Any travelers who've ever hidden earbuds inside their hoodies to blast a dramatic soundtrack (Mogwai? Explosions in the Sky? "Ride of the Valkyries"?) for take-off, know that listening to music on an electronic device will not make a plane crash. Finally, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) seems to be coming to that realization too.
This past Friday, an advisory committee signaled plans to ask the FAA to loosen up on music players, laptops, smart phones, e-readers, plus some other gadgets. By as early as the end of the year, fliers could be able to remain in headphones from the moment they step on a plane to the moment they step off. Soon, the idea of turning off electronic devices on a plane will be as anachronistic as smoking a pack Camels on a flight from New York to Los Angeles.
The change is a long time coming. The rule governing the use of electronic devices on planes dates back to 1966, when electromagnetic interference from portable FM radios spooked aviation experts. But technological advances, both in the devices that passengers carry and in the planes themselves, make that arcane fear moot. In the nearly 50 years since the rules were written, the FAA has relaxed its stance in some areas, allowing passengers to use electronic devices once a plane hits 10,000 feet.
These days, that number is completely arbitrary. As studies and the actions of rebellious passengers show time and time again, an iPod or cell phone left on during taxi, take off, and landing has no effect on the plane. If you're one of those rebels, you deserve some credit for the FAA's change of heart. As the FAA advisory group wrote in its report, the agency may lose credibility once passengers realize that its rules are outdated or just don't make sense.
As exciting as this inevitable rule change may be, it's worth acknowledging the end of an era. Now, with the requirement to power down until 10,000 feet, many the permanently connected are forced away from their screens and lulled into a quiet slumber. With these moments no longer necessary, adult life will soon exist with one fewer chance for an authorized nap. So before we celebrate a victory for logic and evidence, let us mourn this defeat for shut-eye.