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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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.

"We don't know how to make a $500 computer that's not a piece of junk." -- Apple CEO Steve Jobs
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