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The New Airplane Mode?

Summer isn’t even over and this morning I found myself booking a flight home to spend Christmas in Ohio with my family. Last Christmas, I ended up flying home during the only poor weather we had all winter (just my luck). This caused my plane to taxi on the runway for an extremely miserable half hour of crying babies and grumbling adults. To add to my frustration, I couldn’t even entertain myself reading from my Nook. Quoting the rightfully grumpy stewardess, ” all electronics must still remain off and stowed away until after takeoff.”

In a society where none of us are ever an arm’s length away from technology, why is this still a policy? Do we not have the technology for me to drown out the sounds of that screaming baby with my iPod during takeoff without disturbing the cockpit’s signals? Apparently the F.A.A. had the same questions. The agency has started a review of its policies regarding electronic devices during flight, including takeoff and landing. This fall a selected group of mobile and aircraft-manufacturing industries, pilots, airlines, and passenger associations will begin testing these issues and report back in six months.

Their mission:

  • Re-examine interference our electronic devices might have on critical radio frequencies used by the flight crew.
  • Explore a certification mechanism for new airplane designs that addresses radio frequency emissions from devices.
  • Establish concrete red lines about when electronic devices may be used without compromising safety.

To my great relief, the F.A.A. is not considering lifting the prohibition on the use of cellphones during flight. I will gladly take the screaming baby over the annoyance of someone talking on their phone in the seat next to me for the entire flight. Wouldn’t you agree?

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