Please Power Down Some But Not All Electronic Devices At This Time

According to people who work with an industry working group that the Federal Aviation Administration set up last year to study the use of portable electronics on planes, the agency hopes to announce by the end of this year that it will relax the rules for reading devices during takeoff and landing. The change would not include cellphones.

This is pretty great news if, like me, these days, you rarely read a paper book. I’ve more than once found myself wishing that the new issue of the in-flight magazine was out, as I’ve already read this month’s — and that’s just sad.

But, as Marco Arment comments:

Any progress would be nice, but this is a weird distinction: “reading devices” are OK, but phones aren’t? The huge-phone/small-tablet markets are converging as we speak. Are 5-inch “phablets” considered phones or reading devices?

Like everything else to do with air travel nowadays, this is a morass of compromise, incompetence and ponderous bureaucratic machinations.

  • If you’re legislating for safety, as the FAA ostensibly are, then the only sensible metric to judge by would be how safe the device is and whether the electromagnetic emissions are under acceptable levels. The truth is there isn’t a single phone, computer or tablet made by a major manufacturer that’s likely to cause any interference to aircraft systems. They make ‘em like that.

  • If you’re legislating to prevent passengers annoying others with phone calls and loud games, then its a much more dangerous and tricky path you’ll tread. What else should you ban, to be logical and just? Whistling? Snoring? Any talking at all? You can’t ban people from being people, and the sad truth is that a large portion of the human race are occasionally offensive. The “fart tube of long pigs” is never going to be up there with the great zen scenarios of your life.

This is all just an ugly pitstop on our inevitable route towards personal jetpacks, of course.