Let it never be said that one disgruntled journalist’s airplane experience can’t yield some intriguing results.
Having his own Howard Beale “I’m mad as hell” moment, The New York Times‘ Nick Bilton decided he’d unnecessarily purchased magazines from the airport newsstand for the last time and called the Federal Aviation Administration to “pester them” about the regulation prohibiting the use of electronic gadgetry during takeoff and landing stages of air travel. After relating studies to his interlocutor at the FAA that tablet and e-readers should be allowed to be used on planes, Bilton said that the agency told him that it is reviewing their rules regarding the use of personal electronics while onboard airplanes.
People have long been forced to swallow their frustration over the fact that no electronic devices were allowed to be used during air travel. In what seems like ages ago, I remember being told by flight attendants that I wasn’t allowed to use my Discman during a flight. It’s a slight inconvenience, for sure, but Bilton’s endearing frustration over the FAA’s rules gets right to the point:
Yes, you read that correctly. The F.A.A., which in the past has essentially said, “No, because I said so,” is going to explore testing e-readers, tablets and certain other gadgets on planes. The last time this testing was done was 2006, long before iPads and most e-readers existed. (The bad, or good, news: The F.A.A. doesn’t yet want to include the 150 million smartphones in this revision.)
Laura J. Brown, deputy assistant administrator for public affairs for the F.A.A., said that the administration’s current rules allow airlines to request use of electronic devices “once the airline demonstrated the devices would not interfere with aircraft avionics.”
As Ms. Brown said: “With the advent of new and evolving electronic technology, and because the airlines have not conducted the testing necessary to approve the use of new devices, the FAA is taking a fresh look at the use of personal electronic devices, other than cellphones, on aircraft.”
Granted, I sympathize with the argument that for owners of e-readers and tablets, buying magazines very well may feel like a waste of money given you have a perfectly suitable reading device in your carry-on. However, note that this review of regulations is still in process and nothing has really been guaranteed despite the encouraging bit of news Bilton received from the FAA so don’t expect to see those airport bookstores rolling up the doormats just yet.
Bilton, however, wants to hasten the process as much as possible:
To keep things moving, the airlines could team up and each make a single plane available for say, one day a month, until the testing is done. And the device and software makers, many with very deep pockets, could foot the bill. Any device maker who doesn’t contribute financially to the testing won’t be added to the new updated list of approved electronics devices on planes.
I would like to volunteer to help as the guinea pig for these test flights. I’ll run up and down the aisle turning on e-readers, iPads and any other devices, and then settle down for a little undisturbed reading.
Godspeed, Nick Bilton.