Collective superstition, part 2: iPads on planes

More from the collective superstition department: The ban on using iPads and phones on planes:

A year ago, when I first asked Les Dorr, a spokesman for the F.A.A., why the rule existed, he said the agency was being cautious because there was no proof that device use was completely safe. He also said it was because passengers needed to pay attention during takeoff.

When I asked why I can read a printed book but not a digital one, the agency changed its reasoning. I was told by another F.A.A. representative that it was because an iPad or Kindle could put out enough electromagnetic emissions to disrupt the flight. Yet a few weeks later, the F.A.A. proudly announced that pilots could now use iPads in the cockpit instead of paper flight manuals.

There's no good reason for this, other than to annoy passengers, and give the crew a reason to harass their passengers, adding to the hostile relationship airlines have with their customers.

Every day people forget or neglect to turn off these devices. I personally don't think I've ever completely turned off my iPhone or iPad on a plane, even though they say you must. All of the planes I have been on have nonetheless successfully taken off and landed at their intended destination. Maybe I've just been lucky. More likely, the threat is completely bogus.

Almost nine years ago, The Economist ran a story on this:

Contrary to popular belief, mobile phones do not pose a safety threat to airliners. On an average transatlantic flight, several phones are usually left switched on by accident, and the avionics systems on modern aircraft are hardened against radio interference. No, the use of phones on planes is banned because they disrupt mobile networks on the ground. An airliner with 500 phones on board, whizzing across a city, can befuddle a mobile network as the phones busily hop from one base-station to the next.

At least let's be honest about what the problems might be so we can research and address those.

Happy 2013!:

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