FAA recommends allowing more iPad use in flight

“The days of keeping the iPad or Kindle off while a commercial flight is under 10,000 feet could end if U.S. aviation authorities heed an advisory panel,” Todd Shields reports for Bloomberg. “Airline passengers should be allowed to read e-books, send e-mail and browse websites throughout flights of Wi-Fi equipped planes, including during takeoff and landing, an advisory committee to the Federal Aviation Administration has concluded, a person familiar with panel’s work said today.”

“Mobile-phone calls and text messages would remain forbidden. They are separately banned over concerns the signals may interfere with ground networks,” Shields reports. “Broader use of on-board electronics would help Gogo Inc., based in Itasca, Illinois, which says it has 82 percent of the inflight Wi-Fi service market in North America, and Qualcomm Inc., which won preliminary regulatory clearance in May for an air-to-ground broadband service. Gogo’s revenue comes from connection and usage charges, and the relaxed rules would allow passengers to use Wi-Fi services longer.”

Shields reports, “The FAA now prohibits use of personal electronic devices while a plane is below 10,000 feet, with the exception of portable recorders, hearing aids, heart pacemakers and electric shavers. The restrictions are intended to prevent interference with flight controls. More access to gadgets makes for happier, calmer passengers, Henry Harteveldt, a San Francisco-based travel analyst with Hudson Crossing LLC, said in an interview. ‘The more distracted we are for work or entertainment, the less focused we are on the fact that legroom has shrunk, the amenities have disappeared,’ Harteveldt said.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: What about iPad Wi-Fi + Cellular models which use cellular connections when Wi-Fi is not available? We ask because we’ve never witnessed more than one other user besides ourselves per flight put their iPad Wi-Fi + Cellular into Airplane Mode before takeoff and we do take pains to observe how people are using their iPads, naturally.

Surely the FAA must know about this issue which leads us to conclude that cellular signals are really not an issue during takeoff and landing. They just want passengers’ attention focused on their mandated safety show, most likely.

Related articles:
U.S. FAA to finally relax rules for gadgets in flight – June 21, 2013
Senate Democrat proposes bill to allow iPad, iPod use from takeoff to landing – March 8, 2013
American Airlines first commercial carrier with FAA approval to use Apple iPads in all phases of flight – September 11, 2012
FAA to study use of iPads, iPhone on airplanes during entire flight – August 28, 2012
F.A.A. taking ‘fresh look’ at passenger use of iPad, devices use during takeoff and landing – March 19, 2012


  1. The Flight attendants just don’t have the time or knowledge to differentiate between the many types of devices. For the sake efficiency, they have to treat every device as the same. (whether the reason is bogus or not)

  2. Another company lobby trying get their way,…. Take off and landings are the most critical parts of a flight. It’s obvious this is for Gogo’s profits. Flying has become a third world experience, Now it’s become as uncivilised as taking a bus in rural Central America. When i started flying for business people could smoke, everyone wore business attire and were quiet and considerate and the flight attendants were kind, good looking, served the finest TV dinners included with the flight and they were called stewardesses.
    So why not,… Although I would not want to be on a plane that had a hard landing with five dozen airborne iPads flying towards the front of the aircraft!

  3. The problem with cellular signals (GSM, 3G, LTE), is not for the plane, but for the ground-based network: they are designed for terminals moving at lower speeds (car/trucks, not much over 200km/h). The radio protocols use timing algorithms to handover terminals from one base antenna to the next one. At higher speeds they don’t work properly, so cellphones/ipads connected to 3G in a plane will have a bad impact in the cell network. One or two terminals may not be too bad, but if everybody does, it will be a big mess!

    1. Another problem is that cell based products will ramp up transmit power when they lose contact with a tower. I personally don’t really want to be sitting in a metal tube with 200+ cell phones all at full power searching for a signal.

    2. Actually, it’s not the handoff that’s the problem, nor is it the ramp-up of transmit power.

      The first problem is that cells are designed for ground traffic, and the line-of-sight signals that one would receive from ground traffic. Cellular units in aircraft naturally activate many cells simultaneously, and the cellular system can’t decide which cell should handle the call. Depending on the system, the call either gets rejected or handed off randomly; in any case, it uses far more resources than the system is designed for.

      As for the power issue, most hand-held cell phones emit at maximum 0.5 watts, which even at those frequencies is simply not significant, biologically speaking.

  4. Many airlines are using iPads to replace manuals and approach charts. While I’m sure that they are in airplane mode, it’s obvious that their use does not harm the operation of the aircraft.

    1. One iPad in a controlled configuration in the hands of a trained employee is probably a good thing. 300+ electronic gadgets of unknown configuration operated by inconsiderate, self-centered people is nearly chaos.

      It’s a bad enough environment being crammed into an aluminum can now, who wants to listen to everyone else gabbing endlessly through an entire flight — or, almost as bad, endure a plane full of plugged-in zombies to whom stewards must physically engage in order to communicate with them?

  5. If this article is correct and there’s an exception for “personal recorders” why are they such creeps if you are listening to an iPod? I’ve never heard of such an exception.

  6. Flight attendants are some of the biggest violators. It is rare that I’m on a flight and I don’t see a cabin crew member using a cellphone during takeoff and landing.

Reader Feedback

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.