in or around very congested airspace and airports.. The pilots of that’s planes need all flight critical instruments without the possibility of losing them or being interfered, especially when an aircraft is encountering IFR conditions.. I’m a pilot and air traffic controller and have dealt with many of these issues… I’m not saying it right but until they further examine this I don’t see why people can’t just wait 15 minutes.. I’m glued to my tech devices but if me turning this stuff off for 15 minutes helps the pilots and ATC get me flying safe, well then that’s what’s has to happen..

  • joker

    FAA is over cautious. One can understand that a transmitting device or wifi etc could affect flight controls. But, there were times when cd players had to be shut off. I’m sure a lot of people accidentally have devices switched on during flights or take off and landings. I don’t turn the iphone off during either take off or landing…just in ‘airplane mode”…and i’ve never had any Captain complain …lol..or plane fell off the sky :)….