It's been pretty clear for quite some time that there's no real safety reason why electronics are barred during takeoff and landing on airplanes. Furthermore, there's no legitimate technological reason for not allowing mobile phones on planes either -- that one's more
just about keeping other passengers from going into a rage at having to hear others' half-conversations
. However, it seems that more and more people are getting annoyed that they can't use their snazzy new ebooks or tablet computers (not just iPads, mind you) on airplane take-off and landings. Nick Bilton, over at the NY Times, asked the FAA what was up with that, and they admitted that they're taking "a fresh look" at those devices
and whether or not they should be allowed to be used at those times. Of course, as he notes, this might just lead to a bunch of bureaucratic red tape -- including every possible device having to go through significant testing:
Abby Lunardini, vice president of corporate communications at Virgin America, explained that the current guidelines require that an airline must test each version of a single device before it can be approved by the F.A.A. For example, if the airline wanted to get approval for the iPad, it would have to test the first iPad, iPad 2 and the new iPad, each on a separate flight, with no passengers on the plane.
It would have to do the same for every version of the Kindle. It would have to do it for every different model of plane in its fleet. And American, JetBlue, United, Air Wisconsin, etc., would have to do the same thing. (No wonder the F.A.A. is keeping smartphones off the table since there are easily several hundred different models on the market.)
Ms. Lunardini added that Virgin America would like to perform these tests, but the current guidelines make it “prohibitively expensive, especially for an airline with a relatively small fleet that is always in the air on commercial flights like ours.”
But, hopefully, a better, more efficient process can be found, and people will actually be able to use these devices on airplanes that aren't just over 10,000 feet...