If you travel by air and dread the 15 minutes or so during takeoff when you're unable to use electronics, you're not alone. Almost every adult carries an electronic device on a plane, and only two-thirds of them remember (or care) to turn it off while the plane gets airborne.
Since this behavior has not yet crashed any planes, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) will investigate whether the restriction on electronic devices may join the Walkman and the Betamax player in tech history's dustbin.
The Airline Passenger Experience Association (APEX) and the Consumer Electronics Association joined forces to survey almost 1,700 travelers about their habits regarding portable devices on planes. Although the majority of users (59 percent) report that they always turn their devices off at the flight staff's request, 30 percent of travelers have accidentally left a device turned on during takeoff or landing.
Even passengers who claim to turn their devices off seldom do exactly that. Twenty-one percent of all passengers surveyed switch it to "airplane mode," and 5 percent comply only sometimes (2 percent make no effort to comply at all).
The study also revealed that 40 percent of passengers want to use their electronics during takeoff and landing (the other 60 percent, presumably, are content to sleep, talk or gaze out the window).
"This study showed us that most travelers are using their [electronics] as often as possible while traveling, and many would like even more opportunities to use their devices," Russell Lemieux, APEX's executive director, said in a statement. "The data in the study reveals important insights into actual passenger behavior, which we hope the FAA will find useful as it deliberates on this issue."
The FAA is indeed reconsidering its rules about electronics in light of the proliferation of consumer devices. Its Portable Electronic Devices Aviation Rulemaking Committee will meet in July to make recommendations about electronic use during flights. [See also: 7 Tips to Keep Your Data Safe on the Road ]
At present, there is very little evidence that electronics interfere with flight patterns during takeoff and landing, especially if the device in question is not connected to the Internet. On the other hand, takeoff and landing are generally the most unpredictable parts of any flight, and ensuring that the flight crew has passengers' full attention could be worthwhile in case of an emergency.
Thirty to 40 minutes of electronics-free time on a plane might not sound like much on a cross-country flight, however, anyone who's ever taken a regional flight can tell you that spending two-thirds of your flight twiddling your thumbs because your eReader is shut off is no picnic.
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