Thursday, December 8, 2011

Alec Baldwin: Don’t Go Actin’ All Stupid on Me

Oh Alec, I know you don’t remember but back in the day when I was a correspondent for CNN and you, the movie star, were a guest on Larry King Live (I said it was back in the day!) you exited the studio, looked around the nearly-empty Saturday afternoon newsroom, our eyes met and you smiled at me. You smiled that sensational, toothy, dimple-punctuated smile, that I’m sexy-but-still–smart-smile and I, well, I let’s just say, I still remember.
You are my handsome fantasy and in respect for all the years that have passed since that day at CNN please don’t ruin it now by going all stupid on me. 

I refer, to your behavior earlier this week on an American Airlines flight in which you decided that an electronic game, albeit a thought-provoking, brain-teaser of a game, was more important than the safety of your fellow airline passengers.

Okay, I know, I’m the geek and you’re the stud muffin, so you are forgiven if you don’t know that the reason those flight attendants ask you to turn off electronic devices is because they emit electromagnetic waves which can, indeed have, interfered with the systems on the flight deck.

This is not a good thing. 

Yes, you have been confused by recent blog posts that suggest the ban on electronic devices is all a plot by the wicked airlines who want to further tick off passengers. But I assure you, oh-man-of-my-dreams, this is not the case

You have heard that modern airplanes are equipped with system shielding that prevents any extraneous signals from penetrating the wires that are critical to the pilots’ navigation and operation of the aircraft or communication from the cockpit.  In theory this is correct. But before you go about assuming that the rules are created by a bunch of worry wart-engineers (okay, they are created by worry-wart engineers) who, in an abundance of caution thrill to act as kill joys to the modern traveler, just let me ask a few questions.

  • How old was the airplane on which you parked your manly physique?
  • When was the last time the integrity of the sheathing that stands between critical wiring and an errant electronic signal from a passenger’s electronic device was examined?
  • How old is your handheld gadget?
  • When was the last time it was tested to be sure its emissions are within standards?
  • What about your fellow passengers? How much do you know about the devices they are using or the batteries providing the juice? Did they purchase said devices from the iPod or Android store, or did those devices fall off a truck and get purchased at the local flea market?

Alec Baldwin on Saturday Night Live
Alec, dear Alec, of course you don’t know the answers.  But those are just some of the factors that could cause an otherwise benign electronic gadget to start causing havoc with airplane electronics without your ever knowing it. And that is why these rules exist. There are many variables and many unknowns. You're not a pilot, (though you played one on TV) so don’t dismiss the guidance that says during critical phases of flight, electronic devices should be turned off.

You’re not responsible for those good looks of yours or your great brain. God gave you those. But deciding to act stupid is entirely your choice.


afliesaway said...

I have seen grown men act like furtive kindergarteners trying to hide their electronic crap from the fa for an extra few seconds of game time. I've also had to go around TWICE on an ILS because a whole Learjet full of pax was texting our arrival to those on the ground and the localizer signal was blocked. And who would be the first in line to sue after an accident? The idiot who didn't hear the safety brief because he was playing his phone and the fa didn't make him turn it off! Sheesh...

Bill Ross said...

The boy could be a true potato head save the conceit that flows unabated through his brain.

Larry Williams said...

This sort of action should be addressed by charging the passenger with interfering with a crew-member, either civil (FAA regulations) or federal criminal charge, but the airlines rarely want them charged due to publicity. U.S. Attorneys and FAA legal counsel have higher priorities, but my belief if passengers were routinely charged, there would very few instances --- flight attendants have higher priorities, especially just before takeoff.
As a retired FAA inspector I have had over 30 years experience with this sort of thing and fought losing battles many times.

Jim Blaszczak said...

Well done on another great perspective on current events.

It's always hard to give negative critique to our friends, heros, dreamboats and heart throbs. You get a lot of respect for calling Mr. Baldwin out on his behavior.

This incident reminds me of that great book by Robert Fulghum, "All I Need To Know I Learned In Kindergarten". When the bell rings, "Get in two lines, no talking"

Tim Kern said...

Acting stupid? If he isn't getting paid, he's not acting. ;-)

Anonymous said...

A couple points of disagreement.

The first has a caveat. I am male, but I just don't get how women find that man attractive. Even back in the day, other than his mother.

Next comment, the important one. As an engineer, working in the field of electromagnetic compatibility, mostly with aircraft, there is one very large error in the blog. It doesn't affect the fact that Baldwin made a complete ass of himself (he has plenty of practice and excels at it), but the emissions from his handheld device don't affect the aircraft by getting into wiring. There is nowhere near enough emitted power to do that. The emissions couple to the aircraft's externally mounted antennas. The communication and navigation radio receivers connected to those antennas can react to picowatts and in some cases femtowatts, and that's where the mischief can occur. If the aircraft is being automatically flown based on inputs from a navigation receiver, and those inputs are corrupted, the aircraft can crash when close to the ground. That's why the devices must be turned off during take-off and landing. Also, in the event of a crash, which is most likely at take-off and landing, you don't want all those gizmos flying through the cabin; you want them safely stowed away, so that a rough landing isn't compounded by aerial bombardment of passengers.

Ken Javor