Whenever I travel by air, I always make sure that I have a clean, untouched crossword puzzle in the in-flight magazine before takeoff. Why? Because of the idiotic regulation from the Federal Aviation Administration (F.A.A.) that says that I can't use portable electronic devices during takeoff and landing. According to a post on the New York Times site this morning, the F.A.A. may be taking a "fresh look" at use of electronics in the passenger cabin during the critical phases of flight.
Blogger Nick Bilton called the F.A.A. last week and spoke with deputy assistant director for public affairs Laura J. Brown, who said the administration has decided it's high time that they take a look at the effects -- if any -- caused by use of electronic devices on aircraft. The last time any testing was done was 2006, back when the iPad and most e-readers were simply mockups in labs.
Apparently, airlines have always had the option to approve electronic devices for use once they have tested each model of each device on a separate flight with no passengers. Due to the complexity and time involved, no airline has done so. Can you imagine each airline spending valuable fuel and crew time to test 16, 32, and 64 GB versions of the iPad, iPad with 3G, iPad 2 Wi-Fi, iPad 2 (GSM), iPad 2 (CDMA) and so on,? The current testing also says that the airline would have to perform these tests on each and every aircraft type in its fleet. With these test restrictions, airlines have wisely just banned usage.
The F.A.A. isn't saying how they want to change the testing process to make it easier, just that they want to bring together "electronics manufacturers, consumer electronic associations, aircraft and avionics manufacturers, airlines, pilots, flight attendants and passengers" to take a fresh look at the regulations.
Bilton came up with a great idea: have major airlines volunteer one aircraft for a limited time for testing, and have electronics manufacturers pay for the testing -- if you don't contribute to the testing, your devices don't get on the list. That way, the cash-strapped F.A.A. doesn't foot the bill for testing the devices.
Don't expect to see any changes in the near future, however. We are talking about a government agency, after all. Oh, and by the way -- these regulations do not pertain to mobile phones, so don't expect to be able to chat with your BFF during takeoff.