Tuesday, November 25, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Time to revisit FAA rules on electronic devices?

We are linking here to a New York Times "Bits" technology column in which writer Nick Bolton expresses frustration with federal airline safety rules against using electronic devices during taxi, takeoff and landing. The prohibition of cell phone talking in flight isn't a big part of the column, which it should be because that's where the controversy has always been: How do you keep peace on a closed metal tube called an airliner with your stranger-neighbor yakking throughout the flight. Airline flight attendants are opposed to changing that rule because they don't want to be cops any more than they are now. And yes, electronic devices may disrupt airplane navigational equipment.

Time to revisit FAA rules on electronic devices?

We are linking here to a New York Times "Bits" technology column in which writer Nick Bolton expresses frustration with federal airline safety rules against using electronic devices during taxi, takeoff and landing. The prohibition of cell phone talking in flight isn't a big part of the column, which it should be because that's where the controversy has always been: How do you keep peace on a closed metal tube called an airliner with your stranger-neighbor yakking throughout the flight. Airline flight attendants are opposed to changing that rule because they don't want to be cops any more than they are now. And yes, electronic devices may disrupt airplane navigational equipment.

Bolton's column is mostly about the FAA taking another look at whether there should still be a prohibition on using any electronic device during taxi, takeoff and landing.  So far, so good. Yes, let's find out more. But the column leads with a complaint that he has to buy a stack of old-fashioned print magazines to read on his airplane flights because he's not allowed to use his iPad to read the same material that he could read electronically.

I'm afriad I miss Bolton's point here: He's being deprived of his electronics for about 30 to 45 minutes or so (yes it could be longer if there are takeoff or landing delays) of a six-hour flight? How many of the stack of magazines can you finish in that time period? Speed-readers perhaps need more time, but most people only need to buy one good magazine, or a paperback book, to fill up 45 minutes. Let's hope the FAA really does determine that we can still fly safely with electronics left on during the times that previous research indicated it could pose a safety hazard. In the meantime, here's another idea: Buy a print copy of a newspaper (even Mr. Bolton's) and read that.  

Tell us what you think with a comment.      

Tom Belden
About this blog
Tom Belden has been reporting about Philadelphia International Airport and other air travel subjects for more than 20 years, writing columns for The Inquirer's Travel and Business sections. His reporting (with colleague Craig McCoy) on baggage handling problems in Philadelphia have been credited with helping to improve the system. His previous blog was called Road Warrior. He can reached at tbelden@phillynews.com. Reach Tom at tbelden@phillynews.com.

Tom Belden
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