After years of being told that all electronic devices have to be turned off while taking off and landing during a flight, the FAA have finally decided that Kindles, and other small devices, will not cause a plane crash. The actual ruling states that passengers can use devices like Kindles or tablets, like the iPad, anytime during a flight. The FAA has said that this is allowable if airlines determine that their planes can stand the “interference,” but, cellphones will continue to be banned if they are used to hold a conversation.
According to the FAA, these new rules should begin by the end of this year. The reason that cellphone use will continue to be banned is because rules for their use are set by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
FAA administrator Michael P Huerta said that it would be up to the airlines to adhere to the new ruling. It was acknowledged that a few “rare” exceptions might still preclude the use of iPads, smartphones, mp3 players and tablets in airplane mode. The FAA have stated that it will be up to the airlines to investigate the effects that these have on their flight equipment and then to pass their results on to the organization.
Two airlines, Delta and JetBlue, have already announced that they will be sending their plans for electronic inflight use by passengers to the FAA. Even though this rule has been in effect for a very long time, it is apparent from the alacrity of at least two airlines to adhere to the new guidelines, that the industry is ready to update their inflight restrictions.
The news that the FAA have finally decided that Kindles and similar devices will not cause planes to crash will be welcome news to passengers who use such items to combat boredom while on a long flight. It will also alleviate the tedium of takeoffs and landings.
Some instances where the use of electronic equipment will still be restricted would be in cases of poor visibility where some aircraft’s landing systems could be affected. The FAA administrator pointed out to reporters that in those instances the restrictions would continue to be enforced. Huerta pointed out that the existing ruling about electronic devices was outdated. He added that some of the rules have been in effect for “50 years” and that flight technology has changed quite a lot over that time period.
The FAA have posted the rule change on their website. The organization is following guidelines that were made back on Sept. 30. It was pointed out that passengers would still have to turn off their devices when told to by flight attendants during the preflight briefings on safety. Huerta said that airlines will also have to come up with new guidelines of storing these devices when the aircraft is taking off and landing.
Currently flight attendants cannot really tell if a device is actually in airplane mode during a flight, but, the administrator said that was not an issue. The greatest danger posed by a phone or tablet not being set to airplane mode would be a flat battery for the user. He explained that throughout the flight the device would continually search for a cell connection.
Keeping with the airlines positive reaction to the news about the change Veda Shook, who is the current president of the Association of Flight Attendants, announced that they felt the new ruling was a “welcome” one. She did stress that adherence to the new guidelines should be the same regardless of flight providers. Shook explained that this would avoid confusion for passengers.
There are already differences between airlines with the issue of electronic cigarettes. Air France, for example, do not allow the use of these “faux” smoking materials on any of their flights. Other airlines, however, allow them.
Ms Shook went on to say passengers may believe that the changes would happen immediately but, for the time being, the old guidelines are still in effect. She did say that the airlines would not run from new technology. Shook did stress that they would not rush to accept the new ruling at the expense of passenger safety.
While this news is exciting for American flight providers, the new ruling will not apply to foreign carriers. The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) have stated that they will be analysing the US ruling before making any decisions about their existing policy. A spokesman for the EASA did explain that in Europe the rules are not so stringent on electronic devices. Although there is no current uniformity on compliance as the specific guidelines are the responsibility of each individual airline.
The FAA decision to allow Kindles, MP3 players, tablets, et al, to be used with little restriction is a positive move forward in this age of technological advances. As the administrator from FAA explained avionics have changed since some of these rules were developed. At least now passengers can feel comfortable knowing that the use of electronic devices will not cause a plane crash.
By Michael Smith