NY Times Thwarts Kindle-Based Terror Plot

It is my pleasure today to tell you that you can now fly a little safer. You no longer have to worry about some terrorist using their Kindle during takeoff and crashing the plane.

Do you remember the last time you flew and you were told to shut off your ereader during takeoff? Well, it turns out that this was completely unnecessary. The New York Times reported over the weekend that after extensive testing, they have concluded that the Kindle does not put out nearly enough interference to affect an airplane.

Most of us have been told that a Kindle needs to be turned off because it might interfere with the airplanes electronics. While it’s true that all electrical gadgets cause some measurable amount of interference, in most cases it is too small to have any effect.

The NYT hired a Calif based firm to run a Kindle through their standard battery of tests. EMT Labs is an expert in this niche, and they have tested any number of gadgets over the years. According to their report, the Kindle hardly emitted enough interference to measure, much less affect an airplane.

According to EMT Labs, a gadget needs to emit less than 100 volts of electromagnetic noise in order to be allowed on an airplane. The Kindle was measured at around 30 microvolts, or 0.00003 volts.

But does that really come as a surprise? Their testing confirmed what most had already figured out. After all, how many of us have ignored that rule over the years? I’ve ignored it every time I could get away with it, and I’ve never seen anything happen.

And before you get upset with my breaking the rules, let me point out the obvious. Flight attendants don’t make us do anything more than put it in sleep mode. They don’t actually make us turn it off. Almost every ebook reader is still running while in sleep mode, and this is doubly true for the Kindle. If you don’t explicitly disable the Kindle’s 3G connection, it will continue to upload and download data while asleep.

My point is that the rule is proved pointless on a daily basis. Even though passengers comply with it, they still inadvertently break the rule.

Now if only we could get the FAA to change their rules. Unfortunately, this is a govt bureaucracy we’re talking about here, so that’s going to happen anytime soon.

via New York Times

image by Kevin.Fai

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Nate Hoffelder

View posts by Nate Hoffelder
Nate Hoffelder is the founder and editor of The Digital Reader. He has been blogging about indie authors since 2010 while learning new tech skills weekly. He fixes author sites, and shares what he learns on The Digital Reader's blog. In his spare time, he fosters dogs for A Forever Home, a local rescue group.


  1. Scott_T26 December, 2011

    Seems like I read somewhere recently that the main reason was so that if something went wrong during take off or landing your device wouldnt become a projectile.

    1. Nate Hoffelder26 December, 2011

      But they let us read books. Don’t you think a hardback would be a greater danger as a projectile?

  2. Thane26 December, 2011

    I agree with your point – but better check on those standard directions from the flight attendants. At least on Alaska they specifically ask you to turn off all such equipment – and to go to airplane mode first if you plan on using it later in the flight (so you won’t hit wifi when it turns on).

    That said, most people probably just put it to sleep.

  3. Sherri26 December, 2011

    Clearly, Amazon just needs better lobbyists. I can’t think of a reason other than good lobbyists for why electric razors are allowed at all times during flights but Kindles are not.

  4. Common Sense26 December, 2011

    It’s not the Kindle specifically, it’s because there are 100s of different devices and the flight attendants can’t take the time to learn and check which ones have a problem and which ones do not. Therefore they issue a blanket statement to turn off all such devices.

    Is it really that big a hardship to bring a paper magazine for takeoff and landing?

  5. Tyler27 December, 2011

    I would rather all devices be turned off on take off and landings too. I wouldn’t want Johnny Terrorist detonating his bomb in the cargo hold because his device looks like a Kindle. I know that is a stretch in reality but it is peace of mind for the passengers which is what most security measures are for.

    1. Nate Hoffelder27 December, 2011

      Except if he’s going to detonate the bomb then the rule isn’t going to stop him.

  6. […] been waiting for years for the rules to change; it’s been clear since at least 2011 that mobile devices can’t actually interfere with the safe operation of an airplane. This has […]

  7. […] have long taken the position that I don't turn off my gadgets while on an airplane, and it looks like I'm not the only one. A new report was released this week  […]


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