Personal Electronic Device "B.S."

  • E-Mail this Article
  • View Printable Article
  • Text size:

    • A
    • A
    • A

Public backlash this week followed an FAA action on iPads and the widely reported ejection of a passenger for refusing to turn off his a personal electronic device (PED), but regulatory solutions remain elusive. The FAA recently OK'd the use of iPads for American Airlines pilots and actor Alec Baldwin was ejected from a flight for refusing to turn off his cellphone. That seeming contradiction fueled multiple articles this week claiming that specific gadgets are safe and the FAA's ban is excessive. The recent arguments, some of which call electronic bans "complete B.S.," may overlook the difficulty of regulating in the environment of rapid evolution that is modern electronics (today's Kindle is not tomorrow's), and the potential for device failures. In June, AVweb discussed the issue with Dave Carson (click for podcast), who co-chaired a federal advisory committee on portable electronic devices in aviation, and little has changed since then.

Flight crews have reported ILS needle anomalies, GPS signal loss and interference on audio channels that they attributed to interference from PEDs. In 2006, the TV show Mythbusters found that some devices could cause interference with older cockpit instrumentation. The International Air Transport Association released a report stating that cellphones and other PEDs can cause disruptions to aircraft systems. But, according to Carson, real-world incidents have never been repeated and all reported incidents are considered anecdotal. In light of the evidence, and the complexity of identifying and approving specific devices for exclusion from the ban, the FAA's position is to remove the potential threat altogether. And, so, Kindle readers and most all other PED-lovers will have to wait until 10,000 feet to enjoy their devices freely ... for now.