As of yesterday, pilots became our nation's most privileged gadget users when the FAA approved iPad use during all stages of flight, as the National Transportation Safety Board recommended a nationwide ban on cell phones in cars -- including Bluetooth or hands-free devices. As we know from Alec Baldwin's Words With Friends problem and Bits Blog's Nick Bilton's (sad) crusade against airplane mode, regular folk in the coach cabin can't use their iPads during take off. Now, in an ironic twist: pilots can. And to worsen the blow, non-pilots can't even use their phones in cars now.
The NTSB has a very good reason to limit talking or texting on the roads. (Though, we're not sure about that hands-free bluetooth ban. Really?) On the other hand, this iPad pilot rule seems totally exclusionary, at least to our airplane mode crusader, Bilton, who has a column up today pointing out the hypocrisy of the latest exception to the rule.
The rule barring passengers from using a Kindle, an iPad, or even a calculator, were originally made to protect the electronics of an aircraft from interference. Yet pilots with iPads will be enclosed in the cockpit just a few inches from critical avionics on a plane.
If the argument has to do with interference, the rule does not make any sense.
The rule's absurdity might seem obvious to some, but unfortunately for Bilton and his sympathizers, the airplane mode crusade still doesn't look like it's going anywhere. This new iPad regulation made an earlier test-program official -- because of its success. These airplane drivers will use iPads not to play games or read, but to replace bulky maps, which will theoretically save on jet fuel costs, argues the airline industry. Though, that is up for debate, when one considers the price of iPads compared to fuel, as SplatF's Dan Frommer did a few months ago. Even so, it's not all about fuel: iPads will also increase efficiency, with access to the most up-to-date maps and GPS. And in any case, not that many people seem to care about shutting electronics off for five minutes of flight time. That petition angry gadget users started almost two weeks ago, still only has 1,424 signatures, of its 25,000 goal.
In light of all of this, the FAA is defending its position. "This involves a significantly different scenario for potential interference than unlimited passenger use, which could involve dozens or even hundreds of devices at the same time," the FAA said in a statement to Bits Blog.
Now, of course, manning a plane isn't exactly like driving a car. But, taking away car-phone time makes this whole thing sting worse. Pilots can use tech things whenever they want; the rest of us can't.