December 7, 2012
FCC Wants To See Digital Devices Allowed On Airplanes
Michael Harper for redOrbit.com — Your Universe Online
Save the miracle of flight, there´s little to enjoy about air travel. From the security lines to the long waits to the cramped seats, getting from place to place via airplane can be a headache composed of a thousand little nuisances.
Yesterday, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski called upon the FAA to reverse an outdated law and bring just a touch of sanity back to the cabin.
According to The Hill, Mr. Genachowski has now sent a letter to Michael Huerta, acting administrator of the FAA, asking the agency to "enable greater use of tablets, e-readers, and other portable devices" during all parts of the flight, including takeoff and landing.
The letter then went on to explain how flyers use these portable devices and how important it has become to allow such devices to be used throughout the flight.
“They empower people to stay informed and connected with friends and family, and they enable both large and small businesses to be more productive and efficient, helping drive economic growth and boost US competitiveness,” wrote Mr. Genachowski.
The FCC has prohibited the use of such electronics, including cell phones, media players and handheld video games for many years. As Americans become more dependent on these devices, this “rule” has repeatedly come under fire as more and more flyers begin to carry these devices with them. The FAA is becoming quite familiar with these complaints and has recently buckled, forming a committee to determine if these regulations have any merit.
“We´re looking for information to help air carriers and operators decide if they can allow more widespread use of electronic devices in today´s aircraft,” wrote Huerta in an August statement as the FAA began investigating this matter.
“We also want solid safety data to make sure tomorrow´s aircraft designs are protected from interference.”
Yet, though the agency did relent, they did so only slightly, saying travelers were still prohibited from using any “voice communications” on flights.
The FAA also revisited these laws in 2006, just as smartphones were beginning to increase in popularity, but also before the dawn of touch-screen tablets. In this study, the FAA concluded very little at all, saying “there was no evidence saying these devices can´t interfere with a plane, and there was no evidence saying that they can.”
Despite their findings, the FAA chose to err on the side of caution and continued the ban of these devices in flight.
It´s worth noting that another group of pop-culture researchers, the Mythbusters, also tackled this issue in 2006. After creating a mock cockpit in which to conduct this research, (using a cell phone in-flight is still illegal, mind you) the team discovered that the signals sent out by the cell phone did not interfere with any of the instruments in the cockpit. The Mythbusters later assumed the FAA is holding on to this ruling because testing each new cell phone with the complicated tangle of technology inside the cockpit could be their own brand of headache.