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.

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Cellphone Usage
By Alexstarfire on 10/9/2007 12:03:57 PM , Rating: 2
Have any of you guys actually looked at your cell phone while at 35,000 ft., or whatever altitude they are flying at? You don't get any signal. I supposed they could turn the plane into a cell tower, but I think that would cause problems. I've never turned my phone off during a flight, I don't see the need. I can play games on my phone, listen to music on my phone, take pictures, and take video (not that I ever have since it's so crappy). I couldn't talk on my cell phone even if I wanted to. I, and likely everyone else on the plane, can't get a signal. That might be different for small commuter planes since they don't fly as high, but then the planes are designed differently as well. They may not have as good shielding as the commercial planes.

BTW, has everyone forgotten about the phones they have on a lot of planes? Not sure about you guys, but I've been on several planes where EVERY seat has a phone that you can use. Granted you have to pay, with a card, to use it, but it's still there none the less.

I doubt the idiots at the FAA did it because of public outcry, but I also doubt that they did it based on that research. I have a feeling they are just doing whatever the hell they want. Mythbusters proved that cell phones can barely affect NON-shielded instruments let alone RF shieled ones. On the shielded ones they even used their own RF transmitter and bumped the juice up higher than any cellphone could ever go, like 10x as high, and not even that did anything to the shielded instruments. They may not be perfect scientists, but that should at least be a basis to do some more research on it.

I have no doubt that the people who did the other research found a lot of RF transmissions in the cabin, but if said RF transmissions can't affect the instruments then it's all a moot point.

RE: Cellphone Usage
By Entropy42 on 10/9/2007 1:49:31 PM , Rating: 2
I'm sure someone will correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think the perceived danger of cell phones is just talking on them. I always thought they told you to turn them off because your phone will constantly try to obtain a signal, and could be sending out RF interference when its trying.

Leaving your phone on to play games would then be just as potentially dangerous.

RE: Cellphone Usage
By onelittleindian on 10/9/2007 1:53:03 PM , Rating: 2
Have any of you guys actually looked at your cell phone while at 35,000 ft., or whatever altitude they are flying at? You don't get any signal
Depends on how close you are to a tower. Most cell phones can still talk to a tower from 10 miles away, so as long as you're somewhat close to over one, being 6 miles up does't prevent you from talking.

RE: Cellphone Usage
By twajetmech on 10/9/2007 4:54:07 PM , Rating: 2
The airfone's onboard the A/C are certified to be installed,(as are every component installed on an A/C) they incur no emf/emi to the rest of the A/C's systems. Since the majority of the wires over your head on the A/C are not sheilded (large commercial or small comuter A/C, both of which are built to FAR part 121) a cell phone would no dobut create emi. With not turning the phone off during flight is not safe, a cell phone will still be searching for a signal....thus xmitting, regargless to weather or not you have a signal. Since many of the onboard systems and sensors operate at low amperage (a fuel probe for example may carry less than 500ma), having 200 people onboard with 1w-2w xmitters could most certainly cause an issue. While some of the newer designed A/C have been designed for potential cell phone usage, the vast maority of the world fleet is not

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