Cleared to Yap
The Federal Aviation Administration is set to, uncharacteristically, relax on one of its policies. You know, that annoying, “All electronic devices with an on and off switch must be powered down at this time.” Meanwhile, you’re on the lookout for a wandering Flight Attendant, who is playing 7th grade math teacher and scolding passengers for having their cell phones on.
I’m guilty of it. When I look out the window and see that we’re relatively low to the ground, I switch out of airplane mode to see who could have possibly messaged me, tweeted me, or even, archaically, called me. Granted, I’m not a full fledged airline pilot yet and have limited experience with complex flight computers. But I have sat in my own glass cockpit aircraft and used my phone very close to the equipment. Nothing happened. The airplane didn’t veer off course, nor did it display incoherent messages. Therefore, I hardly think that my phone would cause an interference in seat 32A.
Therein lies the necessity (or lack thereof) for regulation on the matter. The FAA is strictly concerned with safety. Their principle question in this investigation is not whether Joe Shmoe is happy that his seat mate is being Kenny Tarmac and announcing that THEY JUST LANDED AT THE ATL. Therefore, the use of electronic devices should be dependent upon the airline policy.
In the court of public opinion, I’m sure the doctrine of No-one-cares-about-your-phone-conversation would be upheld, especially in such a confined space. But that isn’t the case here— the argument is based on the safe and secure operation of the aircraft, not the passenger convenience or discomfort.
Having said this, use discretion. If I’m trying to coordinate a ride from the airport or checking in with friends on the phone, I’m quiet, concise, and considerate. I even try to shield the brightness from my fellow seat mates, depending on the time of day and ambient light level.
It’s a tiny liberty for which I’ll continue to advocate under my breath. Until then, I’ll be breaking federal regulations to tweet one last time before wheels up.