Get breaking news alerts via email

Click here to manage your alerts
Why power down our phones on planes? The questions fly

< Previous Page

Of course, we — a royal pronoun that includes Kirchoff — are only human. People can be forgetful or lazy and neglect to turn off their gadgets. According to the flight attendants’ study, nearly 75 percent of surveyed crew members have witnessed passengers disobeying the PED policy on every flight. Almost 83 percent of respondents said that the violation involved a refusal to turn off a cellphone.

In a separate study, the Consumer Electronics Association conducted a survey of in-flight habits in 2003 and again in 2013. A key discovery: "Airline passengers are less concerned about the potential for interference with aircraft systems caused by PEDs than they were a decade ago."

Join the Discussion
Post a Comment

Between takeoff and landing, the rules do loosen up. Some international carriers, such as Qatar Airways, Ryanair and Lufthansa, provide in-flight cellphone service. Passengers use their own phones inside a telecom bubble designed and certified specifically for the aircraft.

"Some airlines have installed systems to make this possible without interfering with airline systems or ground-based cellphone systems," said Perry Flint, a spokesman for the International Air Transport Association.

In addition, a growing number of airlines (United, Southwest, American, JetBlue, etc.) are offering Internet through a special WiFi plan. The low-fare bus model has sprouted wings. And of course, passengers are free to switch on their e-whatevers — in airplane mode only — once the plane reaches a cruising altitude of 10,000 feet. They can noodle around with their gadgets until the final descent.

"It’s what, 20 minutes, maybe less than that?" said Caldwell, referring to the no-PED time frame.

One of Boeing’s projects is to design and build an aircraft tolerant of PEDs. Kirchoff said that the models are in"testing phase." But the experts will need to put on their running shoes to keep up with technology.

"Wireless and electronic technologies change so quickly," said Levis, "and planes are intended to last for decades."

Levis is an advocate of the current FAA rule. "I’d be very uncomfortable if people had many kinds of electronic devices communicating wirelessly during flight," he said, "in part because some might be rare or do strange things that nobody has tested for safety in a plane."

Flight attendants, who already fight for passengers’ attention, are also partial to the regulation. "We are first responders, not the PED Brigade," said Caldwell.

story continues below
story continues below

Kirchoff also sits on the turn-them-off side of the fence.

"There are a lot of layers of safety," he said. "If you remove [one] layer, you increase the probability of something happening."

He also brings up a related hazard that you don’t need a Ph.D to understand: "You don’t want to have laptops flying around."

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Top Reader Comments Read All Comments Post a Comment
Click here to read all comments   Click here to post a comment

About Reader Comments

Reader comments on sltrib.com are the opinions of the writer, not The Salt Lake Tribune. We will delete comments containing obscenities, personal attacks and inappropriate or offensive remarks. Flagrant or repeat violators will be banned. If you see an objectionable comment, please alert us by clicking the arrow on the upper right side of the comment and selecting "Flag comment as inappropriate". If you've recently registered with Disqus or aren't seeing your comments immediately, you may need to verify your email address. To do so, visit disqus.com/account.
See more about comments here.
Staying Connected
Contests and Promotions
  • Search Obituaries
  • Place an Obituary

  • Search Cars
  • Search Homes
  • Search Jobs
  • Search Marketplace
  • Search Legal Notices

  • Other Services
  • Advertise With Us
  • Subscribe to the Newspaper
  • Access your e-Edition
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Contact a newsroom staff member
  • Access the Trib Archives
  • Privacy Policy
  • Missing your paper? Need to place your paper on vacation hold? For this and any other subscription related needs, click here or call 801.204.6100.