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Print 21 comment(s) - last by Solandri.. on Sep 25 at 3:14 AM

Calling on airplanes is still verboten by the FCC and FAA

In today's connected world we even have wireless internet when flying in the air.  However, in-flight cellular voice support has been strictly verboten from the air space for decades.

However, that final connectivity barrier is preparing to fall.  Boeing Comp. (BA) today announced that in addition to its 737 connectivity wiring, its popular 747-8 and 787 models will receive new wiring by the end of 2013, which will allow the aircraft's onboard systems to act as a mini-cell tower providing calling capabilities to fliers.

Boeing will also offer a kit to allow older 787s to be rewired to support calling and Wi-Fi by the end of 2012.

The company's arch-rival Airbus (a European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company N.V. (ETR:EAD) subsidiary) currently offers similar support for calling on its A330 model, which first entered passenger service in 1994.

The key thing to understand is that support does not equate to the service being enabled in flight.  Currently although the 737 and A330 support in-flight calling, only a handful of countries have authorized the service, and only a handful of airlines have enabled it.  Among the early adopters is Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Atlantic, a British airline company, who allowed in-flight calling during transatlantic flights aboard its fleet of A330s.

Boeing aircraft
Top to bottom: Boeing 747, 787, 777, and 737 [Image Source: Boeing]

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration -- the U.S. regulatory agency tasked with telling fliers on U.S. airlines what they can and cannot do -- has long banned in-flight calling, citing interference concerns.  The U.S. Federal Communications Commission -- the U.S. regulatory agency tasked with regulating wireless communications -- has also prohibited in-flight calling multiple times.  Both agencies have shown no signs of easing that restriction of late.  

Currently the key battle going on within the FAA is whether or not to allow e-readers and tablets during takeoff.  The FAA has allowed pilots to use the devices in the cockpit, however, the issue of passenger usage during takeoff is still being debated.  Industry experts say their testing shows no risk, the FAA says it's not so sure.

With that issue monopolizing FAA regulators' time and attention, it is unclear whether the issue of in-flight calling will even receive serious consideration in the next couple years.  Fliers can at lesat look forward to using the feature, though, when they visit other nations with less government red tape (like Britain).

Source: Boeing



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Please don't
By phatboye on 9/21/2012 1:15:20 PM , Rating: 5
I was just on a flight yesterday and before the flight I sat next to this loud mouthed lady talking up a storm before the flight. I am so glad cell phone calls are not allowed on planes nothing more annoying than a 4hr+ long flight in a cramped space next to someone who spends the entire flight blabbing on the cell phone.




RE: Please don't
By quiksilvr on 9/21/2012 1:58:32 PM , Rating: 3
Dude I got noise-cancelling earbuds so long ago whenever getting on a flight. If its not a cellphone, its a kid crying, people blabbing, epic airplane wind noise, whatever.

Earbuds, folks. Maintaining sanity for the past twenty years of my life.


RE: Please don't
By tayb on 9/21/2012 3:10:19 PM , Rating: 2
Ditto. Screaming kids make me want to just jump out of the plane. If you fly enough it's well worth the investment in an awesome pair.


RE: Please don't
By Samus on 9/21/2012 4:00:04 PM , Rating: 3
This is why I don't fly with my daughter, and probably won't until she's at least 5. It isn't completely their fault, children don't understand the dynamics of flight (closed space, dry air, low oxygen, no way off, boring...) The adult that put them their are at fault.

I third the noise cancellation goodies. Amazing what white noise can do.


RE: Please don't
By Schadenfroh on 9/22/12, Rating: 0
RE: Please don't
By TheSlamma on 9/23/2012 3:50:49 PM , Rating: 2
Last Lufthansa flight I was on they had a special 2 prong jack my headphones didn't work on.. had to use the cheap ones they supplied :(

Good luck


RE: Please don't
By Manch on 9/24/2012 2:27:38 AM , Rating: 2
Mine came with an adapter. You can pick them up for pretty cheap.


RE: Please don't
By bobsmith1492 on 9/24/2012 11:46:40 AM , Rating: 2
Dude, noise cancellation can't cancel speech, only fixed noise like engine vibration.


RE: Please don't
By Freakie on 9/21/2012 2:29:46 PM , Rating: 2
That's a good point. It's nice sitting in the no phone call car of the train because so many people are incapable of talking quietly into their phones. I really don't mind someone quietly talking where you can even understand half of what they say, I've had plenty of people on a train do that, but hearing a lady belting out her conversation from the other end of the train is definitely where I think cell phone use becomes ridiculous.


RE: Please don't
By Dorkyman on 9/21/2012 8:24:44 PM , Rating: 2
I'll second what the others are saying above. Get a pair of canalphones. Not only will they save your hearing long-term, but they shut out nearly all unwanted distractions.

I use foam-tipped Shures that come with a little push-to-talk accessory that you can push to hear what the flight attendant is asking. Beats having to remove and reinsert.

Seriously. The isolation is impressive. You won't care if your neighbor is talking on his phone, because you can't hear him.


RE: Please don't
By Natch on 9/22/2012 8:39:46 AM , Rating: 2
What's almost as bad is the people who are eagerly holding their phones, as the plane lands, so that the moment we touch down, they can turn it on and begin feeding their addiction again! I can understand it, for the occasional business traveler, but this is way more people than that!

Almost like watching the smokers, waiting to light up! ;)


RE: Please don't
By Solandri on 9/22/2012 2:49:47 PM , Rating: 3
Most people who fly have a relative or a friend who drives to the airport to pick them up. Of course they want to turn their phones on and confirm their arrival with their pickup ASAP. It has nothing to do with being "addicted" to their phones.


RE: Please don't
By Natch on 9/24/2012 8:19:34 AM , Rating: 1
Not all of them, for sure. But you watch some of them, they've got their finger on the switch, and they're checking e-mails/texts/voicemails the very SECOND the tires touch down!

THAT is an addiction. Let's face it, it takes the plane a minimum of 5 minutes to taxi into the terminal, and unless you're sitting up front, a minimum of 5-10 minutes to deplane. Hell, I've even called my ride while I was walking through the terminal, on my way to the exit.


RE: Please don't
By GotThumbs on 9/24/2012 9:34:46 AM , Rating: 1
If the the relatives had been given the flight information...(Any person with basic intelligence would have done that days before the actual flight)....they could just as easily check the flight status on their phone or online or on the flight apps many airlines provide or all the screens in the airport.

Your excuse is lame and unimaginative. How did people do it before cell phones?

Just try and think some more in your daily life.


RE: Please don't
By Solandri on 9/25/2012 3:14:34 AM , Rating: 2
It's two-way communications. The person on the plane is not just confirming their arrival to their pickup. The pickup is also confirming their status to the person on the flight.

I used to do airport pickups by getting there 30 minutes early, paying $2-$5 for parking, and waiting at the terminal (now baggage claim). Nowadays, the perfect pickup is the person calls me when I'm almost at the airport, they tell me which sign they're standing under, and I just swing by, park for 60 seconds, and take off. Many airports even have cell phone parking lots where you can wait (instead of adding to traffic) until you get confirmation your SO has arrived and is waiting for a curbside pickup. If the airport doesn't have one, I'll swing by a nearby McDonalds or Starbucks and leech off their wifi while I wait for the call.

Yes you can do it the old way without a cell phone and waste a lot of time. But the new way is so much better and quicker, you have to be some sort of technophobe to criticize it.


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