Gadgets in Flight: What We Pilots Know
October 31, 2013
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  • I hope that Alec Baldwin feels vindicated today, now that the FAA has decided to allow the use of personal electronic devices (PEDs) on airliners throughout the flight. (Though I do have to say I’m surprised at the timing of the announcement; with sequestration, another looming shutdown and an agency in disarray, this is what they’re working on?)

    In any case, with the new rule Mr. Baldwin will be able to happily play at words with any friends he so desires, so long as it’s over Wi-Fi — cell phones must still be in airplane mode. Mr. Baldwin isn’t alone in victory, of course. Just about everybody cheats at the silly no-PED game, surreptitiously finishing up that game of solitaire on the Kindle as the jet is roaring down the runway, or whipping out their already powered-on iPhones upon landing to tell the spouse they’ve arrived. Americans are well known for pushing the limits with senseless regulations. If you don’t believe me, consider prohibition, the former nationwide 55-mile-per-hour speed limit, and any seemingly friendly game of cards. It’s in our DNA.

    The rule puts into law something that passengers have known for decades: There’s no actual threat to safety from PEDs; in fact, one might argue there’s a greater threat from bored passengers stuffed into too-small seats with nothing to do but contemplate Sky Mall. Flight attendants will surely agree with me here.

    From a GA pilot’s point of view, the move to allow PEDs is a no brainer. The thought of a bunch of iPads behind locked doors somehow delivering the punch to disrupt an airliner’s avionics system is laughable. We know this because we sit for hours on end with our iPads and Android tablets, with our handheld GPSes, our ADS-B receivers, our personal locator beacons, noise canceling headsets, smart watches and, shhhh, yes, even our smart phones (not in any way even remotely turned to airplane mode) inches away from the G1000 while we happily while away the hours en route with no disruption to critical functionality whatsoever. Or any other functionality for that matter.

    The sad fact of life is most of us pilots are forced to ride the airlines from time to time. With today’s announcement, this means we’ll be able to finally, thankfully entertain ourselves while en route, that is between the 3-ounce Diet Cokes and five-peanut snack bags. Flying magazine on the iPad would be my suggestion as a great way for us pilots trapped in coach to remind ourselves what flying is really all about.