Though the Federal Aviation Administrated is now looking into allowing gadgets during take-off and landing, flyers shouldn't get their hopes up. Because of recent complaining about the arbitrariness of the rule, largely championed by The New York Times' Nick Bilton, the FAA has been more open to changing the standard. The organization has started its own testing, and asked for public comment at the end of last month. Yet, this process will take "until the next millennium," sighed Bilton in his New York Times column this weekend. Each version of each tablet has to get the OK on an empty flight for each type of plane before it can pass. With the current state of tablet iteration and the various plane types out there, that's a lot of tests. "With individual testing needed for every version of every electronic device out there, it’s practically impossible for an airline to take on the testing independently," Abby Lunardini, vice president of corporate communications at Virgin America told Bilton. Even with help from the FAA, the effort sounds futile with the current rate of tablet release -- in the last seven days, we saw a handful of a new ones from Amazon, plus today Toys R Us just announced its own kid tablet.
No matter the outcome of these tests, it still doesn't make much sense for the airline industry to change the rules, as The Wall Street Journal's Daniel Simons and Christopher Chabris discovered. After conducting a 492-person survey of gadget use during these verboten minutes, Simons and Chabris wrote, "The odds that all 78 of the passengers who travel on an average-size U.S. domestic flight have properly turned off their phones are infinitesimal." Yet, even though many people sneakily and regularly break the rules, they admit that it makes little sense to loosen the rules. They write:
Fear is a powerful motivator, and precaution is a natural response. Regulators are loath to make policies less restrictive, out of a justifiable concern for passenger safety. It is easy to visualize the horrific consequences should a phone cause a plane to crash, so the FAA imposes this inconvenience as a precaution.
They're not the only ones who feel this way, with The Atlantic's resident pilot James Fallows having the same sense of caution. We tend to agree, too. The 51 average minutes lost per flight because of this rule -- a statistic calculated by Bilton -- aren't worth the risk of being on the one flight that has an electronics-during-takeoff-or-landing related accident.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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