Frequent air travelers, rejoice! That painful period during take-off and landing when you're not allowed to use your electronic devices might soon be a lot more bearable. The Federal Aviation Administration said yesterday that it will work with airlines and other involved parties to find a way to determine whether various electronic devices are safe for use during critical periods of flight.
In theory, any airline could already have conducted these tests themselves, but it hasn't been practical because there are so many devices, all of which have different effects. Plus, they're changing all the time. (iPads keep getting upgraded, etc.) There's also the concern about what the "additive effect" of having an entire planeload of people using their devices all at once would be. So rather than figure this all out individually, airlines have mostly just stuck with the FAA's default rule which requires passengers to power down while the aircraft is below 10,000 feet.
But now the FAA is going to bring everyone together to try to find a solution to this mess. One thing that might help is that newer planes have a lot more shielding built in to protect their wiring and electronic equipment from electromagnetic interference. Of course, that doesn't do much good in the outdated, filthy planes that a lot of us are shuttled around in, but still, it's nice to think of a future where all planes are built a little more robustly.
While it seems like all of this effort shouldn't really be necessary, because we are technically able to survive 20 minutes without access to our email, it actually is kind of a problem. First of all, there are those of us who, even though we know it's coming, always forget to bring some kind of non-electronic entertainment for use during that time and are then forced to stare at our fellow passengers trying to discern which of them is the terrorist and which of them is the air marshal. And there's also the issue of the exceedingly long delays many planes encounter after being pushed back from the gate. It would be nice, for all of our sakes, if during that time you were able to entertain your restless toddler with a video game, and we were able to tweet in peace about how annoying your toddler.