Federal Aviation Administration has gone and done something the flight attendants on one of my recent flights would not do. It's gone and talked tough to a iPad wielding air traveler who thought the rules regarding using electronic devices below ten-thousand feet did not apply to him.
Correction, Grant Cardone, the fella en route to LA from NYC on Delta, did think the rules applied to him, or so he told CNN's Soledad O'Brien, just not this particular one.
"To think that a device, a telephone or this iPad can take down a plane
is ridiculous, because figure 90% of all people in America now have an
iPhone on them," Cardone said channeling the digital generation's favorite in flight device-user, Alec Baldwin.
You gotta love this story. Cardone is using his iPad as a camera to record the take off of Delta Flight 1063 when pop, pop, pop, he records geese disappearing into view right about the place where the engine is.
Well the next thing you know the video is on You Tube. But here the FAA goes uncharacteristically aggressive on an issue it's been mincing around since my first story on this was published in The New York Times 14 months ago.
In a letter Cardone shared with CNN, the FAA wrote, "Your failure to comply with flight attendant instructions could have affected the safety of this flight." The agency charged with ensuring the safety of the flying public then suggests it could take legal enforcement action, but this time, it will not.
Everybody and their brother thinks they're an expert on the relationship between digital devices and aircraft flight controls. And the line between cause and effect couldn't be more attenuated in aviation which is why folks like Cardone say things like if this were a problem thousands of airliners would be falling from the sky every day. (Don't get me started!)
Numbskulls like Cardone who deceive themselves - if not others - into thinking they abide by the rules but the rules don't count if they don't like them, are part of the problem. Another problem is airlines and an FAA that is wishy-washy about the rule itself.
Charleston last week, I sat next to a young man who was playing his iPod in full view of me and the Delta flight attendants who were doing the seat-belt check. When we were wheels up and I could no longer contain my busy-body self I asked him, "When do you plan to turn off the iPod?" and he said, "I'll play it until I get caught."
So its no surprise to me that passengers get confused. The airline is sending mixed signals and its not just Delta. When airlines tell their flight attendants to treat the use of personal electronic devices below 10 thousand feet as hard-and-fast as the rule that prohibits economy class passengers from using the premium class loo, then I think we'll be making some progress.
In the meantime, kudos to the FAA for flexing its muscle with the Alec Baldwin wanna-be. Airlines should take note.