Hooray! You Can Use Your Gadgets On Flights

This is a victory for the human race.

Boeing 737

Wikimedia Commons

For too long, we have been held back by primitive, superstitious ideas about electronics on airplanes. No more! We are free!

The FAA has announced that they will soon allow passengers to keep their electronics on during all parts of flight, because that will not crash a plane. From the FAA announcement:

Passengers will eventually be able to read e-books, play games, and watch videos on their devices during all phases of flight, with very limited exceptions. Electronic items, books and magazines, must be held or put in the seat back pocket during the actual takeoff and landing roll. Cell phones should be in airplane mode or with cellular service disabled – i.e., no signal bars displayed—and cannot be used for voice communications based on FCC regulations that prohibit any airborne calls using cell phones. If your air carrier provides Wi-Fi service during flight, you may use those services. You can also continue to use short-range Bluetooth accessories, like wireless keyboards.

So why the change of heart? The FAA looked deep inside itself, and realized the answer was there all along:

The PED Aviation Rulemaking Committee (ARC) concluded most commercial airplanes can tolerate radio interference signals from PEDs. In a recent report, they recommended that the FAA provide airlines with new procedures to assess if their airplanes can tolerate radio interference from PEDs. Once an airline verifies the tolerance of its fleet, it can allow passengers to use handheld, lightweight electronic devices – such as tablets, e-readers, and smartphones—at all altitudes. In rare instances of low-visibility, the crew will instruct passengers to turn off their devices during landing. The group also recommended that heavier devices should be safely stowed under seats or in overhead bins during takeoff and landing.

So: yay! Although it's not quite an absolutist decision; there are still some notable gadget restrictions. The airlines will have to prove to the FAA that their planes won't receive interference from gadgets before they can clear them for full-flight use, so when you'll be legally allowed to use your gadgets will still vary by what airline you're flying. Internet use on mobile devices will still be prohibited below 10,000 feet, too, so you'll still have to switch to airplane mode. (Finally, "airplane mode" is an acceptable mode for a flight.) Actually talking on your phone will also remain banned.

But still: progress.