FINALLY: FAA says you can use some electronic devices on planes!

OK, not everything. You won’t be able to surf or text below 10,000 feet. You won’t be able to make phone calls, period. But, if your device has an “airplane mode”, if it’s smaller than a full-size laptop, you won’t have to turn it off and put it away while the plane is taking off and landing.

This is a huge benefit for e-book readers, tablets, and other mobile devices that travelers count on to pass the time while traveling. It’s also a huge win for common sense — any device that lets you turn its radios completely off should never interfere with a plane’s “delicate avionics.” In fact, there’s very little reason to believe that leaving those radios ON would interfere. Come on, who hasn’t seen someone else on a plane who leaves his phone on during the flight? Of course you’ve seen it. You might have even done it. The simple fact is that if leaving your phone on while flying were dangerous than not a single plane would ever finish a single flight safely.

On the other hand this is a blow to sellers of ink-on-paper books and magazines, especially airport convenience stores who have depended on the sale of plain-old published media because heaven forbid you should use a Kindle on a plane while it’s taking off. Frankly, in case of turbulence you’re much more likely to be injured from a flying hardcover book than you ever were from an active e-reader.

Finally, a small victory for the average traveler. If you’re under 30 you may not remember life on a plane before 2001, but believe it or not there was a time when airlines fed you, gave you a free movie, and even let you use a pillow and blanket. These were the days before they charged you for checked luggage, before it was a federal crime to disobey a flight attendant. There was a time when flying was a luxury, when it wasn’t like taking the bus in a third-world country. But hey, even buses in third-world countries let you play Candy Crush Saga while you’re moving. Finally, planes do too.