Forums | Reviews | Search | Full Version

FAA to take a 'fresh look' at electronics ban

It's not often we get to cover industry news here on webOS Nation, mostly because webOS is currently somewhat detached from the industry. Write about the carriers and their never-ending quest to take more of your money in exchange for less utility? No need, none of them really sell webOS devices anymore. How about the legal wrangling over patents? Nobody's bothered Palm or HP over that. So we sit on the sidelines, tossing popcorn into our open mouths, reminiscing about what it used to be like. What's this streaking by overhead? An airplane, it would seem, the kind that we're always so frustrated being inside and having to switch off all of our gadgets (for this blogger, the trip to CES included one laptop, two cameras, four phones (two active), and a TouchPad) so the plane can depart from and return to the ground.

The FAA - the Federal Aviation Administration, for the uninitiated, mandates that airline passengers turn off their electronic gizmos when the plane is (a) not parked at the terminal, and (b) below 10,000 feet. The reasoning being that interference from radios, chips, and the like could interfere with sensitive electronics throughout the plane that are used to keep our modern flying machines safely in the air instead of nose-first in the nearest mountainside.

I'll be honest, there are times I've forgotten to turn off a gadget or two (for my flight out to CES I failed to turn off both my TouchPad and laptop - both were in standby), and not a single time has that resulted in a catastrophic meeting with the ground, unintended course corrections, or spinning dials in the cockpit. That said, there are documented cases of devices causing interference, and from a physics standpoint it seems plausible - especially when you consider that the sensors and doodads are located throughout the plane and not up front with the pilots.

Even so, the ban and the occasionally humorous news surrounding it have drawn the ire of enough flyers that the FAA is reevaluating their position. So, with tens of millions of tablets and e-readers and hundreds of millions of smartphones out there, the FAA is going to test again our favorite electronic devices to see if they really are capable of knocking planes out of the sky. And if they're not, well, maybe you'll get to leave that TouchPad or laptop turned on during take-off and landing. But if there's the slightest risk, we think we'd rather err on the side of caution and just do as the nice flight attendant says.