Why can’t I use my iPod during takeoff and landing?

December 7th, 2009

I hate flying. Specifically, because I must turn off my electronics during takeoff and landing. Those last precious moments before takeoff when I receive a cell signal, and those moments during touchdown when I can receive a cell signal again, are the times I most want to use my devices. If my appliances are so dangerous, they should be banned. There is no way a flight attendant can police that I actually turned my iPod off. (Trust me, she has no clue what I’m doing). Now, my theory is vindicated at Gizmodo.

Listening to an iPod or reading a Kindle during takeoff isn’t dangerous. It’s time the airlines stopped pretending that it is.

For years we’ve been told that gadgets produce EMI—electromagnetic interference—that cause glitches in an aircraft’s avionics. A cellphone could interrupt communication between pilots and the tower for a crucial second, or a child’s Game Boy could cause a light on a flight computer to go on the fritz.

We can’t take excess liquids on a plane on only the slimmest evidence of any real threat. If gadgets were such a threat to safety, they’d be banned entirely.

Instead, an arbitrary set of rules established by the FAA and extended by the airlines prohibits iPods during takeoff, but explicitly allow electric shavers to be used during flight.

Hundreds of travelers at this very moment are using electronic gadgets during takeoff after the flight attendants have taken their jump seats. We’re told it’s dangerous. It isn’t. Let’s drop the pretense.*

One wonk told me that takeoff and landing is a vital time when everyone needs to “Pay Attention.” I never bought this, because I refuse to pay attention regardless of what I’m doing. People sleep. People are medicated. Are any of these items banned?

Now, I can also say from personal experience that if you leave your blackberry on, e-mails do filter through at 30,000 feet. The flights from Johnstown to Dulles files at a low altitude, and I can even surf the web midflight. If Wi-Fi is permitted, so should my weak cellphone.