When Kenneth Kirchoff notices that an airline passenger has failed to power off his gadget as instructed, he’ll politely point out the oversight. He might use a nonconfrontational line such as this: “Excuse me — did you realize that you didn’t turn off your device?” What he doesn’t mention during this brief interaction is who he is, what he knows and why you should listen to him.
If he won’t share, I will.
Kirchoff is a research and development engineer with Boeing. Since 2003, he has been testing aircraft to ensure the safe usage of portable electronic devices (PEDs) onboard, focusing on how signals emitted from passengers’ gadgets can muddle pilots’ communications, navigation or surveillance systems. His conclusion: “Interference is possible.”
The debate over PED use on planes has turned into a seething nest of Angry Birds. On one side are passengers, legislators such as Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) and electronics manufacturers and suppliers. These folks question the science, and sense unfairness in the rule requiring travelers to unplug all devices during takeoff and landing. This contingent wants its e-readers, its tablets, its DVD players, its video games, its Words With Friends (that one’s for you, Alec Baldwin) and other techy diversions for the entire span of the journey — not just the middle portion.