Since 1966, when flying, you’ve been told to turn off your electronic devices during landing and takeoff. 1991 is when rules were put into place to specifically deal with mobile devices. However, with evolving technology and few real world examples of electronic devices interfering with cockpit controls or other conspiracy theories on the matter, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has concluded that passengers should be able to use electronic devices at all stages of a flight.
Mobile Devices on a Flight Aren’t as Dangerous as We’re Led to Believe
The FAA put together the Portable Electronic Devices Advisory and Rulemaking Committee that has studied the issue, including getting recommendations from over a dozen officials who believe that Wi-Fi in particular cannot during any portion of a flight cause an issue with on-board navigation. Earlier in 2013, several independent groups published reports suggesting that using Wi-Fi capable devices should be allowed between take-off and landing, but the FAA is taking that data, along with what it’s collected, and is taking it further by recommending there’s no issue with using Wi-Fi during an entire flight.
The majority of airlines flying in the US fleet are capable of handling any issues that arise from a Wi-Fi capable device. This includes specific apps, devices and connection modes. The FAA believes that ground communication connections, such as voice and data streams, should still be turned off during flights. This has nothing to do with interference but with a Federal Communications Commission rule that prohibits any type of airborne-based cellular service in the United States. Other countries have similar laws in place.
Several airlines across the globe have begun developing and testing Wi-Fi systems buil into planes that allow passengers access during a flight. While no system is 100% ready for launch below the landing and take-off limits, there is no doubt the FAA’s findings will help move the development along into a working system within the next year to help give passengers Wi-Fi service below the 10,000 threshold.
The earliest we could see the rules change on US-based flights would be 2014 according to the FAA.
Just because the FAA has released this data doesn’t mean that airlines or the industry as a whole have to adopt the policy. Whenever you board a flight, remember to always follow the instructions of your flight crew. If they ask you to turn off your computer, tablet or phone – even if you think it doesn’t matter – you are required by law to follow their directions.
For now, the FAA’s findings will need to be analyzed, researched further and then developed into a plan to potentially let passengers have access to Wi-Fi services from gate-to-gate. While passengers may not understand why it is such a big deal and haven’t for years on this issue, it’s important to realize that the FAA – and other aviation organizations around the world – are working to protect them from any harm that may come from electronic devices when flying.