A while ago I wrote a post pondering about why we were not allowed to use our ereaders during take off and landing as I could see no danger to the plane from our Sonys and Kindles. And now it seems that the American Federal Aviation Administration is going to properly examine this situation.
If you fly and use an ereader, you will know that before take off and landing we are told to turn them off, as “they might interfere with the plane’s electronics”. I couldn’t understand how a device as passive as an ereader might pose any sort of a risk to the plane. I can imagine that mobile phones and anything that is connected to the internet and thus not only receives wireless signals, but also sends them out might be a problem, but ereaders?
However, I have come across a report in the British Paper The Guardian, which goes into this in a bit more detail, and there is an interesting quote from Dave Carson, an engineer with Boeing who worked on a committee set up to examine all of this who said the following:
“There are two ways in which devices could mess with your flight: “intentional emissions” and “non-intentional emissions”. Devices such as mobile phones or those with Wi-Fi are sources of the former, meaning they intentionally transmit radio frequency electromagnetic radiation.
Mobiles left switched on during flight may be a great distance from the nearest cell tower and consequently try to operate at higher power levels. Other devices such as CD players and e-ink readers pump out “non-intentional emissions”. Those emissions are caused by the switching circuitry in the electronics.
Emissions from devices leak out of the aircraft via windows, doors and hatches and could degrade the signals picked up by the antennas mounted on the aircraft’s fuselage. And although an aircraft’s internal systems are shielded, using your laptop right next to the wall of the plane could also interfere with sensitive circuits.
This makes sense to me.
Ereaders normally never get turned off.
Further, it has been pointed out that while you can switch off the 3G and WiFi function of an ereader, it is an impossible task for the cabin crew to check that you have actually done this, so taking the easy way out, they simply get us all to switch our devices off. Though as all ereader owners know, we never actually turn them off, we merely put them in standby mode, so in fact they are still quietly chugging along in our bags…. so not actually turned off.
Another reason given is that devices such as laptops, ereaders and DVD players could be a danger as they fly through the air if the landing or take off goes a bit pear-shaped…… OK, but an ereader is a damn sight smaller and lighter than most paper books… so that argument carries no weight with me at least.
But as I said at the start of this post, the Americans at least are now looking into this seriously, and with any luck will abandon this irritating rule before to long. As ever, the British are loping along behind the Americans in this, saying only that they keep the situation under close observation, and have no plans currently to change anything….
Link to article in the Guardian: http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2012/aug/27/why-switch-off-kindle-takeoff-landing
Link to my earlier post on this topic: Ereaders dangerous for planes?
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What are your views on this ban, does it make sense or is it a case of being waaaaayyyyy too careful?