I spent most of this past week visiting my younger brother in Arizona. On the flight back I had the great fortune to sit two seats away from an extraordinarily loud and obnoxious man. He happened to work in the same field that I do and claimed that he had great success… and oh boy was he a talker, and that’s coming from a guy who can talk your ear off. Seriously, the guy didn’t shut up until he passed out halfway through the flight.
His many angry and inescapable monologues which he directed at me included everything from career advice, to his wife’s “excessive spending habits” (she sitting between us… I cannot tell you how awkward that was), to how “women are destroying the workplace,” to his rage over having to turn his cellphone off during air travel.
In an effort to cope with this guy’s schmucky, misogynistic diatribes I started to write this post in my mind. He was upset that he couldn’t use his cellphone on the plane (among many other things).
If I though that he would have listened I would have explained to him that the reason portable electronics aren’t allowed during takeoff and landing is because there is a concern that they could interfere with communications systems (which are crucial during takeoff and landing). There doesn’t seem to be any conclusive studies that confirm that electronics pose a threat to communications systems, however the FAA and Congress feel that on the outside chance they can cause a problem, it is better to annoy passengers for the first 20 and last 10 minutes of a flight by making them turn everything off instead of crashing a plane and killing everyone on board.
As far as the general cellphone ban on airplanes is concerned, it seems to have more to do with a general dislike of cellphone yappers in close quarters. This issue is still up for political debate. Personally, I think there are enough annoyances on flights: the screaming baby, the guy who hasn’t bathed in a week, the kid who keeps kicking your seat, or the ass who won’t stop ranting at you. I don’t really want to add the self-important business person who can’t put down his/her phone, or the chatty teenybopper who can’t sever the connections with her BFF during a flight to the list of “people you don’t want to sit near.” But that’s just me.
To answer the question of safety, I doubt that anyone’s Nintendo DS, cellphone, iPod, or laptop will bring down an airliner. If that were the case, it probably would have already happened. Plenty of people forget to turn these devices off or they turn on in your bag or pocket. So rest easy, your phone isn’t going to make the plane crash.
For more on this, you can read WiseGeek.