Coming soon to an airliner near you: cell phones, tablets, laptops…all the time. No phone calls just yet, but I suspect that is just around the corner too. This isn’t a done deal just yet, but after years of passengers flouting electronic prohibitions, change is around the corner.
The Federal Aviation Administration is expected to relax the ban on using some types of personal-electronic devices at low altitudes, allowing passengers leeway during taxiing and even takeoffs and landings, according to industry officials and draft recommendations prepared by a high-level advisory panel to the agency.
For fliers, the new rules would likely mean an end to familiar admonitions to turn off and stow all electronic devices. Cellphone calls are expected to remain off limits, however. The draft doesn’t make any recommendations regarding phone use because the FAA didn’t authorize the panel to delve into that particularly controversial area.
I say it is about time. In fact, it shocks me that–
The experts who wrote the draft referred to recent industry research showing that nearly one-third of passengers reported that, at least once, they accidentally left some device on throughout a flight.
Only one third? While people turn of their screens or close their laptops, since the advent of “airplane mode” I cannot recall ever seeing passengers actually power done laptops or mobile devices. Many don’t even bother to put cell phones in non-transmit mode. And perhaps even more egregious, from my first class aisle seat I routinely see flight crews–both pilots and FAs, but particularly pilots–using their electronic devices even when passengers are asked to turn theirs off.
The change will not happen overnight–more tests need to be done and clearance to use electronic devices will vary by aircraft and at the discretion of the captain.
For those planes with limited built-in protections, passengers would be told to power off devices until they are advised it is safe to hit the on switch.
On many other planes, flight attendants would give the green light to use certain electronics from gate to gate, except in rare instances when the captain asks they be turned off because they could interfere with certain types of instrument landings.
And according to the draft report, passengers on the third category of planes would hear the following announcement: “This aircraft tolerates emissions from electrical devices for all phases of flight.”
I look forward to the day we can actually have an argument on whether to have “quiet sections” or “non-cell phone” sections on airplanes. Fifty-year-old regulations prohibiting electronic devices over unfounded fears of electromagnetic interference are ripe for revision. I will welcome the new in-flight announcements.
Ha! It will be like the days of smoking and non-smoking sections of the cabin. Sound, like smoke, carries into the other section no matter what you do. Make sure you have a good noise canceling headset!
Noise cancelling most likely will not work with cell phone user chatter since noise cancelling filters out white noise or aircraft noise.
Best bet? Something like shooting range “ears” that muffle all noise and then selectively allow certain sounds through (in that case, normal conversation) but also includes in-jacks to hook up to the entertainment system.
Another option, I wonder if anyone has done it, is hyper “indoor” voice: A mic that’s sensitive while the earphone is normal. This would allow you to whisper and the person could hear you while you could hear their normal speaking voice. It would be a great training tool for normal conversation too!
Here’s what I would like to see in future IFE’s: A web browser built in with a usb jack for your keyboard of choice and mouse. No need to unpack your notebook or ipad. Keep your table tray clear. Has anyone done this yet?
@PK: I think the IFE trend, at least on domestic aircraft, will be a move toward streaming wi-fi…sort of a Netflix like thing. The DirecTV experiment will last for several more years, but I predict the incidence of laptops, tablets, and smart phones will lead to airlines abandoning built-in IFE, eventually even on longhaul flights.
The USB jacks are already there, but a web browser would be nice. Still, I’d never use their system if I had my laptop with me that could connect.
Hmmm… interesting prediction. Have you seen any craft with IFE’s being yanked out and streaming internet/entertainment being offered yet?
This may surprise many to hear, but I don’t love lugging a notebook computer or tablet around everywhere. 30 years ago I did, back when it was really cool (because few others did it). But then the novelty wore off and I viewed it as a brick. A tablet lacks the power I desire that I get with a notebook and at home with a fully powered PC I can upgrade.
In middle age, I personally prefer to walk around “naked” at the airport if possible. No unchecked bags. Minimal accessories. The smallest mobile phone with a simple contact list. But I lug a notebook much of the time for security/privacy reasons. I don’t trust public internet terminals with my password and USB keyfob solutions are tricky and non-universal.
I would personally prefer to carry my own data and PC on a USB key style device. EFT’s would provide keyboard and screen access, but I’d provide the PC. One thing I love about EFT’s is that they’re out of the way. I can eat my dinner and watch a film (outdated term, “movie”) or the news and have a tray that’s free. But sure, all those connections in the seat add cost and maintenance issues.
I suspect that as time goes by, tablets will be so cheap they’ll be handed out like headsets. Or tables and notebooks will evolve to be foldable like paper and I could fit one in my front pocket without that awful iphone bulge.