The Real Reason You Should Turn Off Your Phone During Takeoff

airplaneWe've all broken this rule probably once or twice in our lives: leaving our iPod on during takeoff or sending that one last text to the office as our plane departs for Dallas. Turns out it may or may not be as harmless as we thought. A new study by the International Air Transportation Authority disclosed that 75 flights between 2003 and 2009 might have had flight controls interrupted by Personal Electronic Devices.

Hmm. I'm all for airline safety, obviously, but what is this study telling us? Let's do some very rough math. If there are about 28,500 commercial domestic flights a day, that's about 104,025,000 flights a year, times the six years over which the survey was conducted ... that's 624,150,000 flights. If 75 of them were possibly affected by PEDs (the study is quick to point out they can't say for certain PEDs were the culprit of the interference), then there is a 0.0000012% chance that email you sent may have, possibly, affected the flight controls.


Oh! The study was conducted worldwide. Can you imagine how low that percentage would be if I included every flight, everywhere? My calculator can't. I'm not sure that this study was worth our time. First, if there's no definitive on whether or not PEDs can be blamed, then what's the point? And with a percentage that low, I mean, I think I have better odds of birthing a unicorn.

Here's the thing. If the airlines want us to turn off our damn electronic devices for takeoff and landing ... fine. They don't need this pointless study, though. All they need to do is to modernize their little shpeel before takeoff. For example, lose the bit about smoking. I've never been alive when smoking was allowed on planes, and as much as I hate to admit it, I'm not that young. I would doubt that anyone on the plane is thinking:

"Really? I can't smoke on this flight?!??! I had no idea!!! What?!? What did she just say?!? I can't mess with the smoke detector in the bathroom?!??! I thought this was a democracy!!!"

As long as they keep those antiquated announcements, no one is going to take them seriously when they announce something even remotely pertinent. Let's just all agree that we packed our own bags, we're not smoking on flights, and that if we leave our iPod on during takeoff, there may be a 0.0000012% chance we may be causing some trouble. The real reason you should turn off your phone for takeoff is to save the battery.

Somebody get me an Advil.

Do you turn off your PEDs before takeoff?

Photo via S Baker/Flickr

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