In August of 2012, the Federal Aviation Administration announced that they would be setting up a working group to study the impact portable electronic devices have on flights. We’re nearing the time when that particular committee is set to report their findings, so obviously the conversation about whether or not we should be allowed to use our personal electronics during takeoff and flight has begun to pick up.

Earlier this morning I was flipping through some news channels, and I saw that several different outlets were discussing the implications of being able to use your eReader, or tablet, or your smartphone while the plane is taking off from the tarmac. As it stands right now, once the plane is up off the ground and under 10,000 feet, you’re “not allowed” to use your device. The reasons are many, but it basically boils down to interference: No one wants anything to come in between your particular aircraft’s hardware and electronics, lest something terrible happen.

If you’ve been on a flight, then you’ve gone through the routine. The flight attendants will tell you that it’s time to turn off all your personal devices, which include all those aforementioned devices and plenty of others. Now, if you’ve been on a flight, then you’ve probably seen someone not do that. You’ve probably even done it yourself. Many different devices are equipped with what’s called “airplane mode,” which effectively turns off all those pesky wireless connections. No Wi-Fi. No Bluetooth. No cellular connectivity. So, for all intents and purposes, the belief is that with airplane mode activated, the worry about interference is unfounded.

I’ve been on flights where attendants have told patrons that the device had to be turned off entirely, that having airplane mode turned on wasn’t good enough.

Well, okay then.

Some might consider this to be a non-issue. Those folks would suggest that those are simply the rules, and that we should just follow them. On the other side of the argument, though, and the one that’s certainly been picking up speed over the last few years, is that the rules need to be updated, because there’s simply just so much technology in our lives. Basically, our world has changed, and it’s time for the rules to evolve.

So, let’s just look at it from one side, and then the other. I want to get your opinion on this, as usual, so I want to paint a pretty clear picture for both sides before we get to the end, and before you can add your own text to the brouhaha.

Let’s go beyond “just follow the rules.” On most flights, flight attendants use a large chunk of the time the plane is ascending into the air to talk about the safety regulations all the passengers on board need to know. That’s where the exits are, how your safety belt works and that the bottom seat cushion works as a flotation device, plus other pieces of information. It’s a pretty safe assumption that this is necessary information, just in case of any type of emergency.

Flight attendants would probably like to have your full attention during this part. Even if it’s your 100th flight, or your 1,000th, and especially if it’s your first, knowing the safety information is essential and having a device that steals your attention from the “lesson plan” seems counterproductive, to say the least. I can understand this logic. Even if you’ve just picked up your brand new BlackBerry Z10, or your HTC One or Samsung Galaxy S 4 and you just can’t take your eyes off of it.

On the other end of the spectrum, there’s the simple fact that there’s been electronic devices left on during takeoff and during the landing, and nothing has happened. Indeed, the FAA has said that it does not know of any aviation accidents directly linked to interference from personal electronic devices. Anyone who’s had their phone, tablet, or eReader on during a flight’s ascent, or on the (safe) way down, can attest to that statement from the FAA.

From what I’ve been able to glean through my search on the Internet, it sounds like the ban on electronic devices during takeoff and landing is going to be changed, if not outright lifted. I tend to agree that times have certainly changed, and that we should look at the rules and how they relate to the presence of electronic devices in our lives. If these phones, tablets, and whatever else really don’t cause an issue with interference, then so be it, lift the ban. However, if there is any doubt, do what needs to be done.

I think we can give some room to the takeoff routine, though, right? Let the flight attendants have their time, unchallenged, to go over the safety information on each and every single flight. I know that it’s annoying, and that if you’ve flown more than five times it’s something that “you already know.” But look at it from their perspective, and how many different times they have to go over it every single day. I doubt they like doing it any more than you like hearing it, but it is necessary. You aren’t the only person on the flight, after all.

That’s my two cents, anyway. I want to hear from you now. Do you think that it’s time we lift the ban on electronic devices during takeoff and landing? Or do you believe it is better safe than to be sorry? Would you be willing to keep your device off so that you could watch the safety information presentation, if it meant you could have your device on for the rest of the ascent, and all the way through the landing? Let me know.

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44 Reactions to this post

"Do you think you should be able to use your electronic devices during takeoff and landing?"

Please limit your reaction to 140 characters or use comments for a longer reply :)
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Martyono Sembodo I mostly just put it in airplane mode, but still i don't use it while taking off or landing. It's to respect the air crew that has been politely asking us to do so...
Carl Dale at steven - no!
J Litz Van I don't care either which way. I mean really, does items matter if you turn off your phone, tablet or laptop for 10 minutes or so? Get it together.
Stephen Victor I say we just take a Greyhound and play punch buggy like one big happy family.
Matt Penner "There are millions of videos on YouTube (from mostly aviation enthusiasts) showing takeoffs and landing and other misc. phases of flight. NO CRASHES!" I doubt there would be many videos posted on youtube while the plane is in the process of crashing. And even if there were videos, that doesn't mean airplane mode wasn't selected. Not to say I think cellphone wireless signals would cause crashes to begin with, but your choice 'evidence' is laughable. "I ran across 5 lanes of a city highway during rush hour, 8 times and did NOT GET INJURED. Therefore one cannot get injured doing this! NO INJURY!"
Michael Schneider if a cell phone brings down a plane that's a problem. the plane should be better then a phone
Jeffrey Octubre Andrada If they can do something about it then that would be awesome! It's troublesome to wait for the steward's cue to turn off devices. I'm always on headset when on flight.
Larry Frank Crandall It dose keep things quiet for all on board, so let's keep it off, don't need to hear all those old ladies gripe about it.
Aaron Dean I build the forward section of the photo of the 787 listed. But I don't think it matters as long as it is safe
Dee Ross Ms. Please shut off your book and sit in as rigid a position as possible until we reach cruising altitude.
Jeff Griffith Small, tiny price to pay to ensure nothing goes wrong with the onboard electronics. Jeez, it's not like they're taking away your baseball!
Steven Pereira Are you freaking kidding me? You people can't live without your phone or tablet for ten minutes? Really? I don't care if electronics screw with the aircraft or not. Respect the people who are lifting your ass thousands of feet in the air. They ask you, nicely, to turn off your kit - shut up and shut it off.
Dave Bourque since most Android users have no concept of security, lets just say yes...
Roger Schubert DeOliveira That wasn't my point, I know it wont cause an accident but does it really effect anyones life to have there phone on during take off or landing....w.e the conversation is...it can wait.
Romi Max What is the "flight mode" for? Why turn it off, if there is a mode specifically for a plane.. (Flying away.........)
Dalton Davis i keep mine on all the time! it doesn't cause any problems to the planes
Anthony Bailey The problem is... there is no scientific evidence that using your phone or tablet during takeoff, will cause a crash. Evidenced by the hundreds of thousands of videos posted on YouTube... many of which are from actual PILOTS, and these videos were taken during takeoff or landing.
Brendan Breakdown I dunno. I do anyways..same with everyone else I travel with
Anthony Bailey There are millions of videos on YouTube (from mostly aviation enthusiasts) showing takeoffs and landing and other misc. phases of flight. NO CRASHES! There is an actual KLM pilot who has dozens upon dozens of videos taken from the COCKPIT of Boeing 747s he pilots, and guess what... NO CRASHES! There is absolutely zero scientific evidence that supports using electronic devices during flight, will cause a plane to crash.
Nichson Tiang It may not cause any problems to the plane navigation or electronics system but it wont kill you by turning your device off for 10mins, but if anything goes really wrong, that will be the last 10mins of your life enjoying your beloved device.
Selene Knight They make these things called books...
Haroon Azeem I never turn my device off during flights anyway. Hate following stupid instructions.
Clifton H. Williams II yes.. mythbuster proved it does not cause any problems
Sharon Girod Thank you Roger. Good lord folks. Turn the phone off for a few minutes ....
Jacob Froese 30,000 to 39,000, actually :)
Anthony Evans Jr It DOESNT mess up the mechanics of a plane.
Tim Ropp Yes, I could beat at LEAST 10 angry birds stages in that time
Lindsey Grey I saw on Mythbusters that it doesn't make a difference. But yeah, I don't mind it since it's a precaution.
Justin A Malakhow While these electronic devices likely cause little to no interference with the workings of a plane, why not just err on the side of caution and just turn them off? Take-off and landing are the two most critical parts of flying and they are also the times when the most things can go wrong.
Herbert Salamánca Ramos No, you won't be asked to turn off your electronic devices for no reason. although it's very obvious there are people who take videos during take off an or landing. but still better be safe than sorry ;)
Nichson Tiang I agree. If you are so busy that you cant even stop using your device for 10 minutes...dont bother taking a plane and risk everybody's life. Go get a life first.
Matt Penner People should follow the rules instead of being whiny bitches. Buy a crossword puzzle or something. Well, I look forward to seeing what the mentioned review of the issue comes up with.
Anthony Evans Jr ? because its been proven that the precaution was a bunch of bull. I want a ban on talking on cell phones though. People are so inconsiderate of each other
Ian Baylon Even if you could, where would you get service if you're 10,000 feet off the ground?
Marcos O. Vasquez What does it matter?
Tyler Brewer It's only for a few minutes and it's a safety precaution, why bother?
Mark Moreno As a frequent traveler, I would love this!
Brandon Coffey EXACTLY Roger
Brandon Coffey If it messes with the mechanics of the plane then no.. People will be okay with their phones off for a little while.
Roger Schubert DeOliveira If you cant shut your phone or tablet off for the 4-5 minutes it takes to take off and reach cruising altitude, you need to step away and re-evaluate your life.

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