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Airlines don't let you use electronic devices when the plane is taking off/landing. Let's suppose I have a Kindle 3, and I have turned off wireless (i.e. both Wifi and GSM/3G is off).

Since you don't need power or the battery to read what's on the screen (the magic of eInk displays), it's technically 'off' when I'm reading it, right?

Can I still use it when the flight is taking off? Have any national aviation authorities passed judgement on this?

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If you get to use your eInk tablet during takeoff, I will take out my LCD tablet. If someone sees my tablet, he will use his phone (in airplane mode). Now, if powered-on phones appear, someone will call his mum. –  Jan Oct 27 '11 at 18:27
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8 Answers

up vote 15 down vote accepted

The Association of Flight Attendants cites three main risks they are attempting to mitigate with turning off and stowing personal electronic devices:

  1. Devices flying around the cabin
  2. Distracting from instructions
  3. Electronic Interference

Follow instructions regarding Personal Electronic Devices - If an emergency incident were to occur during a critical portion of your flight, Portable Electronic Devices could fly around the cabin if not properly stowed, distract passengers from hearing Flight Attendant instructions, or generate electronic signals that interfere with critical aircraft instruments.

While the Kindle may not use much power when the wireless is turned off (it is NOT completely off however - the operating system continues to run and RAM continues to be refreshed), it can still fly around the cabin and serve as a distraction. According to these criteria, a Kindle with the wireless off is no different from a laptop or phone in airplane mode and should therefore be treated the same.

In my personal experience flying, many flight attendants now add the phrase "and that means Kindles too" when they tell us to turn off and stow our devices.

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How is a kindle any different from a book flying around the cabin? –  Sverre Rabbelier Sep 6 '11 at 9:59
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But, here's a possible explanation: Seems that Kindles and other electronic devices may have higher density, sharper edges, more aerodynamic characteristics, less grip. I could see being hurt by a Kindle in the face. A paperback book would be hard-pressed to hurt me, unless a spine-corner hit me right in the eye. A hard-back could be painful on a corner of the cover, but is less aerodynamic and would offer a more elastic collision due to the opening/closing range of motion. –  Jonathan Sep 6 '11 at 17:43
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The FAA advisory circular - which American airlines and other international carriers that fly into the US have to adhere to, so this a fairly standard industry practice - that relates to use of 'personal electronic devices' can be found here. An example given is:

A cell phone will not be authorized for use while the aircraft is being taxied for departure after leaving the gate. The unit will be turned off and properly stowed to prepare the aircraft for takeoff as per the operator’s procedures.

I'm assuming a Kindle will fall into this category because it has wireless functions. Anyway, the standard industry practice is to allow NO electronic devices to be switched on regardless of whether they have any wireless capabilities or not, period. Technically they could claim the Kindle is on when you flip a page. It's not as if you're going to sit on the same page throughout the takeoff/landing procedure, so the device could be considered to be 'in operation'.

As long as the wireless functions are turned off, it shouldn't be a problem to use it once the flight captain announces use of electronic devices is allowed, otherwise, just like anything else, your Kindle has to be stowed away.

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Technically, the kindle has no current except when changing pages as the screen is solid state... now whether the flight attendants will know that is another question. –  Ginamin Jul 13 '11 at 2:06
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I was asked to turn off Kindle during landing on a Ryanair flight. Provided that there's basically no such thing as "turning off a Kindle" this doesn't make much sense, but it's still considered an electronic device (since it has a battery) and is not allowed to be used during take off or landing.

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I have also said that. "Can you turn that off please?" Me: "It is off" –  Rory Jul 13 '11 at 8:41
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Slide the switch over to the right for 7 (seven) seconds. On a Kindle 3, anyway. Blanks the screen, and turns it "off off". –  Tom Hawtin - tackline Jul 13 '11 at 19:11
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Yes, but no one does it and flight attendants are satisfied with you just tossing it away :) –  Alan Mendelevich Jul 14 '11 at 7:10
    
just close the cover (you do have one, don't you?) during takeoff and landing and it looks just like a paper folio for taking notes. –  jwenting Dec 23 '11 at 7:20
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Technically if the wifi and 3g is off, it's not going to do anything to the plane.

HOWEVER...

This is not why they mention electronic devices DURING Take off and Landing. It's a safety thing. If someone is listening to their ipod, they may not hear evacuation instructions. If someone is on a laptop, it may get in the way trying to get out to the aisle. Therefore for the most important part of the flight, all electronic equipment needs to be stowed away.

Of course, once the flight is airborne, you're perfectly fine to use a Kindle, asuming the wifi or 3g is turned off.

And yes, I know a Kindle is 'off' as long as you're not changing pages, but that's not the point here ;)

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Who hears evacuation instructions anyway? Is the life jacket above your head or under the seat? No idea. There was a point in one demonstration last year when I took some notice, because I noticed I had no idea how to tie a double knot, which is apparently important. –  Tom Hawtin - tackline Jul 13 '11 at 19:14
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Besides, I'm allowed to carry a regular book aren't I? What's the difference in distraction between a book and a kindle? –  Sverre Rabbelier Sep 6 '11 at 9:56
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I've seen flight attendants tell people off for reading and for talking during the demonstration, so according to some airlines at least, there is no difference. –  Mark Mayo Sep 6 '11 at 12:05
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Does this mean I have to stow my Etch-A-Sketch during take off and landing as well? :( –  Flimzy Oct 27 '11 at 22:25
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Depends on the airline. As in my last comment, even reading during this period has drawn their wrath. –  Mark Mayo Oct 27 '11 at 22:37
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As long as you turn off the Wireless on the Kindle, there should be no problem.

I've used Kindles on many flights, on European as well as American airlines, without any problems.

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I have just done eight flight segments in 10 days with my Kindle in front of my face, never heard a peep from a flight attendant.

As for the Association of Flight Attendants' reasons:

  1. Devices flying around the cabin (if that were a legitimate concern, they'd ask you to put away books, which are typically heavier than Kindles)
  2. Distracting from instructions (ditto, plus magazines and newspapers and just snoozing -- I wonder if anyone in the history of aviation has ever listened attentively to the safety instructions and then, because he listened, actually was able to put those instructions into practice and save himself from harm)
  3. Electronic Interference

Ah, there's the rub. The problem (or lack-of-problem) is, a "turned-off" Kindle generates exactly as much electronic interference as a turned-on one, which is to say, very, very little compared to, say, a cell-phone and hugely less than the monitors they use to give safety instructions. At least most planes have eliminated CRTs, which might as well be jamming stations when it comes to RF interference.

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that said, the screens installed in aircraft all have passed extensive testing and are well shielded, your handheld electronics devices are not (playing devil's advocate here, I know a Kindle is effectively inert ). –  jwenting Dec 23 '11 at 7:19
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Fantastic answer appeared on digg (and ABC News) today, explaining all this.

Terrible example of one cellphone actually causing big problems, and studies including 75 instances in 6 years connecting cellphones to serious safety issues.

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I think you may have linked to the wrong article. The one there, "Nonsense and Paranoia at 35,000 Feet: Why Are Electronics Still Banned on Flights?" is entirely skeptical of the ban and does not seem to mention these 75 instances at all... –  hippietrail Dec 23 '11 at 23:21
    
Weird, it IS the right article, but I'd focused on watching the video, where it talks about the risks and 75 instances. –  Mark Mayo Dec 24 '11 at 2:04
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The FAA has revised their recommendations to airlines to allow personal electronic devices during all phases of flight.

http://www.faa.gov/news/press_releases/news_story.cfm?cid=TW189&newsId=15254 http://www.faa.gov/about/initiatives/ped/

It should be noted that particular airlines, aircraft or even individual personnel on a particular flight may not be fully informed of the latest procedures and the finer points involved in the guidelines. There may be different policies on flights that do not provide Wi-Fi internet connections.

While it may be possible to provide airline and plane-specific documentation to politely plead your case, it might ultimately be best to respect the airline employee's instructions.

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protected by Mark Mayo Jan 7 at 11:37

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