Stepping into an airplane means turning off any wireless device you have. These devices must remain off until a plane has safely taken off or landed. The FAA has long told passengers that this precaution is one based on safety regulations, and that wireless devices are not safe to use while a plane is leaving or arriving. According to the FAA, these devices might interfere with plane electronics, and this could (potentially) cause a plane to crash.
So, why has the FAA recently allowed pilots to use iPads while leaving or landing at an airport?
American Airlines pilots have been testing iPads in lieu of paper manuals for some time now. As it turns out, the FAA (after lots of testing) has come up with no reason why pilots can’t use iPads while flying at all times. For obvious reasons, passengers are up in arms about this ruling, since most people can’t understand why it’s not ok for a passenger to use an electronic device, but it is ok for a pilot to use these devices.
There are numerous possible reasons why the FAA has made this ruling -- the first reason being that the administration has tested the use of iPads in the cockpit rigorously. So far, the FAA has not seen any correlation between iPad usage and electronic interference. However, this situation may change if hundreds of people suddenly decide to switch on iPads, iPhones, or any other electronic devices. Then again, the FAA could test this theory too, but it hasn’t thus far.
After scouring headlines this morning, I haven’t come across any news reporter who has successfully interviewed someone from the FAA on this matter. So, the reasoning behind the FAA decision is still unclear. It is clear, however, that the FAA has always made cautious decisions when it comes to the safety of passengers, and this is a tough stance to argue with. It’s also possible that airlines don’t want to take a risk with passengers who could be carrying any kind of electronic device.
For example, someone may have a device that will effectively interfere with electronics, and this device may cause a plane to crash. If the FAA allows passengers to use iPads while in flight, people will begin to bring use all kind of device that can’t be controlled. Whatever the reason may be, the FAA isn’t taking any chances with passenger electronics at the moment.
The Paper to iPad Switch
Why have pilots made the switch from paper to iPads? After some testing, it has been found that the iPad is a much more useful tool than a paper manual. Pilots can answer questions quicker, active any necessary forms or protocols, and information is available at the touch of a finger.
When pilots use paper manuals, it takes quite a few minutes to figure out what to do when something goes wrong. For the most part, today’s airplanes fly on autopilot. However, pilot skills are still needed when something happens during flight. Thanks to the iPad, knowing what to do in case of an emergency is now something that any pilot using this device can find out in minutes. Simply put, the iPad may just save lives.