Can I use Airplane Mode on an airplane?
December 20, 2012 8:26 PM   Subscribe

What's the real deal with electronic devices on airplanes?

Flying on Allegiant tomorrow. I need noise distraction and cannot find my old ipod.
Can I use my cell in airplane mode after take off? I tried looking for answers but keep finding conflicting answers.
posted by KogeLiz to Travel & Transportation (9 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I've never had any issues on any airline using my cell phone as a music player once above 10000 feet.
posted by jferg at 8:30 PM on December 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

After takeoff, you can use whatever gadget you want in airplane mode.
posted by Tomorrowful at 8:37 PM on December 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

You absolutely can. Put it into airplane mode so that your battery doesn't drain looking for a signal.
posted by no regrets, coyote at 8:40 PM on December 20, 2012

Old but still applicable.
posted by Cuspidx at 8:46 PM on December 20, 2012

Best answer: I flew on Allegiant last weekend and used my iphone in airplane mode to play fieldrunners the whole flight.
posted by logic vs love at 10:15 PM on December 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

Now that airplane mode is easily set for your device, there shouldn't be any issues with using it other than the policies your particular air carrier enforces.
posted by dhartung at 10:18 PM on December 20, 2012

"Senator threatens FAA with legislation over in-flight fondleslabbing" - article from The Register last week which sums up some of the state of play.
posted by rongorongo at 4:16 AM on December 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: As soon as the plane reaches the appropriate altitude the pilot or flight attendant will announce that the use of approved electronic devices is permitted.

Technically, Allegiant does not allow the use of cellphones even in airplane mode. Practically speaking, there is almost no reason for you to anticipate a problem (technical or social) using your phone in airplane mode. I'd go ahead and plan to use the phone in airplane mode during the flight.
posted by k8lin at 5:30 AM on December 21, 2012

Tip: While you're taxiing out to take off, and the crew reminds you to shut your devices down, put it in airplane mode first, and then turn it off completely. This way, once you're airborne and they give you the OK to use gizmos, you'll power it back up and it'll already be in airplane mode, not even powering up the radios for an instant.

During takeoff and landing, the concern is that any spurious signal could confuse the radar altimeter and other avionics that're pretty darn important. Yes, all this stuff is designed not to interfere with each other, but occasionally a TV receiver begins acting like a distress beacon, and all heck breaks loose. Any radio engineer can regale you with tales of "birdies" coming off all sorts of innocent-looking gear. And it's not like quality control on these things is improving... So, take their word for it, and shut things down during takeoff.

During cruise, that sort of interference isn't such a concern. Once they give you the go-head, you can happily power up your laptop, mp3 player, or whatever. Some flights offer in-flight wifi now, and of course when you tell people they can turn on their wifi, some of 'em also turn on the cellular radio portion of their phones, and planes somehow stay in the air anyway. It's the cell network that gets confused, when a phone that can normally "see" 2 or 3 nearby towers is now suddenly able to talk to dozens or hundreds. That's awkward for the control systems within the network, and it tends to cause problems for cells on the ground (it stomps all over the notion of "geographic frequency reuse", on which cellular systems are based), but it's not a problem for the plane itself.

During landing, again you'll be asked to turn everything fully off, and again it's a good idea. Simply putting it in airplane mode kills the deliberate radio transmitters but leaves the CPU and display and all the other stuff on, all of which has a tiny chance of causing the aforementioned badness. And landing is the worst time to experiment with electromagnetic compatibility!

Just remember that once you're on the ground, and you fire everything back up, it'll again power up back into airplane mode. More than once, I've been baffled by the inability to send or receive SMS, until I realize this and turn the radios back on.
posted by Myself at 9:15 PM on December 22, 2012

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