ipad in plane

In 2011, the FAA green-lighted several commercial and charter airlines to replace their bulky, 50-page paper flight manuals with iPads. And last year, they expanded the rule to allow pilots to use their new tablets during all stages of flight.

So why in the world are passengers still required to power down their electronics before takeoff? No one really knows. And that’s why Senator Claire McCaskill says she’s putting together a bill that would, by law, remove this silly restriction…

Politico (via AppleInsider) reports:

“Frustrated with the slow process at the FAA, Sen. Claire McCaskill said Thursday she will write legislation to allow passengers to use electronic devices during all aspects of flight.

The proposed bill would not apply to cellphone use but would dramatically expand the use of iPads, other tablets, music players and other devices before, during and after flight.”

Last December, Senator McCaskill wrote a letter to FAA Administrator Michael Huerta, expressing her disappointment on the agency’s lack of commitment to reexamine its “extremely outdated” flight regulations. Here’s an excerpt from that letter:

“Simply put, electronic devices that are currently allowed above 10,000 feet should be allowed for use during all phases of flight. It is preposterous to think that an e-reader in a passenger’s hands during takeoff is anymore a threat to other passengers or crew members than a hardback book.”

McCaskill certainly has a point. Over the years, several questions have been raised regarding the reasoning behind the “turn off your electronics during takeoff and landing” rule. But to this day, there has yet to be a solid, scientific reason given.

For a long time it was believed that electronic devices, many of which do emit some sort of radio waves, could disrupt an airplane’s navigation system and other necessary flight equipment. That theory, though, has long-since been debunked.

So what’s the next step in eradicating this ridiculous rule? The FAA has commissioned a Rulemaking Committee to take a look at it, and they’re expected to deliver their findings this summer. But McCaskill says she’s still pushing for legislation.

  • Aren’t the communication signals from the plane can ruin your device or your device can interfare with the crucial plane signals?

    • not unless the planes frequency is the same as the one your phone/tablet uses. It would be stupid if it did.

    • Kaptivator

      short answer..No

    • Kurt

      long answer..Noooo

  • Its been tested, by Mythbusters as well as many others, that electronics don’t pose much, if any, disturbances to airplane equipment.

    This has been debunked, as said above, and as such is highly improbable that anything could happen.

    (I blame Sheldon for my use of big sciency words)

  • JerseyD

    During take off I think it’s more about having an unsecured object in your hand or lap that could cause an injury. The radio interference is a non issue. Still a dumb law.

  • Mike

    Some electronic devices do put off wide-band interference that kills a GPS signal. It’s a major issue with the image processor in the GoPro Hero 3. Put it within a few feet of any GPS, and you won’t get a lock. I agree most devices should be allowed, but some seemingly harmless devices do cause major issues.

    • Kurt

      What pilot is looking at the GPS when taking off?

  • mdgcat

    This rule isn’t about electronic interference but potential projectile during takeoffs and landing. Plane changes speed and direction pretty rapidly especially during the accent/decent phases. As a private pilot, I can assure you that objects held by hand can be ripped out pretty quickly by sudden change of “G’s.”

    This law might pass. But as soon as one iPad gets flown about during takeoff and hits someone in the head and causes injury, the ensuing lawsuit will revoke this rule.

    • So why am I allowed to hold a hardcover book during takeoff?

      • mdgcat

        There has be a balance approach to safety. Yes, it will be much safer if everything is tied down but it will make flying even more uncomfortable than it is.

        So you have to draw a line. A higher density object has more potential for destruction. A book, which is malleable and have questionable “flight” characteristics, is less dense than its electronic counterparts. Most electronics carried by passengers are small but very dense and make for a pretty good projectile candidate. Just like a bullet.

        I much prefer getting hit by a book than an iPhone.

    • Kurt

      there is no “sudden” change in G’s. It’s gradual and expected (though not for everyone as we have many people who don’t pay attention to their surroundings)

  • I can understand iPhones (and other cellphones) but that’s what AIRPLANE MODE is for! If we can put our iPhones in airplane mode in flight, we can most definitely keep them on (in airplane mode) during take off. It is silly. But JerseyD does have a point about an unsecured object during take off.

  • I think it all started because if people not paying attention during the pre-flight skit. When mobile phones came out and people started to have them, the airlines panicked and made people put them away. They never really had a good reason and they never thought about changing the rule.

    • Kurt

      This is what I always thought. I wonder if we are correct.

  • Usama Ahmad

    I can’t believe you guys can’t go without your i pads for a few minutes :/

  • I look out the window during takeoff and landing so this isnt a problem for me

    • Kurt

      I close my eyes and sleep.

  • Agree with senator Claire McCaskill, when pilots can use tablets than passengers should also be allowed use electronic items.