By Matt Griffin
Lately, it has seemed, you couldn’t pick up a newspaper or open your ACI-NA Daily Clips (contact ACI-NA if you would like to sign-up) without finding an article or opinion piece dedicated to the highly-sensitive subject of personal electronics on airplanes.
This topic has grown from a dull rumble just 10 years ago to an all out roar thanks to the rapid acceptance of the iPad, smartphones, and e-readers. One only needs to look around them to see the popularity of these devices. In fact, as I write this article on my train ride into work this morning, at least half of the passenger within my eyeshot appear to be reading from one of these devices (I hope the engineers radios are still working!)
It appears that the FAA has finally decided to heed the cry of the traveling public, just this past week they have agreed to take a “fresh” look at this issue. They are exploring ways to bring together the airlines, airframe and avionics manufacturers, electronics manufactures, and the regulators, the FAA and FCC, to discuss the certification of a number of these personal electronics.
After a little bit of research (a Google search and review of a Wikipedia page), there appears to be a lot of circumstantial evidence, but nothing that can conclusively support the idea that the use of personal electronics cause an interference to aircraft avionics. It appears, as the regulations are written today, the approval process is on a device by device basis. So that is to say, the Amazon Kindle could go through the approval process and be cleared for flight whereas the Barnes & Noble Nook is not. This could lead to misunderstandings in the cabin and just as much policing by flight attendants, if not more.
I don’t mean to sound negative, in my humblest opinion, given the amount of money being made in the personal electronics market it is certainly in the best interest of these manufacturers to help develop (and possibly fund) a solution to this problem.
One last note, don’t plan on joining a conference calls at 30,000 feet just yet, these talks will not include the usage of cell phones. The FCC bans the use of these devices for a whole different issue.