Is the end of ‘Please stow all electronic devices’ near?


Is the end of ‘Please stow all electronic devices’ near?
As discussed in the class of the 23rd of September, mobile device and mobile internet usage are exploding. However, aviation ruling has not changed much in the mean time. As many, I could not have helped but wonder about the necessity of not using electronic devices during takeoff or landing. I can understand it to be a good thing for the pilot to hold off on these, but there has never been hard data on negative consequences of passenger’s electronic devices-use during these critique moments of flight. Or are there? And might there be possibilities of this changing for the better, and enabling internet on board? Maybe even in-flight online shopping?

Myths & Truths of in-flight smartphone & tablet-use:
To delve further in this topic it is good to bust some myths you might think are true and get into the real cause of this communications technology-ban in airplanes.
Myth 1: Interference with airplane equipment: This one is the most commonly known. However, aeronautical communication technology works with wavelengths below 500MHz, while consumer electronics work on wavelengths from up to 2GHz. Interference in that sense, is not possible.
Myth 2: The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) does not want to test every device on possible interference: Also a myth. All mobile devices share the same communication components. Whether you are using an iPhone, Blackberry, or even a Nokia, it all works the same. So, separate testing is not a thing.
Myth 3: Everybody in the plane using it at the same time is the problem: Also wrong.  Electromagnetics don’t work in the sense that they become stronger with more users using it at the same time, so this won’t cause problems.
A more viable hypothesis is the one stating that cell towers can overload due to the speed of movement of the mobile device users. This is actually technically true, but this is luckily also a technicality that can be managed by enough capacity. [1]

The Real Truth: Since all of these myths can be busted, what is the real reason for the ban on the use of electronic devices during takeoff & landing? It is your attention! Since only 8% of airplane accidents happen during the cruising-stage of a flight, and respectively 42% and 50% during takeoff and landing, the FAA simply tries to make sure you pay attention during these critique moments of flight… But, since us 2013-citizens almost live in our smartphones and tablets, is this reasoning still strong enough?

Oh yeah, something about the end of all of this might be near?
After delving into the myths & truths about the use of electronic devices on airplanes, let’s now take a look at the future. A lot seems to be changing. This Thursday, the advisory committee of the FFA voted to recommend easing the rules on device use on-board. If the FAA does accept this recommendation, which would then happen this Monday, some things are going to change. If the FAA accepts, it will be allowed to use your smartphone, tablet and laptop during takeoffs and landings, making calls or browsing the Internet is still a ‘no-go’. Just switch on airplane mode and you will be fine. [2]
A thing I have to admit, I have been doing for a lot of flights myself already. I mean there is not much better than watching some episodes of Lost while you are in the most critical parts of your flight, right?

Impact on mobile shopping?
After the allowance of using electronic devices during takeoff and landings, the next step seems to be in-flight internet. Even though it is only a small percentage of airlines are currently adopting it, it is a growing trend to offer Wi-Fi on longer flights. The impact of this on online shopping seems to be interesting to research. Will passengers shop for goods available on their destination? Will hotels be able to target last-minute bookings from passengers? Will it be possible to do tax-free shopping and pick this up at your destination airport? What would you like to buy, in-flight?

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“Lost-character Jack Shephard looks at the wrecked airplane”

[1] http://visual.ly/please-stow-all-electronic-devices-takeoff
[2] http://www.cbc.ca/news/technology/faa-to-consider-easing-limits-on-in-flight-electronic-devices-1.1871106

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One response to “Is the end of ‘Please stow all electronic devices’ near?”

  1. maaikegerritse says :

    To me it’s also a real good question why airlines make so little use of internet technology. Online shopping could be a good idea, but why not keeping it closer to the already existing services of airlines? One of the pioneers in this area is Norwegian. They are the first airline to offer high-speed broadband on flights within Europe. Since March this year, their entire 737-800 fleet features in-flight Wifi. The planes are equipped with two wireless access points. On top of the plane is an antenna that communicates with a satellite. When passengers on board use their Wifi device to get online, the request goes from the wireless access point to the antenna and satellite, down to the ground to find the website. The signal heads back to the plane again and tada: you have access!
    But there is more, Norwegian is now introducing Video on Demand. They are the first airline in the world with in-flight entertainment for your tablet, laptop and smartphone. The service is available 24 hours for a €7 fee. You can start watching a movie on the flight and continue watching it on your connecting flight.
    I think this is a real opportunity for airlines. Now they have build in systems with movies, for which the airline pays. By making video on demand an additional feature for which customers have to pay, you can make more money. This is in line with a trend going on in the travel industry in which you make almost all services additional features. The basic ticket price goes down, but you almost have to buy everything separately. Think about your in-flight meal, check-in baggage etc.

    So today it’s on board Wifi and Video on demand. Maybe online shopping will become next?

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