It took me a long time to start using a Kindle. I never thought I'd enjoy reading anything other than books printed on paper.
But now I'm a convert -- for fiction, at least. (I still am addicted to highlighting paper pages of non-fiction books in my own personal colorful way, along with penning notes on blank endpages.)
It was a delight to use my Kindle Paperwhite during a recent Maui vacation. Not so much, though, on the five hour flights to and from Portland.
Settling into my seat as the Alaska flight was about to take off, I pulled out my Kindle. I'd already put my iPhone into "airplane mode." Had no idea that my Kindle was a dangerous device.
"Sir, you need to put that away." The flight attendant was pointing at my Kindle. "Huh?" I said blankly. "It needs to be turned off before takeoff."
Not only then, I learned. All the way up to 35,000 feet. And once we started to descend below that elevation. Which struck me as seriously bizarre.
Not being able to read for twenty or thirty minutes, I had plenty of time to ponder the absurdity of the current electronic device situation on airplanes.
If my Kindle is a potentially dangerous object, why couldn't a terrorist make a Super Kindle filled with much more powerful electronic mayhem? No one actually checks to see whether cell phones, e-readers, and such are turned off as a plane takes off or lands.
It sure seems like either (1) no one should be allowed to take any sort of electronic device onto an airplane, or (2) everyone should be able to use whatever they want, at any time they want during a flight.
I vote for (2). If modern airplanes are so fragile that their safe operation can be threatened by the operation of common electronic devices, then fix the damn airplanes!
Thankfully, there are signs that sanity may eventually prevail at the F.A.A.:
One member of the group and an official of the F.A.A., both of whom asked for anonymity because they were not allowed to speak publicly about internal discussions, said the agency was under tremendous pressure to let people use reading devices on planes, or to provide solid scientific evidence why they cannot.
As I wrote in 2011, travelers are told to turn off their iPads and Kindles for takeoff and landing, yet there is no proof that these devices affect a plane’s avionics. To add to the confusion, the F.A.A. permits passengers to use electric razors and audio recorders during all phases of flight, even though those give off more electronic emissions than reading tablets.
...To guarantee that the F.A.A. follows through with its promise to relax the rules, Senator Claire McCaskill, Democrat of Missouri, said she planned to hold the agency accountable by introducing legislation.
In a phone interview, Ms. McCaskill said she had grown frustrated with the F.A.A.’s stance on devices after she learned that the agency now allows iPads as flight manuals in the cockpit and has subsequently given out devices to some flight attendants with information on flight procedures.
“So it’s O.K. to have iPads in the cockpit; it’s O.K. for flight attendants — and they are not in a panic — yet it’s not O.K. for the traveling public,” she said. “A flying copy of ‘War and Peace’ is more dangerous than a Kindle.”