Do a few Kindles and iPods and iPads really pose a threat to airline safety? We have always wondered this. Especially while sitting on the ground at JFK waiting an hour to take off. And it turns out the FAA really isn't sure, and no one has tested different scenarios involving planes and the various and sundry devices that are now like extra appendages, with us at every waking moment. Likely under pressure from wealthy Apple and others, the FAA is now bringing together "key stakeholders" in the great electronic-device debate to see if we can't come to a compromise that will allow you not to be bored for fifteen minutes, ever, during takeoff and landing.
Under existing FAA rules, as the AP reports, airlines are currently allowed to set their own rules regarding various device models, based on how they interfere with cockpit radios and other equipment. But no one in the modern age has actually tried testing with all the makes and models out there, basically because there are too many of them. And they really don't know if there's a greater effect, via electromagnetic interference or whatever, when 200 passengers all whip out their iPhones and iPads, as opposed to just two or three. So they've just defaulted to the all-out ban during takeoff and landing.
If a phone is in airplane mode, is it really going to interfere with cockpit communications? And American Airlines has started having their pilots carry iPads that contain their flight manuals, rather than hauling around stacks of paper, and passengers are starting to ask why, if the pilots are using them, they can't be using them during takeoff? We're sure Alec Baldwin would have a thing or two to say about this.