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The Cold Filtered Ramblings of Gene Mueller

The height of hypocrisy reaches into the friendly skies

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Alec Baldwin got the hook for it.

Chances are, you've had a flight attendant get in your face about it.

The crime?

 Using an electronic device during a plane's takeoff or landing.   The feds say it's a safety concern, that electronic impulses from cell phones and other digital toys can compromise a plane's electronics during such sensitive times.

Now read this, from New York Times blogger Nick Bilton, and tell me if you had to fight the urge to scream before you got to the last paragraph:

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Federal Aviation Administration said Tuesday that pilots on American Airlines flights would be allowed to use iPads instead of paper flight manuals in the cockpit starting Friday, even during takeoff and landing. But, passengers are still required to shut down anything with the slightest electronic pulse from the moment a plane leaves the gate until it reaches an altitude of 10,000 feet.

The rule barring passengers from using a Kindle, an iPad, or even a calculator, were originally made to protect the electronics of an aircraft from interference. Yet pilots with iPads will be enclosed in the cockpit just a few inches from critical avionics on a plane.

There is some thought that the rule disallowing devices during takeoff and landing was made to insure passengers paid attention. The F.A.A. has never claimed this. (If this was the case, passengers would not be allowed to have books, magazines or newspapers during takeoff and landing.)

The F.A.A.’s stance regarding devices on planes has been revised several times. Last month, in my weekly Disruptions column, I noted that the rules requiring passengers to shut down devices, like Kindles and iPads, seem outdated. At the time I spoke with Les Dorr, a spokesman for the F.A.A., who said the reason for the ban was that the agency would rather err on the side of caution when it came to allowing digital devices on planes.

Yet in a statement issued to The New York Times, the F.A.A. said that it conducted ”rigorous testing of any electronic device proposed for use in the cockpit as an electronic flight bag, in lieu of paper navigation charts and manuals.”

The F.A.A. did not say why the testing that has been used for pilots could not also be used to test the seating area where passengers sit, so they could use iPads and Kindles, too.

The F.A.A. did say it had limited the number of approved devices in the cockpit to two, one for each pilot. “This involves a significantly different scenario for potential interference than unlimited passenger use, which could involve dozens or even hundreds of devices at the same time,” the F.A.A. said in the statement.

American Airlines did not respond to a request for comment. Last week the airline caused a kerfuffle when it ejected Alec Baldwin, a co-star on the NBC show 30 Rock”, from a flight for playing a game of Words with Friends on his iPhone while the plane was parked at the gate.

 

 

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