I came across this today during my trip through my RSS feeds on Google Reader.
I’ve lately become annoyed at the airlines, especially since U.S. Airways decided a small cup of crappy coffee is worth $2. Since my life is going more and more digital, I am starting to hate the direction to turn off my electronics during take-off and landing. I keep books on my Pocket PC Phone (now a BlackJack II) and the dead time that I can’t read bothers me.
On my last flight, I found myself sitting next to a pilot who was commuting to work. I know people who complain that they can’t get a quiet minute on a plane; anybody they sit next to wants to talk the entire flight. I suffer from the opposite problem: I don’t mind talking but I tend to get seated next to people more anti-social than I am. I did strike up a small conversation with the pilot. I asked him a few questions about his job. We also talked about the iPhone, which he had. As we landed in Philly, I asked him if he knew of any real evidence that small electronic devices could interfere with a plane, or had that rule just been on the books for so long that nobody ever bothered to question it anymore. I remember an episode of Mythbusters where that rule was put to the test onground, and the Mythbusters could not find a cell phone that interfered with the plane’s electronics. The pilot confirmed that he could only recall one incident where he had trouble with one of his communications systems, and the modern planes are so well shielded that there shouldn’t be a problem with me watching a movie on my iPod or reading a book on my phone (with the radio turned off) during take-off and landing except for that rule. He said that the pilots are usually talking on their cell phones as the plane taxis, since that’s the most convenient way to communicate with dispatch.
When I first met my wife, she was working at a call center on a contract for American Airlines employees to buy computers (can’t remember if it was Gateway, Dell, or whatever was big in 2000) at drastically reduced costs. Supposedly she was only required to verify eligibility for the program, but her management couldn’t seem to decide from day to day if the call center would offer tech support or not, so she often had to take support calls. I told her to post some of them on Tech Tales, as they were interesting. One woman couldn’t connect to the Internet, but it turned out she hadn’t plugged in a phone cord to the modem. Actually, all she’d done was unpack the monitor and set it on a desk. She had other calls along those lines. I think the most interesting call was from a pilot IN THE AIR. He was calling from 34,000 feet with a tech support question about his laptop. I think his call might have been patched through the airline’s comm system rather than a cell phone call.
In any case, from the article linked above, here is the reason I’ve been looking for, why I can’t read a book on my phone or listen to my iPod during take-off and landing:
As a side note, the main reason airlines make you turn all your electronics off during takeoff and landing is so you aren't distracted and can hear and follow directions if something goes wrong.
That’s all it is: to make sure you’re paying attention if something goes wrong.