Tech reporter Nick Bilton continues his one-man war on the FAA regulations that prevent you from turning on your iPads, Kindles, and other electronic devices while taking off and landing in airplanes. Bilton has a report today at The New York Times blogs today about just how much energy those little doo-dads put out and the simple fact is that it just isn't enough to interfere with anything, especially not a well-designed aircraft.
According to the lab that certifies electrical devices for government safety standards, an airplane must be able to withstand "100 volts per meter" of interference. An Amazon Kindle emits less 0.00003 volts per meter. What's more: having multiple electrical devices doesn't multiply the effect. The amount of interference is the same, whether it's one device or 1,000.
Since there are other electrical devices that aren't banned (hearing aids, electric razors), none of the other justifications for the ban on portable devices seem to hold up. Or, at best, the rules may make sense for some reasons (devices are distracting or can become potentially dangerous projectiles in an emergency), but are inconsistently and illogically applied. (So are books and small pets.)
As someone who doesn't enjoy flying and doesn't need another terrible security flaw to be afraid of, I have no problem sitting quietly for 30 minutes or so while the plane takes off and lands. But it's hard to argue with Bilton's crusade (to be fair, he isn't arguing for unfettered phone use, just the right to use "airplane mode") or notice a pattern in our government's approach to air travel — worrying more about the illusion of safety than actually creating it.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.