Having a smartphone or tablet with me when I travel has been incredibly convenient over the past few years. Not only has it allowed me to stay in contact with friends and family, it has also allowed me to be much more productive while on the road too. That is except for those annoying 20 minutes between the time the airplane door is closed and the point at which we reach a “safe cruising altitude.” During that period of time I’m usually stuck looking at the back of the chair in front of me or paging through the “Skymall” catalog. That could all change soon, however, as the FAA has said that it will investigate the use of electronics in flight and possibly expand the options on what is allowed during takeoff and landing.
According to various reports, a new government-industry group is being formed to study how passengers use their devices in flight and what impact those devices could conceivably have on the aircraft. The group will examine the current technology standards and review the process under which gadgets are tested to determine if any dangers arise by allowing travelers to use their smartphones or tablets throughout the entire flight. Members of the group, which are expected to include representatives of the airline industry, will review the current policy to decide if there is any room for change.
While this is good news for travelers, the FAA is quick to state that there isn’t likely to be a change in its policy towards the use of cellphones for making voice calls. Passengers are currently prohibited from making or receiving calls once the plane door is closed and while the rules may change for how other devices can be used, this ban will probably remain in place.I for one welcome this news. As someone who rarely leaves home without his iPad, I now use that device to meet all kinds of inflight entertainment needs. Not only does it store my music, games and movies, but also books and magazines too. When I can’t use it during a flight, there really isn’t a whole lot for me to do to help pass the time. The fact that many pilots now use Apple’s tablet in the cockpit should be a testament to the safety of the device and the minimal impact it has on electronic equipment aboard the aircraft as well.
Besides, it’s not like all passengers are shutting down their electronics anyway. I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve been sitting next to someone on a plane who continues to send text messages, listen to music or check email, even after the flight attendant has asked them to shut off their device. I was once on an international flight where the guy across the aisle from me kept his smartphone on the entire way, stealthily taking a glance at it every ten minutes or so. What he hoped to find on his screen I have no idea. It wasn’t like he was going to get a phone call or text while over the Atlantic or something.
There is no time frame as to when the group will be formed or how long it will take for them to wrap up their investigation. It can’t come fast enough as far as I’m concerned.