Print 56 comment(s) - last by elgoliath.. on Oct 10 at 1:29 PM

Just say no; that is the FAA's stance on cell phones on planes.

Ever since cell phones first became popular, a constant among almost every airplane flight has been an order to turn off your cell phones.  These orders have been courtesy of the in-flight ban on mobile phones by the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA), the government body which oversees air travel in the U.S.

Many saw this ban as an unnecessary inconvenience, given that little actual scientific investigation had been conducted into fears of interference.  There were numerous proposals to lift the ban or to possibly allow special lower power phones designed to work in the air.

Now FAA officials have announced that due to public outcry, they will be dropping the proposals to lift the ban and announced that the ban would stay in place for "the foreseeable future."

While the FAA cited public outrage as justification for leaving the ban in place, the announcement follows research from last year investigating the phenomena.  Last year, researchers from Carnegie Mellon University conducted a study which was featured in the IEEE Spectrum publication.  The study, surprisingly, was thought to be the first of its kind.  It found that portable radio frequency emitting devices such as cell phones could easily cause interference in onboard instruments, such as the GPS, greatly raising the risk of accident or other flight difficulties.

Still, the FAA relied mostly on public opinion on the issue and showed no indication of being swayed by these recent studies.

In Britain, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), Britain's equivalent of the FAA, found 20 incidents of airplane malfunction between January 2000 and August 2005, which it deemed caused by cell phones.

Despite these result, the European Aviation Safety Agency approved the use of in-flight mobile phones provided by the communications company ON Air. These devices transmit weaker signals, hopefully yielding less interference.  Air France, Tap Air Portugal, and Rayanair are among the European air carriers planning to adopt the technology.

Internationally, many carriers including Emirates and AirAsia are planning to adopt this technology as well.

In Britain there has been a large grassroots movement to block potential introduction of cell phones on planes.  Among the movements backers is British parliament member Lee Scott, who is very much against these approvals and sees the phones as possible security threats.  "The Madrid train bombs in 2004 were set off by mobile phone,” Scott elaborated. "What will be the security implications of everyone having mobiles switched on at 30,000 [feet]? It can only put even greater pressure on airport security staff."

As world powers ponder on this issue, the truly facet of this issue is the lack of peer-reviewed scientific research on this topic, which obviously has greatly implications on citizens’ daily lives.

Hopefully in the future, this topic will be more thoroughly researched and possibly mobile phones can be built to someday safely operate within the airplane electronic environment.  While some may dream of using their cell phones on planes, for now, they will continue to be banned on American flights for the near future ... even on the new Boeing 787 Dreamliners.

Comments     Threshold

This article is over a month old, voting and posting comments is disabled

RE: Public outcry
By Lord 666 on 10/9/2007 10:19:12 AM , Rating: 2
Silence? I don't know how many flights you are on, but I spend a decent amount of time up in the air for business. More ofen than not there is a lot of chatter of converstations with people sitting next to each other. What difference does it make if the chatter is into a cellphone vs. a nearby passenger?

Not enabling cellphone usage is nonsense. While up in the air, those are billable hours and time wasted that I can be conducting business. Not having access to my mobile phone is what I dread the most of air travel.

RE: Public outcry
By TomZ on 10/9/2007 10:36:19 AM , Rating: 2
I agree with you - FAA should pass rules based on scientific/engineering fact and evidence, not based on "public outcry" or some desire to "protect" people from chatty cell phone users.

RE: Public outcry
By elgoliath on 10/9/2007 1:47:32 PM , Rating: 1
Just for the sake of argument, I believe Mythbusters (not the best testing example, but they've done more than the FAA it would appear) ran these exact tests and were unable to cause any interference with onboard navigation systems even after jacking the power up way past anything a cellphone could produce. And this was done to an old plane as well as a fairly new one.

Regarding the people that are scared about it affecting older planes that have been in service a while, I really don't see your point. If the plane is that old, it should not be in the air, much less servicing passengers. Not to mention that I can't really think of a reason as to why the shielding would be getting worn in the first place- they aren't moving objects.

It seems to me that the FAA could easily add sufficiently test the planes and make them pass a test to qualify for cellphone use that has to be renewed every so often if people are really that concerned about the shielding breaking down.

IMO, this FAA decision sounds like a load of crap and is just like what the administration is doing- leading by fear.

RE: Public outcry
By TomZ on 10/9/2007 2:25:35 PM , Rating: 2
I think we're 100% in agreement - did you perhaps reply to the wrong post?

RE: Public outcry
By elgoliath on 10/9/2007 2:51:19 PM , Rating: 2
Why yes I did- itchy mouse finger ftw :P

RE: Public outcry
By Locutus465 on 10/9/2007 3:00:55 PM , Rating: 2
Yes, I saw this and what I think you missed two key facts in this episode...

1). When unsheilded electroics was tested the effects were devistating (or would be for an airplane in the sky).
2). In the same episode they cite a European incident where an passanger with an active cell phone recieved a call, causing the plane to crash... The passanger didn't even need to answer the call, the incoming call was enough to spike EMI significantly, damage done.

RE: Public outcry
By elgoliath on 10/9/2007 3:34:53 PM , Rating: 2
Didn't miss them- I never said they wouldn't affect unshielded electronics. Which commercial passenger planes out there have unshielded electronics? If there are some, then either A) they should not be used for passengers or B) they should be repaired/replaced.

If you refer to my earlier post, testing the planes should alleviate the issue cited from Europe. Besides, I'd be willing to bet that your #2 statement is directly related to #1.

Let me ask you this- would you want to go up in a commercial plane with unshielded electronics, cell phone or not?

RE: Public outcry
By TomZ on 10/9/2007 3:54:12 PM , Rating: 2
I agree, and I would go one step further. Avionic electronics that are susceptable to reasonable RF emissions/interference from the types of consumer devices that are routinely used in and around aircraft are defective by design . The FAA rulemaking should focus on proper design standards for these devices, not on banning cell phones from flight. The former can actually have a significant positive effect on safety, while the latter cannot.

RE: Public outcry
By Locutus465 on 10/9/2007 8:28:25 PM , Rating: 2
I never stated that there is any airplane *designed* with unshielded electronics, but things wear down over time. There's really nothing you can do about the fact that things wear down over time, and no matter how good your maintenance plans and QA processes ensuring quality work are, things can slip through the cracks. We already know this to be the case, it's already proven, we've already seen airplane crash due to EMI generated by an incoming cell phone call.

I'm not suggesting by any means that this is the norm, clearly it is not or I'm sure airplanes would be falling out of the sky every day. But frankely, I don't want to be on the airplane that crashes because one of our fellow DT readers was trying to squeeze in one last deal while en-route to whereever. Failour in most aspects in life is excepted and acceptable, but in some cases (like commercial airlines) failour is totally unacceptable because of the catastrophic consequences. That one passagers incoming phone call cost a lot of people their lives. I'm not willing to allow anyone else to play roulet with my life.

I do fully understand and appriciate what you're saying, most of the time cellphones on an airplane are indeed perfectly safe. But at least from my perspective, all it takes is one failour and nearly 100 people dead to put an end to it.

RE: Public outcry
By TomZ on 10/9/2007 9:06:10 PM , Rating: 2
How does shielding wear down over time? I don't think it works that way.

RE: Public outcry
By Locutus465 on 10/9/2007 11:34:58 PM , Rating: 2
The skin of the airplane will flex, rubber coating gets rubbed, whatever... It's already happend, people have already died because someone left their cell phone turned on and recived a call. This was the actual conclusion of the commission investigating the crash. And we're not talking some small single engine airplane, we're talking major commercial jet. If something can fail, it will. Sheilding on wires can fail, believe me I've been shocked enough times (touching UNEXPOSED wires) to know this.

RE: Public outcry
By elgoliath on 10/10/2007 1:29:06 PM , Rating: 2
Would you disagree that yearly testing of it would help alleviate concerns to a workable degree? I understand where you are coming from, but in my opinion, flying is inherently risky to begin with, and we take calculated risks every time be board a plane. I personally believe that we are able to, with proper testing at what ever interval is deemed appropriate, make the risk of cell phone use acceptable in relation to the other inherent risks.

I'm not saying I don't believe you, but what evidence did the investigating commission come up with that pointed to the cell phone or did they just think it was the most likely culprit after eliminating other possibilities?

RE: Public outcry
By twajetmech on 10/9/2007 5:02:32 PM , Rating: 2
The mythbusters did not do proper tests, nor did they use a fully functioning A/C in flight (as the FAA requires for all electronic components certified for use onboard any A/C)It may have looked good to the avg joe, but that episode was so far off as to be laughable to anyone in the industry. It costs more than 10mil usd just to certify a small gen aviation 4 seat A/C and many months of hard work, not a subject the mythbusters can prove/disprove in an hour or day

RE: Public outcry
By elgoliath on 10/9/2007 6:19:14 PM , Rating: 2
And if you take what I said as meaning it's the end-all be-all of proof that there is no issue, then I'm not sure what to tell you. It was brought as evidence (more than you have cited) that the sky is not falling. They did not do an exhaustive test with hundreds of different platforms. Nor did they test in the air as they were not allowed (hmm, against the law, how convenient), but they did a very nice battery of tests on both a controlled setup and in a fully functional aircraft that did everything but leave the ground, and they were unable to, in their testing, create any type of disturbance that would conceivably bring the plane down even with a massive boost to power that is, imo, never to likely be reproduced aboard a commercial passenger aircraft. I would also like to note that the pilot on the production plane they were testing, seemed to laugh at them when they asked if it would interfere with his equipment. No offense to you, but he seems more credible than some random person on the interweb.

If you find it so laughable, I am open to learning so please tell me where they went wrong and why it would have substantially changed the outcome. I don't understand how it could be laughable when it sounds like the Mythbusters have done more to test this issue than the FAA which brings up another point- where exactly are these tests you speak of performed and by whom as it sounds like you have info that the FAA, FCC and NASA don't have as, if I understand correctly, this new report doesn't say anything for sure, only that the possibility for interference exists, but I may have read it wrong.

RE: Public outcry
By DFranch on 10/9/2007 11:20:57 AM , Rating: 2
Because it does not bother people as much when they can hear both sides of a conversation. Only being able to hear one side bothers people more.

"Well, there may be a reason why they call them 'Mac' trucks! Windows machines will not be trucks." -- Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer
Related Articles
Boeing's 787 Dreamliner Still on Schedule
October 8, 2007, 11:47 AM

Most Popular ArticlesSmartphone Screen Protectors – What To Look For
September 21, 2016, 9:33 AM
UN Meeting to Tackle Antimicrobial Resistance
September 21, 2016, 9:52 AM
Walmart may get "Robot Shopping Carts?"
September 17, 2016, 6:01 AM
5 Cases for iPhone 7 and 7 iPhone Plus
September 18, 2016, 10:08 AM
Update: Problem-Free Galaxy Note7s CPSC Approved
September 22, 2016, 5:30 AM

Copyright 2016 DailyTech LLC. - RSS Feed | Advertise | About Us | Ethics | FAQ | Terms, Conditions & Privacy Information | Kristopher Kubicki