FAA Says Some Electronics Can Now Be Used Throughout Your Flight

Flickr/Jetstar

If you’re tired of shutting off your gadgets during take off and landing (or you’re one of those passengers who surreptitiously leaves them on) then get ready for some good news. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced today that it is loosening restrictions on the use of electronics in-flight, meaning some devices can now be used the entire time you’re on the plane.

Under the changes, travelers will be able to use e-readers, play games, and watch videos on their portable devices throughout their journey. Bluetooth devices like wireless keyboards can also be used on flights. Cell phones will still face some restrictions, with passengers required to keep them in airplane mode. And as is currently the case, no phone calls will be allowed at any time onboard. The FAA says passengers may be asked to stow some heavier devices during takeoff and landing for safety reasons, but in general, the new rules reflect much more freedom for fliers.The FAA says it came to the decision after receiving input from pilots, electronics manufacturers, and passengers, and that the new rules balance safety with travelers’ increasing appetite to use electronics during flights.

The new rules won’t necessarily apply immediately, and exactly how they’ll be implemented will probably differ from one airline to the next. But the FAA believes most carriers will have the changes in place by the end of the year.

Cockpit Chronicles: A Landing Fit For A King

Harriet Baskas from StuckatTheAirport.com asked a few of us to identify the “scariest airports” as seen through the eyes of pilots. I gave her a list of “challenging” airports instead. I told her about New York’s LaGuardia and Washington, D.C.’s Reagan airports but I wondered if I should have mentioned Eek or Nightmute, two of my personal favorites from flying in Alaska, that attract only a few local travelers.

In the end, LaGuardia, Reagan and Orange County, in Santa Ana, California, made the cut in her article. I couldn’t really disagree with the choices. All three are short runways and each one has at least one unique departure or arrival procedure that requires a bit of piloting skill.

But do pilots worry, or get scared when flying into these places? I haven’t seen any evidence to support that. Do we feel some pressure? Sure.

A recent LaGuardia landing is a good example. Since finishing my initial operating experience (IOE) as a new captain on the MD-80, I hadn’t flown into LaGuardia for over a month. I managed to get two or three landings there with the instructor giving me the IOE training, but most of my subsequent trips had been out of Newark, another airport that’s part of my home base.

Finally, after finishing a three-day trip with layovers in Cleveland and Albuquerque, I’d get my first landing back at the USS LaGuardia. We joke about its short length, but it really isn’t much worse than the shortest runway in Boston, Chicago or San Diego. And as a co-pilot, I had flown into LGA many times. So why the pressure?

It might come as a surprise to some, but most pilots don’t constantly think about the responsibility that comes with flying a planeload of passengers while they’re flying. I suppose it’s because, in a selfish way, a passenger’s safety is no more important than my own, and this tends to be enough to ensure that the airplane and its occupants are flown in a safe way.

But I do have one recurring thought that goes through my mind during the more challenging times. Because of the hundreds of accident reports we’ve read that never fail to leave an impression, a little voice in my head can often be heard critiquing every decision or action.

And especially when things begin to go wrong on a flight, either mechanically, or because of weather or poor decision-making, that little voice in your head begins to craft your own accident report. And when you start hearing excerpts in your head, such as “captain elected to take off from the shorter, ice-covered runway to save time as the flight had been delayed” you tend to step back and re-think your decisions.

During my first LaGuardia landing as a captain, these type of thoughts were going through my head. Nothing was out of the ordinary – the weather was clear and while it was dark, the visibility was excellent.

But this time, it wasn’t an NTSB accident report that I was hearing; it was a newspaper headline because that night I had royalty aboard the flight.Jerry Lewis was flying in seat 2F. I could already hear not only the accident report, but the newspaper headlines. “The King of Comedy, involved in airline accident – new captain making his first landing into short New York runway.”

A double-blink and a glance over at my co-pilot, Mark, quickly brought me back into the present situation. I had briefed Mark on the turn-off point I intended to use, the approach we’d be flying, and the final flaps we’d select (all of them, or 40 degrees). In my mind the touchdown point was visualized, and we were now slowed to our approach speed. Really, what could go wrong?

“Lewis, who was returning from a performance in Las Vegas, had connected in Chicago for the doomed flight back to LaGuardia.”

Oh, stop it. This is just another landing. OK, so yes, there was a bit of a crosswind at 14 knots, but that’s nothing we haven’t seen before.

“50, 40, 30, 20, 10 …” The electronic radio altimeter called out as we crossed over from water to runway, punctuated by a nice ‘thunk.’ It wasn’t a roll-it-on-greaser, but the landing was on speed and right at the touchdown point at about 1,000 feet down the 7,000-foot runway, leaving more than a mile to slow down smoothly.

After the flight, I smiled at how easy it was to think up dreadful headlines on the approach, which was especially ironic, since I struggle to put a title on my “Cockpit Chronicles” posts for Gadling.

As we were finishing up the parking checklist, Mr. Lewis poked his head inside the door and said, “Thanks for the great flight, guys.”

Some landings you’ll never forget, and this was just one of them.

[Photo credit: Kent Wien]

Related: Kent’s favorite and least favorite runways.

Cockpit Chronicles” takes you along on some of Kent’s trips as a captain on the MD-80 based in New York. Have any questions for Kent? Check out the “Cockpit Chronicles” Facebook page or follow Kent on Twitter @veryjr.

Cockpit view of night landing in Los Angeles

Landing in any major city at night can be a thrill. The lights down below are enticing and the energy of a city after dark gets your pulse racing. Or, you know, maybe you’re just exhausted and ready to collapse. This video of a plane coming in for a landing at LAX offers amazing views of the many neighborhoods of Los Angeles and the surrounding area (all labeled for our benefit). It’s a view we don’t often get to see (directly from the cockpit of the plane) of a city that’s incredibly spread out.

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Airline Madness: Rude airline staff vs. Having to turn off electronic devices during takeoff & landing

Airline Madness is Gadling’s tournament of airline annoyances. You can catch up on all of the previous tournament action here.

gadling airline madness rude staff electronic devices

Our penultimate first round Airline Madness match-up pits #7 Rude airline staff against #10 Having to turn off electronic devices during takeoff and landing. While we almost expect other passengers to be obnoxious, airline employees work in customer service positions and should conduct themselves accordingly. Yet, short tempers, terse responses and ambivalent tones seem to be the norm when dealing with the folks in uniforms. We’re also infuriated by having to turn off our electronic devices during takeoff and landing despite insufficient evidence to support whether these practices are even necessary.

We have more to say on both of these peeves – and your chance to vote – below.#7 Rude airline staff
What happened to “the customer is always right”? While airline employees don’t need to acquiesce to every obnoxious customer request, they should treat passengers with respect and seek to be calming, helpful members of the travel experience. Sadly, though, too many gate agents, flight attendants and airport staff are short-tempered, ill-mannered and jaded. When customers need help most, they often encounter attitudes that simply exacerbate the problem.

#10 Having to turn off electronic devices during takeoff & landing
As previously mentioned, little-to-no evidence exists that electronic devices actually pose a risk to airplane equipment. This is particularly true for devices that do not have data access or have been switched into airplane mode. Why should we have to turn off our music and put away our Kindles simply because the cabin door has closed (especially when, as is often the case, takeoff is still 30 minutes away)? If you’ve ever been on a flight in which you heard somebody’s cell phone ring and then landed safely, you know that even mobile phone service isn’t interfering with the captain’s ability to control the plane.

Only one of these annoyances will punch its ticket for the second round. Vote for the one that you simply can’t stand and let us know why you feel that way in the comments.
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First round voting ends at 11:59PM EDT on Friday, March 16.

More Airline Madness:
#1 Annoying passengers vs. #16 Disgusting bathrooms
#2 Legroom vs. #15 Inefficient boarding procedures
#3 Lack of free food/prices for food vs. #14 Cold cabin/no blankets
#4 Baggage Fees vs. #13 Obese people who take up two seats
#5 Lack of overhead space vs. Inattentive parents of crying babies
#6 Change fees/no free standby vs. #11 Lack of personal entertainment/charging for entertainment
#8 People who recline their seats vs. #9 People who get mad at people who recline their seats
Hotel Madness: Gadling’s tournament of airline annoyances

Catch up on all the Airline Madness here.

Video: ten terrifying landings, takeoffs and flights

It is pretty safe to say that 99.99% of all flights are completely uneventful, but every now and then you’ll find yourself on a flight from hell. We’ve collected ten videos of poor takeoffs, poor landings and dreadful in-flight turbulence. Just remember – any flight you can walk away from can be considered a successful flight.

In the first video, you’ll see JetBlue flight 292 trying to land with a broken nosewheel. The amazing flight crew managed to land the plane without any real problems. This plane also went down in history as the first where the passengers were able to watch their own plane emergency on live TV thanks to the DirectTV service.

Ecuador, bumpy takeoff.

Aborted landing of a KLM 747 at St.Maarten airport – watch at the plane comes in to land but is faced with an occupied runway.

Watch as the pilot of this Concorde decided the crosswinds are too much for a safe landing. Such an amazing plane, and a real shame she’s no longer with us.

This is the aftermath of some really nasty turbulence on a Kuwait Airways flight. Passengers seem stunned, and the aisle is full of stuff from the overhead bins. Thankfully, most turbulence is limited to being thrown around a bit and almost never results in anything worse.

American Airlines coming in for a landing in Honduras at Tegucigalpa airport.

Same airport, from cockpit view.

Watch this Boeing 747 almost run out of asphalt – and witness the spotters freak out a little when 800,000 lbs of plane flies towards them.

Another awesome clip from St.Maarten airport. The beach at the end of the runway is notoriously dangerous, but that didn’t stop these people from enjoying some sun, sea and sand. Until the jet took off that is…

This is one of those landings where the passengers ask the pilot whether he landed the plane, or if he was shot down.