'Fresh Look' at iPads, E-readers for Passengers on Airplanes

As FareCompare has reported, pilots on several airlines have been swapping out paper flight manuals for iPads and similar devices, but so far passengers are forbidden to use such electronics – at least during the sometimes lengthy periods when an aircraft is taxiing, taking-off, landing or just idling on the tarmac.

But this may be changing, according to The New York Times.

FAA to Test iPads on Empty Planes

The paper quotes an Federal Aviation Administration spokesperson as saying the agency will  take a “fresh look at the use of personal electronics on planes,” to determine whether they pose any danger or distraction on a plane. No deadline was cited but any change in policy will take some time.

In order to test these electronics, the devices must be flown on planes without passengers. This explains why the airlines are not eager to perform these experiments on their own since in today’s world of keeping revenues high by cutting capacity, even an empty middle seat hurts a carrier’s bottom line. However, airlines could be beneficiaries of a relaxed policy on iPads.

Should Passengers Pay-by-the-Pound? One Expert Says, Yes

Electronic Devices Mean Less Weight, Less Fuel

Not only would it make e-reading passengers happy, it may save a significant amount of weight and that’s important because any weight is a drag on fuel which is  one of the biggest operating costs of the airline industry.  A good example is a pilot’s paper manual which can weigh as much as 25 pounds or more, while its electronic replacement is less than 2 pounds.

An iPhone Explodes on Plane

What about Cell Phones?

So are cell phones next? Anything is possible, but the FAA has no apparent plans to investigate phones on planes so for the time being the ban on using cellular phones in the air remains in effect. Passengers can use them on the ground until the flight attendant says to turn them off, and as Alec Baldwin well knows, that’s one order you disobey at your peril.


Published: March 19, 2012