Books and calculators worse than e-readers on takeoff?

Another story has surfaced about e-readers and electronic devices on plane takeoffs. We had two stories on this before, one last December and one a few weeks ago. The FAA is still getting heat about it. As well they should. This article notes there are no reasons that stand up to scrutiny.

F.A.A. Rules Make Electronic Devices on Planes Hazardous – NYTimes.com.

Dealing with the F.A.A. on this topic is like arguing with a stubborn teenager. The agency has no proof that electronic devices can harm a plane’s avionics, but it still perpetuates such claims, spreading irrational fear among millions of fliers.

A year ago, when I first asked Les Dorr, a spokesman for the F.A.A., why the rule existed, he said the agency was being cautious because there was no proof that device use was completely safe. He also said it was because passengers needed to pay attention during takeoff.

When I asked why I can read a printed book but not a digital one, the agency changed its reasoning. I was told by another F.A.A. representative that it was because an iPad or Kindle could put out enough electromagnetic emissions to disrupt the flight. Yet a few weeks later, the F.A.A. proudly announced that pilots could now use iPads in the cockpit instead of paper flight manuals.

The F.A.A. then told me that “two iPads are very different than 200.” But experts at EMT Labs, an independent testing facility in Mountain View, Calif., say there is no difference in radio output between two iPads and 200. “Electromagnetic energy doesn’t add up like that,” said Kevin Bothmann, the EMT Labs testing manager.

It certainly does look like this rule is under scrutiny. If there is a good reason for it, then that’s fine but the scientific evidence and even common sense isn’t holding up to ban these devices. Excuses aren’t cutting it. Free my e-reader!

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  3 comments for “Books and calculators worse than e-readers on takeoff?

  1. December 30, 2012 at 7:40 PM

    Empirically, there must be hundreds of millions of ‘non-events’ where Blackberry, phones, iPads & iPods have flown while on & transmitting, yet at one flight a day it would take 20,000 years to be in a crash on a commercial flight…

  2. Robert
    December 31, 2012 at 6:32 AM

    I can see an argument being made for having a relatively heavy object (iPad) being loose in the fuselage during a crash, so it makes sense to stow them during takeoff and landing.

    The electronic interference argument is silly, and frankly any aircraft that was susceptible to such minuscule electrical fields should not be in the air!

    I believe the Mythbusters have addressed this and the conclusion was that they (the airlines) could not get insurance cover because each individual device (iPad, e-reader, phone) needs its own safety certification and thats just not going to happen.

  3. One Eyed Jack
    December 31, 2012 at 7:57 AM

    The signal from a cell phone tower is much stronger than the signal from a phone or any other wireless device. How does the FAA rationalized that wireless devices are a greater hazard than the continuous operation of hundreds of thousands of these towers?

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