Home Tech FAA Moves: New rules for devices on planes

FAA Moves: New rules for devices on planes


At long last the United States FAA is planning to rewrite the rules on the use of electronic devices on aircraft. The relaxed rules could be implemented by the end of the year and other regulation authorities, including the UK’s CAA are likely to follow the American lead.

I am all in favour of safety precuations, especially when taking off or landing in a commercial plane. But the rules for the use of electronic devices are looking ever more antiquated. When they were formulated in 1996 there were no e-readers, no tablets, no smartphones. A lot has happened in the world of technology and, at the same time, aircraft manufactuters have tweaked electronic systems to shield them from harm.

Apparently up to a third of travellers currently forget to turn off their phones, a figure I do not find at all surprising. If there had been problems, therefore, we should have known about them by now.

Prime candidates for freedom are electronic readers such as the Kindle. I hope this relaxation will also be extended to phones and tablets provided they are in airplane mode. It is easy enough, at least on iOS devices, to demonstrate that airplane mode is showing orange and is ON.

Paradoxically, Kindle readers with cellular capabilities offer no quick and easy means of switching off wireless. It is a case of delving into the menus and I am convinced a majority of Kindle users have never ventured that far; almost certainly few even know how to switch off the radios. Furthermore, there is no easy way of demonstating to airline staff that radios have been switched off. In practice, I suspect, no Kindle user bothers to turn off the 3G radio even now (which further confirms the ridiculous and arbitrary nature of the regulations which rely entirely on the honesty and common sense of passengers).

If the new rules specifically allow book readers but continue to ban the use of airplane-mode smartphones and tablets there will be a big injustice. I suggest that all this needs to be taken into account before the FAA goes public on the detail.


  1. I would have to disagree with the author, Mr. Evans, I believe most Kindle owners are not only aware of how to turn off wireless on the Kindle, but the Kindle prompts the user to turn it off to save on the battery. It is obvious that Mr. Evans does not own a Kindle, otherwise he would also know that turning off the the wireless is the first listing on the main menu, and is so labeled, "Turn Off Wireless". It actually takes several more steps to search for, purchase, and download books than it does to turn your wireless off. I believe his point was to promote the new rules to extend to I-Pads, but he shouldn’t assume that a child playing "Angry Birds" is more adept than a person who buys a device soley for the purposes of reading. Enjoy your game of Angry Birds, Mr. Evans.

    • You are wrong. I do own a Kindle and, while I understand its qualities, I much prefer reading on either an iPhone or an iPad mini. My Kindle gathers dust. It is a matter of personal choice. Who are the angry birds? The point I was making is that Kindles, as one-trick ponies, are used by many people who are not particularly technology aware. Many, I am sure, overlook the fact that the wireless is on permanently unless switched off. You are obviously an exception. On the other hand, Smartphone and tablet users users tend to be more aware and generally understand the need to switch on airplane mode to suppress the wireless signals. This will be even easier under iOS7 with the introduction of the control panel.


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