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Snapped this photo on my last flight. Did my phone disrupt the plane’s operations?

“Could you please turn off your _____ (insert electronic device here)?”

You’ve certainly heard this instruction given by a flight attendant, either to you or someone else, before the takeoff and landing of an airplane.

But let’s be real: is there actually any validity to it?

This interesting article from the New York Times shows how there is no scientific evidence that proves a device can harm a plane’s operations, and cites a NASA report to prove it.

This debate has picked up media steam over the past year or so — remember that famous Alec Baldwin/Words With Friends incident? — and the FAA in August announced plans to establish a group to study the use of portable electronic devices during flight (not for cell calls).

It does seem a little odd that pilots are now allowed to use iPads in the cockpit to replace paper-based reference manuals, while passengers are still told to completely shut off their phones, laptops and tablets.

I’ll admit I’ve “cheated” a few times and kept my iPod or phone running during those “no electronic device” time periods. I often figure my music won’t affect the plane — I’ve never read about it happening nor heard of anything similar.

Minutes before my flight last week to Washington D.C., I waited for a flight attendent to notice the headphones on my head, but instead she spoke over the intercom and told us to be on the “honor code” to turn off our devices. I doubt everyone on the plane shut down their phones.

Here are some of the comments on the NYT piece:

Aristotle from Washington: The FAA rule is plain absurd. Anybody who has been on private aircraft knows there are no rules against the use of mobile phones or other electronics devices during take-off, flight or landing. I flew for several years on Air Force One and we never had to turn off our phones or laptops. Apparently the President was not deemed to be in danger from these electronic wave emitters…

CM from Los Angeles: I am a pilot.
I believe the rules were created in advance of a potential problem in order to cut said problem off at the pass before it actually happens. In aviation we don’t wait for a crash to decide how to handle things. We try to reduce the likelihood of them happening to start with. In aviation the airlines do not need to spend millions of dollars to decide whether not your ipad usage poses a risk in flight. All they need to do is let the pilot’s decide. Me personally, I don’t care if you use it or not, but I do care if you become an upset brat when asked to turn it off.

Ssgt In the U.S. Air Force from Boston: No people….there is NO hazard. It’s a myth. I am a crew chief aboard a military transport, and on any given day, we transport a hundred or more soldiers, who on takeoff, inflight, and on landing, may have their devices going at full strength as they wish…..because we know better.

After a few hundred flights with ZERO incident, and after flying on commercial, civilian airlines 50+ times with my cellphone on in my pocket, like thousands of other passengers daily, there is no danger. It has been studied, it has been proven.

Not being a civilian airline and not being subjected to the same safety regulations, our electronic equipment is not nearly as shielded, and we never have problems. The FAA is antiquated and useless.

Gareth from Chicago: The danger is belied by the fact that no one actually turns their devices off anymore. They just turn off the screen to make the flight attendant happy. If there were a danger, they should already be seeing it.

Will we be able to ditch these antiques and use our own cell phones to make calls in the air someday?

While it would be nice to answer that extra email, or tweet out your latest brainwave during takeoff and landing, it could be really annoying to have several people blabbering on their phones on the plane. When I rode the trains in Japan, we were instructed to move in-between the cars in a specified “cell-phone talking area” so to not disrupt other passengers. Not sure how that would work on planes, where wireless advances could soon enable us to easily Skype our friends and family from the air without payment and without connection problems.

I’m interested to see if the regulations change for electronic devices, not just during airplane flights, but also all transportation. The problem of texting and driving, for example, continues to grow.

I want to hear about your experiences in the air and your thoughts on this. Are you annoyed by the “no-device” rule or do you not mind disconnecting from the electronic world during takeoff and landing?

Previously on GeekWire: Boeing fills plane with potatoes for WiFi breakthrough

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