The Flying with Electronics Survey Says…

Yesterday I asked you to fill out a quick survey about how you use electronics when you fly. Given all the hubbub out there I wanted to know how my very tech centric audience dealt with the rules. For take off and landing I asked what you did with your electronics in multiple choice. After 696 responses (as of this writing, here is the live link to the results) here is what you said:

  • 63% said that they “Turn on Airplane mode or otherwise make sure all radios are off before sleeping the device.“
  • 16% said that they “Turn the device power completely off.” (The current rule.)
  • 13% said that they “Just sleep the device.”
  • 8% are rebels saying they “Willfully ignore all instructions.”
  • And one dubious fellow said: “I don’t fly with electronics.”

Say this data is someone representative of all tech fliers. That means that 8% off all nerds flying are leaving everything on. Let’s say that 10% of people flying are nerds. So out of 1,000,000 fliers that would be 100,000 nerds. So 8,000 people out of a 1,000,000 ignore all instructions leaving their devices fully on during take off and landing.

Hmm, where’s the fireball crashes?

More interesting is how people handle the devices while in flight:

  • 74% say that they “Make sure the device is in airplane mode.”
  • 15% say that they “Keep WiFi on so that I can hope that there is a free WiFi.”
  • 11% say that they “Leave everything on.”
  • And one guy is still in the stone age.

Look at those numbers again. During the flight more people break the rules than they do during take off and landing. Still, flying has only been getting safer…

If anything I just wanted this survey to show that there certainly are people who break the rules without the horrific outcomes the FAA would have you believe.

What outcomes? I asked what people have heard would happen if they don’t power down devices and here are some of my favorite responses:

  • “death”
  • “The nice lady says so”
  • “Because our advanced electronics systems aren’t capable of filtering out a little radio noise. I’m fairly sure this hasn’t a problem since the late 90s but, whatever.”
  • “Theyd rather be safe than sorry. “
  • “I am British and therefor used to stupid rules that make no sense.”
  • “It may explode the plane.”
  • “Otherwise the plane could crash into a mountain because of interference.”
  • “Not quite on topic, but on one flight, the pilot came on just as we were pushing back from the gate and stated that there was a cell phone still on in the plane and they couldn’t take off until it was turned off. I watched at least 10 people dig into their bags to turn off a phone. Mine stayed on. We took off just fine.”
  • “Spontaneous human combustion”

There are a lot of good answers, mostly people have heard that cell phones cause interference with the airplane communications. A couple of pilots wrote in, and I reached out to a commercial pilot I know about the issue. The consensus from these pilots is that only older, non-3G, devices cause interference — the same way they might cause a buzzing sound to come through your car speakers. This however is gone by 10,000 feet.

However I have been told by a couple of the people that I spoke with that not only do they leave their cell phones on while flying, many pilots don’t turn off their phones.

It seems this is largely a B.S. rule, then again I doubt the FAA would want to gamble 120+ lives when they know that asking all phones to be turned off is safe.

Originally posted for members on: November 29, 2011
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