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Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Another Study Takes a Shot at F.A.A.\'s Gadget Ban

The Federal Aviation Administration's ban on the use of electronics on airplanes during takeoff and landing is projected to stop Americans from using their gadgets for more than 105 million hours this year, according to a study. The research, “Tablets Take Flight,” was published Wednesday by the Chaddick Institute for Metropolitan Development at DePaul University.

Here's how they came up with that total: The researchers traveled on 23 flights and observed 1,688 passengers on six airlines. The percentage of travelers using technology at “random selected points” on a flight rose to 35.3 percent this year, compared with 17.6 percent in 2009. But they estimated that the amount of time people cannot use devices on a plane is almost 30 minutes for each flight.

Match those calculations against the number of passengers on domestic flights last year (642,205,000), and the researchers came up with a collective 105 million hours of gadget-denied time for Americans, a 104 percent increase from 2010.

The DePaul University report noted that there was still no evidence to prove gadgets adversely affect a plane's aeronautics, though there was plenty of speculation.

“There is a growing consensus that the ban has no tangible safety benefits,” the researchers wrote in the study. “The National Aeronautics and Space Administration, for example, studied the ban and found no actual evidence that a consumer electronic device can affect airplane operations.”

The report also noted that each year travelers continue to bring more of their own devices, including tablets and laptops, on flights. These numbers were expected to rise.

E-reader usage on planes has skyrocketed, with one in nine passengers now using an e-reader or tablet at different intervals of a flight. Last year the same study found that one in 12 airline passengers used a tablet on a plane.

Senator Claire McCaskill, Democrat of Missouri, sent a letter last year to Michael P. Huerta, acting administrator of the F.A.A., urging the government group to change the rule banning e-readers and tablets during takeoff and landing.

“I am prepared to pursue legislative solutions should progress be made too slowly,” Ms. McCaskill has said.