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The FAA Is Allowing iPad Use in the Cockpit of Airplanes

Alec Baldwin filming on location for "30 Rock" on the streets of Manhattan on March 9, 2011 in New York City.

If only Alec Baldwin hadn't deactivated his Twitter account. Surely he'd have greeted the news that the FAA has approved the use of iPads in the cockpit during flights with a signature epic rant. Baldwin quit Twitter, you'll remember, after a dustup with an American Airlines employee who wouldn't let him play Words With Friends on his iPhone while on the runway. He was kicked off the flight, and subsequently wrote a long screed about "the post-9/11, paramilitary bearing of much of the air travel business." Baldwin's not the only person to wonder what the logic is behind the rule that passengers have to power down their electronic devices, and the FAA's new rule only makes it seem more confusing:

The rule barring passengers from using a Kindle, an iPad, or even a calculator, were originally made to protect the electronics of an aircraft from interference. Yet pilots with iPads will be enclosed in the cockpit just a few inches from critical avionics on a plane.

There is some thought that the rule disallowing devices during takeoff and landing was made to insure passengers paid attention. The F.A.A. has never claimed this. (If this was the case, passengers would not be allowed to have books, magazines or newspapers during takeoff and landing.)

The FAA loosened the rules for pilots after performing a series of safety tests in the cockpit; they didn't do the same for the passenger area, and wouldn't tell the Times why not, exactly. Maybe they're just trolling Baldwin: The first airline to test out the new iPad rules will be American Airlines.

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Photo: Bobby Bank/WireImage