I’m writing this column for the first time directly on my iPad. I’m using this device in places I’ve never used a computer before: On my sofa reading The Wall Street Journal, in my bed streaming NetFlix movies, and presently propped comfortably on my Southwest Airlines tray table flying from the Burgh to the windy city (an allusion to Chicago politicians more than the weather, although tonight 65,000-foot cumulonimbus clouds delayed us for hours).
You don’t have to be a social media expert to know that Southwest is an entertaining airline. Many of their flight attendants are comedians, singers, and rappers (see YouTube for the best safety briefing ever; note to the FAA it’s something people actually listen to). They’re not at all like United. Ten million people know that ?United breaks guitars?.
So to the point of this column: Since buying my iPad, I’ve been increasingly frustrated by having to turn it off until reaching 10,000 feet. What a dumb rule! Since I no longer buy USAToday, The Wall Street Journal, or The New York Times in paper form, every time I fly I’m bored out of my mind for 10 minutes during both takeoff and landing.
If an iPhone or iPad could bring down a jetliner, the terrorists would have already won, right? Who?s the spineless bureaucrat responsible for his policy?
I’ve been contemplating using Twitter or Facebook to start a revolution to demand a policy change. We the people make the rules. We need our iPads 24 x 7. Are you with me?
Tonight?s flight delay provided an interesting opportunity. While waiting, I talked with our pilot outside the cockpit. Since this was a casual conversation, I’ll caveat it in every way as ?unofficial?. That said, Googling his name revealed that he is an amazingly accomplished flier. He holds the record for surviving the highest speed ejection from a US fighter plane ever (over 800 MPH).
I put it to him frankly. Can an iPad, or any electronic device, really bring down an airplane?
Did you know that the engines on Model 700 of this jet are radio-controlled? he responded.
Say what? Now he had my attention. Apparently it reduces weight but what a crazy tradeoff.
He went on to tell me about a time that he was executing a CAT III? landing in very poor visibility and a proximity alarm? triggered repeatedly resulting in three aborted landing attempts (I’m not sure I’ve captured the lingo perfectly; in my world CAT 3 is a type of phone wire).
It turned out that some guy was using his cell phone and when he shut it off, there were no more alarms.
It’s a long shot that any device would actually interfere with control, let alone catastrophically. But unless consumers want to bear the cost and delay of FCC or FAA certification of every version of every product, we’d better behave.
I’m calling off my revolution and keeping a closer eye on my fellow passengers. Compared to the potential alternative, ten minutes of boredom is a welcome price to pay.