As expected (in fact, a bit earlier than expected), the days of airplane passengers being forced to power down all of their portable electronic devices during takeoff and landing are officially behind us.
Well, maybe not immediately - but by the end of this year you can expect to hear nothing but silence when a flight attendant spots you in the middle of an intense Angry Birds session mid-takeoff.
The Federal Aviation Administration has just announced that their exploratory panel has made a final determination to "safely expand passenger use of Portable Electronic Devices (PEDs) during all phases of flight." They will immediately recommend these new guidelines to all airlines.
What does this mean, exactly?
It means that you no longer have to power down your cellphones, tablets, and e-readers during landing and takeoff - it's that simple. The agency has concluded that most commercial airplanes can handle any radio interference such devices could emit, and once a specific airline decides that their fleet can tolerate the use of PEDs at any altitude, passengers are a go to use them as they see fit.
Except for making calls, which will still be banned. All devices must remain in airplane mode or have cell service disabled (in instances when using on-board Wi-Fi).
The ruling is pretty much universal, in that there are very limited exceptions:
In rare instances of low-visibility, the crew will instruct passengers to turn off their devices during landing. The group also recommended that heavier devices should be safely stowed under seats or in overhead bins during takeoff and landing.
“I commend the dedication and excellent work of all the experts who spent the past year working together to give us a solid report so we can now move forward with a safety-based decision on when passengers can use PEDs on airplanes,” said FAA Administrator Michael Huerta.
For frequent flyers, this decision is a long time coming. Hell, let's be honest - even infrequent flyers were sick of being told to shut down their iPads twice per flight. Thumbs up to The White House for this West Wing joke in response to the FAA's announcement...
— The White House (@WhiteHouse) October 31, 2013
You may remember Toby Ziegler lamenting the current consensus on PEDs on flights, saying,
"We're flying in a Lockheed Eagle series L1011. It came off the line 20 months ago. It carries a Sim-5 Transponder tracking system. Are you telling me I can still flummox this thing with something I bought at Radio Shack?"
The answer to that question is probably not. And the FAA, with its decision, has finally caught up to an ever-connected world.
“We believe today’s decision honors both our commitment to safety and consumer’s increasing desire to use their electronic devices during all phases of their flights,” said Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “These guidelines reflect input from passengers, pilots, manufacturers, and flight attendants, and I look forward to seeing airlines implement these much anticipated guidelines in the near future.”
Image via Brian Herzog, Flickr