I was on a Continental Airlines flight last weekend and, while flipping through the in-flight magazine, noticed that they allow the use of portable GPS units in flight above 10,000 feet. Since I’d never noticed this allowed before, had a portable GPS with me, and was sitting in a window seat, I decided to give it a shot.
It worked, and it was pretty cool to see the GPS report the right elevation (35,000 feet) and speed (450 mph), though the latter might be hard to explain if I ever get pulled over for speeding. It was a six-hour flight, so it was handy to be able to check periodically to see how far along we were. And sure enough, as the GPS reported that we were descending through 10,000 feet, the announcement came from the front to turn off all electronic devices.
One thing that didn’t work was the route calculation. I suspect the airplane wasn’t tracking roads closely enough and was moving so fast that it kept the navigation system perpetually recalculating.
P.S. Check here for more information about commercial airlines’ policies towards GPS usage.