Newsflash: Keeping your cell phone on during flights won’t make the plane crash. It won’t make the world explode. It won’t cause danger to you or any bystanders. And still it has been prohibited since the early 1990s.
This could change now.
From all I can tell, it looks like the days of cell phone-free flights are numbered: The FCC is considering changing its rules to permit the use of cell phones (and other wireless-data devices) during airline flights. According to the article, there are even companies offering cell service in some parts of the world already.
What a bummer.
The evidence that safety wasn’t the main issue has been pretty convincing for quite some time now. I always figured the real reason there were no cell phones allowed on planes (and wi-fi is still not a standard) was a laudable conspiracy among high-ranking members of the international flight safety agencies. I took them to be sane people who wanted to protect us from our lower selves (and the lower selves of our seat neighbors).
The real reason we need to turn off our phones on planes is the same why we maintain libraries even when no-one reads books anymore: We have a deep-rooted desire for sanctuaries of silence.
In a world of constant noise, chatter, and beeping email inboxes, this desire becomes a necessity.
The real reason we need to turn off our phones on planes is that we need to shut up for a while. To be alone with our thoughts. Our thoughts, and a plastic-wrapped egg-and-tuna sandwich.