Gadgets on Airplanes

The Federal Aviation Administration is now allowing airline passengers to use their electronic devices to play games, read, work, listen to music and even watch movies. However, they are still not allowed to talk on their cell phones devices.

With tech gadget travel has become commonplace with most people carrying cell phones, smartphones or mobile devices, there are still laws in place that prevent the full operation of these devices in certain situations. The most prominent example is their use on commercial passenger aircraft.

Recently, an industrial advisory committee that was created by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) recommended that those with cellular devices be granted permission to be used on such aircraft. Given the sheer numbers of such mobile devices, this move has been long in the making.

Despite mounting pressure, the use of in-flight cellphone calls will still be prohibited by the Federal Communication Commission (FCC). The reasoning is based on concerns that cell and smartphones on passenger planes flying at hundreds of miles per hour could interfere with the cellular network that connects these planes to control towers. Such interference could cause a breakdown in communication and lead to a dangerous situation.

However, critics of this policy are gaining more steam as prominent Senators such as Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., have stated publicly that there are no valid safety reasons for prohibiting their use on public aircraft. Another concern is that such devices have now become so small that actually enforcing the rules and regulations are even more problematic. Studies have indicated that roughly a third of passengers for get to turn off their devices before takeoff.

The restrictions to passengers using electronic devices on airliners go back to 1966 when reports of interference with navigation and communications equipment by FM radios that was active at the time. Today, passenger planes are far more reliant on electrical and navigation systems where interference could greatly affect their performance and put the planes in danger. However, the FAA has approved of Wi-Fi use when planes are at cruising altitudes as such interference at those levels apparently is not perceived as a threat.

Part of this is because many of today’s mobile and tech gadget travel devices transmit at a significantly lower power than before, creating less potential for interference. Devices such as E-readers for example emit very little in terms of transmitting potentially interfering signals. However, such signals increase in intensity when these devices are either transmitting or downloading data. Companies such as have been pressing for relaxed standards as well, demonstrating in 2011 with a plane full of Kindle E-Readers that they produced no discernible interference during the flight.

Most airline companies will qualify under new regulations that allow for greater use of tech gadget travel aboard their passenger aircraft. However, pilots will have discretion to have such devices turned off during severe weather or low visibility situations. This is because potential interference is more likely under those conditions.

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