Do Our Gadgets Really Threaten Planes?

Was Alec Baldwin right? When the actor tussled with American Airlines personnel last December over his desire to continue playing a game on his phone during takeoff, he was evicted from the flight. Defying airline safety rules is not a good idea, but was Baldwin perhaps correct not to take the danger seriously?

On Aug. 31, the Federal Aviation Administration requested public comment on its longstanding policy of prohibiting the use of personal electronics during takeoffs and landings. The restrictions date back to 1991 and were motivated in part by anecdotal reports from pilots and flight crews that electronic devices affected an airliner’s navigation equipment or disrupted communication between the cockpit and the ground. Over the years, however, Boeing has been unable to duplicate these problems, and the FAA can only say that the devices’ radio signals “may” interfere with flight operations.

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