The Real Reason You Should Turn Off Your Phone During Takeoff

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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

cell phone, news, texting

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LKRachel LKRachel

How old are you? I'm 30 and I remember there being a smoking section on a flIght when I was at least 9-that was 1990. And the main reason you're not supposed to use distracting devices during takeoff and landing is Bc those are the most risky times of the flight and you need to be able to pay attention QUICKLY should something happen. Flight attendants don't make those spiels up, they're not there to annoy you and interrupt your facebooking, they are there to save your life.

Rachel Schiller

Yes I do... I'm a rule follower.

mesai mesai

At 34, I remember when they banned smoking on domestic flights, but still had to endure sitting near the smoking section on international flights. So, really,  how old is not that young? Since the bans were less than 20 years ago, they may still be pertinent to announce, especailly the not messing with the smoke detectors in the bathrooms. Yes, they may need to change the way they tell you to turn off your PEDs, but people should follow the rules for safety's sake anyway...

bookl... booklover74

36 here and I flew on flights with smoking sections and clearly remember when the bann went into effect.  People will mess with the smoke detector in the bathrooms to try and sneak a smoke, especially on flights longer than 2 hours, if you don't remind they can't and that there are big penalties for doing it.


I can sympathise with your arguement but when you start tossing out (and going on and on about) things about no need for the no smoking speech because you are to young to remember smoking on a plane you lose credibility for your entire point. You must be pretty young or you just didn't fly until your adulthood to notice. Smokers attempt to disable smoke detectors in all sorts of places to catcha  quick smoke in the bathroom of a no smoking area or building. They are often successfu so it isn't a no brainer that you wouldn't do that on a plane as well and some older folks might still think planes have smoking sections on them.


I do agree with your point that there isn't a single shred of proof out there that PEDs cause interference.

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