Shortly after boarding, flight attendants are required by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to tell passengers to turn off all electronic devices including cell phones and laptop computers. But is it really necessary and what really happens if you don't?
The official reason for the requirement that electronic devices need to be turned off is to make sure passengers listen to the safety instructions from the flight attendants, reduce the presence of loose objects getting in the way in case of an emergency and to eliminate the possibility of the devices interfering with the airline's avionics.
It is not just about putting away your electronic devices, but actually shutting them completely down. Recently, there have been highly publicized cases of passengers getting caught ignoring the rules -- actor Josh Duhamel was kicked off a flight, for instance, for continuing to use his Blackberry when ordered not to.
Electronic devices must be kept off under 10,000 feet since take off and landing are two of the most critical parts of a flight, experts say. It's considered a matter of safety.
At lower altitudes there is less room to recover if something goes wrong, so, "aircraft navigation and course corrections are required to be more precise," Dave Carson, Boeing Cabin Systems Engineer told AOL Travel News.
The FAA's website indicates the agency is not fully sure how electronic waves might interfere with airline avionics, but they want to make sure passengers remain safe. According to the site, "there are still unknowns about the radio signals that portable electronic devices and cell phones give off."
Of course many airlines allow passengers to use cell phones once flights are on the ground. A few years ago American Airlines, for one, tested how cell phones would affect their planes electronics, and decided it was fine to allow passengers to turn on their cell phones after landing and while taxiing to the gate.
And in some places around the world, passengers can use their cell phone during flight. Singapore Airlines this year plans to introduce the option to passengers of staying connected at 35,000 feet; and Emirates Airlines, based in Dubai, has allowed cell usage since March 2008.
Will we see cell phones on American and other U.S. carriers? Not likely. "We are not seeking a way to use cell phones in flight. Our customers have made it clear they do not want phone conversations in flight," said American spokesman Tim Smith.
While the FAA is concerned about how cell phones might affect safety, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is more concerned about the infrastructure on the ground. According to the agency's
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