The Federal Aviation Administration has granted American Airlines pilots approval to use iPads during flights, without having to power them off during takeoff and landing.
"What we did was we gave them approval to use iPads as an 'electronic flight bag,'" FAA spokesman Les Dorr confirmed, noting that the official OK was given on Dec. 1.
An electronic flight bag is the paperless version of the traditional flight bag, which weighs about 38 pounds and is comprised of operating manuals, navigational charts, handbooks, checklists, logbooks, weather information, and just about anything a pilot needs to fly a plane. By contrast, the iPad-based flight bag weighs under a pound and a half and has all the necessary materials loaded in app form.
Apple iPads have been used in American's cockpits since June, but because they're considered a "Class 1" device, pilots have had to turn them off during takeoff and landing since then, absent FAA approval.
I must confess that I sometimes neglect to power down my iPad, iPhone, and other electronics during takeoff and landing. People near me also don't switch off their iPods either, and yet, despite flight attendants' instructions to turn off our electronics, the plane arrived at its destination safely.
Chances are, we weren't the only ones who broke the familiar rule. So just why does the Federal Aviation Agency (FAA) still require people to turn off their gadgets?
A Sunday report from the New York Times claims that even the FAA hasn't found proof that the use of electronics pose a threat during takeoff and landing. But FAA spokesperson Les Dorr told the Times that it would prefer to be overly cautious when it comes to the policy.
In 2006, the FAA commissioned the Radio Technical Commission for Aeronautics to test the effects of cell phones and other portable electronics on flights.
It concluded that there was "insufficient information to support changing the policies," Dorr said. "There was no evidence saying these devices can't interfere with a plane, and there was no evidence saying that they can."