A reader writes:
You said, rather glibly, that "The FAA bans tech during takeoff because there's no evidence that it can't crash the plane." This is true, but that is how we have arrived at having one of the safest commercial airline systems in the world. As an example of this safety, when would you say the last fatal crash of an American passenger airliner was, without googling? (Answer: The last fatal crash of an American passenger airliner in scheduled service was the Colgan Air crash near Buffalo in February 2009, more than two and a half years ago.) To maintain these levels of safety requires a constant focus on eliminating the most minute threats to the airplane, even if it is a one in a million or even more remote chance.
I call bull-donkey on Fallows' "attention theory".
I'm always ordered to turn off my Kindle but I'm allowed to read a regular book; isn't my attention equally distracted by both devices? I have also heard the "authority theory," which is that they enforce tedious rules and over-exaggerate emergency protocol announcements to impress the notion that they are the absolute decision-makers on the aircraft and give a sense of security to passengers. I think that's more plausible, but equally as ninnyocratic.
Once I saw the most ugly pendant in the AirMall magazine and I made this weird face, and out of the corner of my eye I saw the woman next to me had the same stupid pendant on. Then a split second later I mistakingly made eye-contact with her, she saw my dumb face, the magazine, put it all together and it became the most awkward flight of my life.
If they had let me keep my Kindle on, that would have never happened.
My immediate thought wasn't the emergency situation response; it was that cell phones can be used to trigger bombs and whatnot (in fiction at least), and people fidgeting with gizmos in their laps at takeoff make me nervous (and probably make flight personnel nervous, too).
I would like to see passengers ejected for not following instructions and listening to safety talks. I don't actually care if you fly every day of your life, you're required by law to pay attention to the flight crew. The number of people I see who keep their headphones on, keep playing with their phones, and flagrantly ignore the safety instructions just baffles me. We all know the litany, but it's some 60 or 90 seconds of your life. You can't sit quietly and at least pretend to pay attention for 90 seconds?
Maybe I should send this in to PostSecret and not The Dish, but … I don't turn off my phone or other electronic devices when I fly. Sure, if my phone is in my hand when the flight attendant comes by I'll switch it off, but I don't go out of my way to do it. I flew to Paris a few weeks ago. My phone was in a bag in the overhead bin, and it was ON, and I did not stand up and dig it out and turn it off.
I figure if it was really all that important, they wouldn't just ask people to turn their electronic devices off, they would make sure that they actually turned them off. So shoot me.
Another reader who obviously agrees: the reader who submitted the above photo for our "View From Your Airplane Window" feature. (Don't worry, we won't report you to the FAA.) Fallows readers sound off here.