Despite this information, an FAA advisory committee is expected in July to make a recommendation on whether airline passengers should be allowed to use their mobile devices during all aspects of a flight from takeoff to landing. According to NASA, Boeing and the U.K.’s Civil Aviation Authority, some devices do interfere with airline equipment. Currently, if a plane is below 10,000 feet, the only electronic devices allowed to be turned on are portable recording devices, hearing aids, heart pacemakers and electric shavers. Above 10,000 feet, phones can be used if they are on Airplane Mode which means that none of the radios on the device are sending or receiving signals. A recent study conducted by the CEA found that 30% of airline passengers have accidentally had a device powered on through an entire flight.
While inflight Wi-Fi systems are fine because they connect to devices at low power levels, Delta Airlines said that it has compiled a list of 27 incidents from 2010-2012 where a consumer electronic device has led to the malfunction of an aircraft. On the other hand, there is the CTIA, the Association for the Wireless Industry which said last year that personal electronics do not cause interference. And the FAA is having a harder time convincing passengers that their smartphones and tablets present a risk since the agency allowed pilots to replace their paper maps and navigational tools with specially equipped Apple iPads.
So far, there has never been an incident where a personal electronic device has caused an accident. For the most part, passengers are aware of the restrictions and act accordingly. Of course, not everyone is so quick to comply with the rules. In the most famous incident, actor Alec Baldwin got tossed from an American Airlines plane when he refused to turn off his iPhone prior to takeoff. Mr. Baldwin was playing Words With Friends at the time.