FAA to study use of iPads, iPhone on airplanes during entire flight

“It’s going to be a while before airline passengers can use iPads and other electronic devices during the whole flight,” The Associated Press reports.

“The Federal Aviation Administration said Monday that it is starting a process to study the issue, with a timeline that means it will take at least until March 2013 for a recommendation – and maybe longer for action,” AP reports. “Smartphones and tablet computers are common in the passenger cabin, and pilots are using iPads in the cockpit. But passengers have to shut off electronic devices when the plane is below 10,000 feet because of worries that signals emitted by the devices might interfere with electronics in the cockpit.”

AP reports, “The FAA will form a committee this fall to study the issue for six months and then make recommendations. The FAA often uses such Aviation Rulemaking Committees when it is considering changes, and their deliberations often last months, sometimes years… The FAA said allowing cellphone use during flights isn’t under consideration. FAA spokeswoman Brie Sachse said the members of the new committee have not yet been chosen. She declined to say why the process is taking so long.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: The expeditiousness of government is matched only by molasses flowing uphill.

As we wrote back in March: It’s a load-of-crap rule, as anyone who’s ever flown knows. On any given flight, multiple people with iOS and other devices never turn them off (likely, some of these people don’t even know how to really turn their devices off) or never even put them to sleep. They certainly don’t put them into “Airplane Mode,” either. Their Wi-Fi is on all flight long and most of the time there are at least three personal hotspots bouncing all throughout the plane, too. The fact is – we see it almost every flight – some people simply hide them from the flight attendants and continue to use them during takeoff and/or landing and, guess what, we’re still here.

Related article:
F.A.A. taking ‘fresh look’ at passenger use of iPad, devices use during takeoff and landing – March 19, 2012


  1. I believe MDN has done extensive studies in aviation to think they can pull off a comment like that. I am in the aviation industry and have for many years. Flying is all about safety and regulations, if something can cause harm in 1 out of 1,000 flights (just a random number) than it should be regulated until proven different.

    There’s hundreds of thousands of flights a year and just one aircraft down in the year do to cellphone or other electronic usage is not worth losing those lives. I understand MDN usually has very childish points of view but thinking that putting people’s lives on the line is a acceptable is a new low. But by all means, just rent a small Cessna and crash yourself into a desert. We won’t be missing comments like that anyways 🙂

    1. “This group will include people from mobile technology companies, airplane makers, pilots and flight attendants, airlines, and passenger associations. The FAA will also ask for public input.”

      Perhaps MDN should be added to the list. Obviously with all of their inflight testing, they are an authority on the subject.

    2. I don’t think MDN was suggesting that 1 in a 1000 is acceptable. Let’s say there are 50,000 flights per day in the US. the iPhone has been out since 2007, so let’s say that by 2009 most flights had at least one sleepless iPhone aboard. That’s 18,000,000 flights with none brought down by the iPhone. I think MDN’s take suggests that it is not likely that the FAA’s six months of tests can meaningfully improve on these real world results of 18 million to 0.

    3. So how come the FAA have mandated the use of iPads in the cockpit? It’s the same crap that hospitals put out saying that mobiles cause interference with medical equipment despite all the porters carrying and using UHF radios that pump out a lot more power than your average cellphone. Hospitals do it because they have contracts with companies that provide bedside telephony and entertainment systems.

      Also the same as the banning of using mobile phones at petrol station for fear of causing explosions: that particular myth has long been debunked. It’s about time the FAA, CAA et al moved into the 21st century!


      1. It’s obviously not iPads they’re worried about, it’s cheap pos samsung products that will take the flight down.

        In all seriousness, there are thousands of devices out there – I doubt they’re worried about the top of the line stuff, but what about that $2 hunk of junk next to you with no shielding…

        What they should do is find out REALLY what kind of frequencies have the potential to mess with the flight, and put in a sensor to let them know if there is a problem on board.

        …but I know about as much as MDN about this crap, so don’t listen to me…

    4. Iambeleaguered,
      People are going to use their phones no mater what you say.
      See MDN take.

      And if this really is a dangerous situation then,
      See my take above.

      1. Please feel free to donate the trillions of dollars needed to upgrade the airline industry to new Boeing’s and Airbuses equipped with fuselage shielding against comms interference.

    5. Just see what Michael Lindley and Rex wrote, they are the only two who know the reasons and these reasons are clear. Not everyone traveling is an experienced traveler and for sure not sensible.

  2. The truth is, if your are playing your electronic device, you may not get out of the plane as fast. The whole (interfere with instrument ) thing is a big, fat lie. I RARELY turn my phone off ans so far, no issues. They just lie.

  3. Why people just can’t refrain from using electronic devices when under 10,000 feet is beyond me. If I see someone doing it on a flight you can bet your *** i’m going to say something.

  4. I have no doubt that iPads and even iPhones would be fine, my worry is all the (mainly Chinese) knockoffs that never pass any FCC certification and radiate all over the place.

    Can cabin staff really check each one in detail?

    As for the “better planes” the problem is that adding more shielding – to account for misbehaving devices – to the kms of cable already on the plane would add a lot of weight, which in turn means more fuel, less space and more expensive tickets.

  5. The ban on portable electronics is not about interfering with instrumentation or radios, it’s about interfering with voice communications. The vast majority of aviation incidents occur on the ground while parked, during taxi, or while taking off/landing. The current rules are there to keep the passengers able to hear the verbal instructions of flight attendants the first time they are uttered. In an emergency, every second counts. I’m in favor of reducing the ban to 5,000 feet instead of 10,000 feet it is currently at. If nothing else, clarifying the reason behind the ban in order to keep people from saying “I keep my phone on all the time and we never crash” will be welcome.

  6. “The expeditiousness of government is matched only by molasses flowing uphill.”

    How cynical of you, MDN. Perhaps you don’t personally know any pilots, but i’m here to tell you that consumer mobile devices DO adversely affect airplane avionics and communications systems. Educate thyself:


    It’s not the FAA that is slow here, it’s the economic reality of testing and retrofitting or replacing airplane electronics flying in the sky now. You want all the airlines to ditch their current equipment in favor of some new avionics package (let’s assume it’s available already) that supports the latest whim of consumer electronics, plus ensure that it works worldwide for all foreseeable consumer junk? And you want airlines to re-train their crews to use the new equipment immediately? Not gonna happen overnight, even if there was no FAA. In-flight WiFi is being implemented only with great expense and with great coordinated effort.

    So be prepared to wait, and be glad that your butt is protected by robust airplane industry practices which, yes, includes real federal oversight (unlike unscrupulous banking and mortgage industries, for example). If you want to fly in “freedom”, i invite you to take an airplane trip in Africa, where the difference in regulatory oversight will be obvious to you.

    Unlike most industries, first-world air carriers actually do take your safety seriously — more seriously than impatient selfish fanboy whiners currently do.

    1. The problem many of us have is that the FAA allows iPads in cockpits, where it is much more likely that such devices could interfere with avionics… if, in fact, they are capable of doing so.

      As for the notion that “first-world air carriers actually do take your safety seriously”, in the immediate post-911 environment, it was the prominent head of a “first-world air carrier” who told flyers that arriving at their destination safely was the responsibility of the government, not the airlines.

      What a crock of sh*t.

      1. A couple points:

        1)The iPad models allowed in the cockpit are Wi-Fi only (airlines that I know of). Only one band of frequencies possible to cause interference, instead of also needing to worry about cellular radios as well.

        2)The iPads are the only electronic flight bags allowed in the cockpit because it is possible for the FAA to test an individual model on many aircraft and establish it does not cause a problem. That’s not possible to do for every phone and tablet on the market that a customer may be able to buy.

        3) Believe it or not, we actually use them in airplane mode. The way they are used they don’t need internet access in the cockpit. Wx and NOTAMs are all updated in the terminal before the pilots board.

        4) Pilots using an iPad emitting no radio signals to run checklists and the like are less burdened than with ink and paper kneeboards because there’s no pages to flip (scrolling is easier than making sure you are flipping a single page). And as pilots are not being distracted by the iPads, not using headphones, and would be the ones giving orders in an emergency, it makes sense that they are allowed to have them powered on.

  7. A significant factor in the rule as I’ve been told by those who supposedly know is that they are cooperating with the mobile carriers. From a few hundred to a few thousand feet, mobile phones will activate connections using all the cell towers in sight of the plane, tying up significant amounts of bandwidth.

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