Safety from Fanatics
The International Herald Tribune had another great article on the last day of 2012 - Nick Bilton tells us in excellent style that not only is there no evidence that electronic devices interfere with flight electronics but pilots use iPads to read flight manuals. "iPads help pilots get it up" then. And hopefully, gently back down again too.
I was reading this paper as I was travelling through Manchester to Brussels, and so it was comforting to know that I was not alone with my own two little security stories from the trip.
We have always known that the security checks at airports wouldn't stop even a half witted terrorist. But they do provide a due diligence prop. I mean prop in the sense of leaning on it - legally, not in the purely theatrical sense - the real sense of airport security and everything to do with modern airline travel. On the day that I travelled through Manchester airport - yes the same cool Manchester of Oasis, The Buzzcocks, The Verve, New Order, The Chemical Brothers and the man who married a monster from outer space - John Cooper Clarke - I was relieved of two tiny spanners by a charming woman at airport security. "No tools are allowed in hand luggage". When I asked her what she meant by tools, she just looked at me blankly. I think it was a "is that a serious question?" look. A kind of " Do you think the rules are there to help people?" kind of look. Or more likely "Look we all know it's bleedin' obvious but just play the game will you" look. Think Orwell's 1984 and Gilliam's 1985- Brasil. The airport's a little outside the city and the city's cool hasn't reached it yet.
On the plane I was asked to switch off my iphone. Having switched it to airplane mode and then off, I was told that this was not good enough and in fact only a machine reset would do. No kidding. Admirable fanatical devotion to the rules. I thought the anti-terrorism measures were supposed to defeat fanaticism.
But Nick Bilton's article is really excellent - he doesn't just have anecdotes - he's spoken to FAA spokesmen and has supporting information from NASA and the Federal Communications Commission. NASA has produced reports which show that electronic devices on planes do not harm a plane's operation (probably why the pilots use iPads ) and the other has written to the FAA telling them that they have a responsibility to enable greater use of tablets and other portable devices on flights. He ends by suggesting that eventually someone will be harmed by another passenger believing that the plane must be protected from a Kindle. Really excellent article though it is, here he is wrong. First it will be a hostess or an airport security person harmed by someone who just can't keep playing the game. In reality - my reality, not airline travel safety reality - Robert De Niro will bring Harry Tuttle to the rescue again.
2nd January 2013