I’ve always assumed that the requirement to turn off all electronic devices prior to takeoff (and landing), and not to transmit signals inflight, was silly and not based in science. That perhaps if you could pick up cell signals it would be problematic for your providers, hopping around as you are. But that the median electronic device carried by the average business traveler couldn’t possibly interfere with an aircraft’s navigation systems. But as with so many rules, once implemented they’re hard to dislodge.
But I know nothing of the science of these things, and I know little of aircraft systems, so I don’t pontificate (or at least I try to shut my mouth about things I actually don’t know anything about, more or less).
I was most surprised to read this from Through the Lens, a blogging flight attendant:
Did you know that for my little aircraft, when a passenger texts or emails someone on a blackberry, an error message comes up on the screen in the cockpit. I have had the pilots call me right before and right after takeoff to do a walk through to try and find the blackberry that is still on.
Can this be right?
She goes on to justify the total ban on electronics by suggesting it isn’t possible to sort out in the hurry to do all the things required prior to takeoff which devices are safe and which are not. And I’ll be the first to agree that flight attendants are asked to do quite a bit, some for good reason and some for less good reasons. And asking them to ascertain the technical differences between various types of signal-emitting devices probably wouldn’t be a good idea (kinda like asking TSA to understand the chemical properties of batteries, though I have far more respect for flight attendants).
Now, I’m way out of my depths to begin speculating about solutions when I dont’ understand the underlying basis of concern. But certainly if it’s true that there are some devices that would be known as problems and many common devices that wouldn’t be then an easy process could be established to determine which is which. Perhaps companies building devices that are ok to ue inflight could voluntarily adopt a standard ‘green light on top’ that would exempt it from the rule? That particular strategy may not be the answer but surely we could come up with something that would allow me to continue to read off an electronic device while sitting in the penalty box at O’Hare…
Do any of y’all know whether problems really could ensure (and why or why not) from electronic devices below 10,000 feet? Could they really interfere with tower communications, for instance?