The FAA is Finally Telling Everyone What You Already Knew

If there were ever a law broken more often than “Don’t drink until you’re 21,” it has to be “Turn off all electronic devices during the flight.”

I’ll be the first one to admit that I keep all of my gadgets on every second I’m in the air. And as shown in a recent survey, it seems that I’m not alone: Four out of every 10 U.S. air passengers act the same way.

It’s not that I think it’s cool to break rules. On the contrary, I’m all in for safety precautions. My seat belt is always fastened, I make sure my phone is switched into airplane mode, and I’ve never been ignorant enough to attempt a call during a flight. But safety precautions have to be reasonable, and they have to be validated. Sure, everyone knows that personal electronic devices (PEDs) produce EMI (electromagnetic interference), and that they can interfere with aircraft communication and navigation systems. But it’s 2013, and I have a hard time believing that an iPod or a Kindle that isn’t connected to cellular data or a Wi-Fi network can interfere with a plane enough to cause harm. If all PEDs are so dangerous, why are electronic shavers allowed during flights?

And it seems like the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) agrees with me. This week, The New York Times reports, an FAA panel will meet to complete its recommendations to allow “reading eBooks or other publications, listening to podcasts, and watching videos” during flights. And while the ban on using Wi-Fi and cellular data is still expected to remain in place, there is no mention of the need to turn off cellphones entirely. According to aviation experts, today’s most popular devices use so little power that they are unable to interfere with a plane’s aeronautics.

But before we jump to a conclusion and accuse all airline companies of being liars, we need to understand where they are coming from. Customer safety is the first priority in air travel. After all, we, the passengers, are essentially entrusting our lives to someone else whenever we fly. And with safety, there can be no errors. Even the smallest of risks has to be avoided. That’s why they have to keep telling us that all our PEDs are threats to safety.

But with these new studies and FAA decisions, airline companies won’t have to play it so safe anymore. Because now we know that the kid who’s playing his Nintendo 3DS in the 26th row (with the Wi-Fi setting turned off, of course) won’t endanger everyone on the plane.

The truth is out.

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Jerry Feng

Trojan at the University of Southern California. I have opinions on everything. Follow me on Twitter @Fenglosophy.

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