Finally, I Was Right About Something

(Photo: Bill Alldredge)

(Photo: Bill Alldredge)

Seven years ago, I blogged about how nonsensical many airline rules and regulations seemed to be.

At the very top of my list was the prohibition on the use of electronics before takeoff and landing. The FAA finally gave into logic on this one, and airlines have been remarkably speedy in instituting the change.

(If you go back and look at the post, you will see that another thing I railed against was the announcement about “in the unlikely event of a water landing.”  There is no doubt this announcement is a complete waste of time, but not long after the post went up, Captain Sullenberger pulled off a water landing.  Thanks for nothing, Sully!)

Mike Pants

Regarding the water landing, look to Ethiopian Airlines Flight 961, hijacked on 23 November 1996, as the only reason you will ever need for those announcements. The aircraft was forced to make a water landing after running out of fuel, and because many of the passengers ignored the safety instructions, they inflated their life jackets inside the cabin and were trapped by the rising waters.

It is an "unlikely event," but one that has a completely different set of procedures required to keep you alive. Ignore them to your peril.

Scott L

I flew United yesterday. They still are not allowing electronic items. The flight Attendents were polite but from their tone, you could tell they were getting pressured by a few passengers to allow.


I heard pilots and flight attendants call into a local radio show on this topic. Several of them insisted that the ban on electronics before/during takeoff & during/after landing has two related purposes:

1) They don't want the passengers nose down in electronics during the safety briefings.

2) Take-off & landing are both considered the most likely parts of flight for an emergency to occur, and should one occur, it is better for passengers to already be in a somewhat more alert frame of mind (which isn't the case with face down playing candy crush saga).


So what about books and magazines?

Mike W

Shouldn't the relevance of the "in the unlikely event of a water landing" depend on what kind of flight you are taking? I'd figure that for a transcontinental flight, saying "in the unlikely event of a crash" is nearly identical to saying "in the unlikely event of a water landing", since nearly the entire flight is spent over water.

It also may be possible that, in the event of an unavoidable crash (i.e. out of fuel or whatever), the safest option is for the pilot to target a body of water. Again, in this case it would be as descriptive to use "water landing" as it would to use "crash". So perhaps telling fliers to be prepared for a possible water landing is a less panic-inducing way to introduce safety procedures should the plane go down.

Enter your name...

If most of the flight is over water, then it would be the most likely place for a crash... if crashes were randomly distributed across flight time, which they are not. The most likely place for a crash is at take-off or at landing.

Art B

Reading over your post from seven years ago, you mentioned another safety policy that you felt was not worthwhile: the rule against people reclining their seats (during takeoff and landing, presumably). This rule makes great sense. In the event that people need to evacuate the plane, they are unlikely to remember to put their seat upright as they leave. If seats on the aisle are left in a reclined position, it makes egress much more difficult for those sitting in the next row back and nearer to the windows - especially in America, where a great number of people would have difficulty fitting through the resulting 10-12 inches of leg room. I am a tall guy and have very high utility from a reclined seat, but this is one rule that's never bothered me. But, regarding the use of electronic devices from gate to gate, I could not be happier!


The water landing brief is a less scary way of telling passengers "if you end up in the water still alive, this is the sort of debris you can use to stay afloat".

For Scott - each airline has to be approved individually to go to the new policy, and not all of them have been. United (and every other airline) will be permitting PEDs the moment the FAA tells them they can.


I explained that to a United cabin attendant once. "Have you ever heard of a wide-body jet successfully landing on water?" She wasn't happy as we were at 45,000 feet over the Pacific.


My favorite always used to be the bit about blowing on the whistle "to attract attention". You know, in case 150,000 lbs of flaming wreckage falling from the sky didn't attract enough attention.


I wouldn't worry about it Steve. Saw an interview with Hayek on the "Commanding Heights" videos. What was it, 38 years or so before he was proved right?