Passengers have been complaining for years about the inability to use their mobile devices on airplanes. The strict restrictions were relaxed somewhat several years ago. The passenger is able to use certain electronics while at a cruising altitude. In fact, a recent amendment to these rules will make it possible for a passenger to use electronic devices even during the takeoff and landing of an airplane, which will be implemented in the near future. Did you ever consider why these things were banned in the first place? Why can’t you make a phone call from your cell phone during a flight?
The reason is based on the practical applications of science as well as law. There are two governing bodies that have jurisdiction over the usage of electronic devices on airplanes. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) are these two bodies. The FAA took steps to ban the use of electronic devices on an airplane due to the fear of electromagnetic interference associated with their use. They fear that these devices could interfere with the important instruments used in flying the aircraft. If an electronic device gives a strong signal, it can negatively impact the navigation equipment of the flight. If you have used a cell phone near a speaker, you should hear the Morse-code like noise. This is enough to understand that there could be some validity in this reasoning. Just imagine if hundreds of passengers keep using their mobile phones on the plane, what sort of interference could be expected!
These concerns are based on studies conducted in the year 2000 regarding the emission levels of numerous personal-electronic-devices (PEDs), and also the standards set for airplanes under the 1984 Standards. But ongoing research has led to the relaxation of these regulations since the technology has evolved in both PEDs and aircrafts. In fact, the risk of interference has lessened quite a bit right now. Initially, the usage of PEDS were allowed during the less critical parts of a flight’s journey such as at cruising altitude. In 2013, FAA announced a further relaxation to the ban on PEDs. This provide airlines the authority to test the effects of these PEDs and prove that they will not interfere with the airplane’s performance. If the PEDs don’t interfere with the performance, the airline has the authority to permit PEDs to be used on that particular class of the airplane.
The FCC still enforces the ban on using mobile phones for voice calls on airplanes. The reason for this is their fear on interference with wireless networks on the ground. Also, the overlapping restrictions imposed by the FAA has influenced their decision. With the new rule change, the FCC is forced to reopen their investigation of the particular interference of PEDs with ground networks in order to determine its validity. There was a similar inquiry conducted between 2004 and 2007. But it was ultimately closed when the FCC found out that interested parties failed to provide adequate information to support the premises that mobile phones used on airplanes will not interfere with ground networks.
For the moment, it is extremely important that you turn off your electronic device if the authorities on an airplane request you to do so for whatever reason. It doesn’t matter if you believe it to be valid or not, it is best if you comply with such request. Doing so will ensure the safety of the aircraft, especially if the aircraft is old, as well as save you from facing serious federal criminal charges. Failing to comply with such a request will result in a very unpleasant situation, given the security concerns after the 9/11 incident. If you are having any questions about the usage of PEDs on flights, it is best you contact an attorney who specializes in aviation law.