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FCC Chief Urges FAA To Ease Airplane Electronics Ban 242

Posted by Soulskill
from the select-a-champion-and-decide-this-through-single-combat dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "AFP reports that Federal Communications Commission chairman Julius Genachowski is calling for an easing of the ban on using mobile phones and other electronic devices on airplanes during takeoff and landing, saying devices such as smartphones 'empower people' and can boost economic productivity. 'I write to urge the FAA to enable greater use of tablets, e-readers and other portable electronic devices during flight, consistent with public safety,' the FCC chief said in the letter to FAA Administrator Michael Huerta. The ban is in place based on the assumption that devices could interfere with an airplane's navigation equipment. But a number of news stories have questioned the validity of this claim, and many point out that some people forget to turn off their devices during flights. The FCC studied the question several years ago but found insufficient evidence to support lifting the ban at the time. But not everyone has been forced to put their gadgets away. Earlier this year the FAA approved iPads instead of paper flight manuals in the cockpit for pilots, but the agency still refuses to allow passengers to read on Kindles and iPads during takeoff and landing."
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FCC Chief Urges FAA To Ease Airplane Electronics Ban

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  • Wow... 10 minutes when I can't use my iPad. If this is your biggest problem in your life, celebrate like there's no tomorrow.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 08, 2012 @10:44AM (#42224951)

      That's not the point. Senseless regulations just for the sake of their being regulations is dumb. Pilots can use them, passengers can't? - and there is no valid reason why not. If they want to say, "No it won't bring the plane down, but we need everyone's attention to listen to this important safety announcement about belt buckles" fine - just be honest about it. Don't treat me like an idiot.

      Just don't feed me a line of bullshit about it might interfere with the electronics of the aircraft. The people that buy in to that irritate me almost as much as the control freaks pushing the message. Have rules that make sense and I'm cool. Foist rules that are bullshit and that treat me like an idiot and we have an issue.

      So chill out, cupcake. Don't be all "stop your whining" and sarcasm. Whether it is someones big or small problem, it is "their problem" and it shouldn't be A problem if it was based on honesty.

      • by meerling (1487879) on Saturday December 08, 2012 @12:38PM (#42225597)
        If it were really because of electronic interference potentially causing the plane to crash, I'd be terrified if there was lightning within 2 miles, or an active radar station at the airport.
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        Have you ever heard the bleep-bleep-beep-beep-etc sound coming out of your PC speakers when your cell phone is next to it and there is an incoming call/text? That is because the FCC requires pretty much everything "must accept any interference received, including interference that may cause undesired operation". Do you want that kind of noise going through the cockpit electronic, even if you did some tests and found it should be safe?
        • by Soluzar (1957050)
          Not in a decade. I know this used to be a problem, but i can't even remember the last time I noticed this. The last relevant thing I can remember is talking about how it isn't a problem anymore about 11 years ago.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        "Pilots can use them, passengers can't?" Here's why. I spent my career in aerospace, the final two years on experiments involving these Electronic Flight Bags (In my case, ruggedized PCs, not iPads.) There has been hundreds of hours of testing, both in labs and aircraft to show that a particular model of iPad will not cause electronic interference to the controls or other safety critical systems... for that particular iPad model only. The pilot can't just go buy the next gen fondle slab and carry it aboard

        • by BitZtream (692029)

          ... Your experience is pretty shitty. Everyone buys the same iPad hardware. Pilots don't get something different than me, they get the same gear.

    • by haus (129916)

      How about the negative impact caused by hundred of thousand (perhaps a million?) passengers each day being feed an obvious line of BS?

      On the off chance that some flight somewhere in the US has an message of actual importance and/or value, it is more likely to be believed and properly acted upon if the recipients have not come to expect nothing but a constant flow of mistruths from the FAA/air crews.

      • by murdocj (543661)

        Well, here's the deal... the FAA DOESN'T KNOW. Got that? There's a chance that consumer devices interfere, so the FAA imposes an incredibly minor inconvenience on people. They take the position that it's better to be conservative than to just have an "anything goes" policy and see what happens.

        • Well, the FAA does know.
          All of our aircraft have switched from paper approach and in-route plates to iPads over the last 2 years. They even have weight and balance, fuel use, etc. apps.
          These are small jets, BeechJet, Hawker 800 sized planes. And with 2 iPads in each cockpit I'm sure we would have seen a problem by now.

          • by msauve (701917)
            "with 2 iPads in each cockpit I'm sure we would have seen a problem by now."

            But with 100 random, untested devices in the cabin, you don't know there won't be any problems. Additionally, having 2 in direct control of the flight crew, who can easily switch them off quickly should there be any issue is quite different than trying to get 100 people to turn them off (if you fly, then you know that does not happen quickly).
            • by Stiletto (12066)

              If it really made sense to ban things because "you don't know there won't be any problems", why don't we ban shoes, food, umbrellas, eyeglasses, and pencils? Because you don't know with 100% certainty that any of those items won't cause problems. Better be safe than sorry!

              • by msauve (701917)
                You don't have any understanding of radio, or its importance to the operation of a commercial aircraft, do you? Please give a (non-intentional) mechanism where any of the items you mention can interfere with aircraft operations.
                • You don't have any understanding of radio, or its importance to the operation of a commercial aircraft, do you?

                  It sounds to me like the people who don't have any understanding of radio are the people who designed avionics that, we're told, can be taken out by a Game Boy.

        • > Well, here's the deal... the FAA DOESN'T KNOW.

          Do you *even* understand what shielding is ??

          Counter-example: Show me _one_ reported problem. We have had cell phone for how many YEARS? Show me ONE plane crash caused to these electronic devices?

          Hint: There are NONE.

          I *never* turn my cellphone and iPad off. Nothing happens. You know why? Because any EMF noise that they could _possibly_ generate will NEVER effect KEY systems in airplanes.

          Talk to the electrical engineers that design and implement the airp

    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 08, 2012 @11:06AM (#42225093)

      I agree. The forced photography of one's nude body is a far more egregious violation of our liberties than ten minutes of not using your iPad. I wish more people cared about this.

    • by Drathos (1092) on Saturday December 08, 2012 @11:11AM (#42225127)

      How about a half hour on each end of a 2 hour leg were I can't read because brought a Kindle instead of 3 paper books.

      When you board, they tell you that when they close the door, you have to turn off your electronic devices and they won't leave the gate until you do. Ostensibly, that's to prevent interference with the radio while they talk to the tower. After you land, while still taxiing, they announce that you can turn on your cell phones, but have to leave everything else turned off. Wait, I thought they said the cell phones were causing interference?

      The rule is not just idiotic, it's inconsistently applied.

      • by LihTox (754597)

        I hate that cellphone-only rule; if people are going to be talking on their cellphones, I want to be able to put on my headphones to tune them out.

        • I want to be able to put on my headphones to tune them out.

          You could drown them out with a belching contest. Be sure to fill up on diet coke before boarding.

        • by BitZtream (692029)

          Doesn't your sell phone also play audio these days?

      • by russotto (537200)

        When you board, they tell you that when they close the door, you have to turn off your electronic devices and they won't leave the gate until you do. Ostensibly, that's to prevent interference with the radio while they talk to the tower.

        I believe they're lying. Therefore I continue to leave my electronic device (an Android smartphone) turned on. Further, while they often announce that you must turn the device all the way off and not just airplane mode, very few people actually do this.

    • by loufoque (1400831)

      It usually takes much longer than 10 minutes.
      Also, when you're on the verge of an epiphany, it doesn't matter if you can't access your device 1 minute or 1 hour, what matters if that you're not going to be able to type what's on your mind, and that you'll have lost it by the time you get access to your device again.

      If there is no reason for this annoyance, then it should be removed, however minor the annoyance may be.

      • Pen, Paper, Problem solved.

        Now let me bring my gun so that bastard on his cell phone for four hours in the seat next to me won't do it again.

    • by jader3rd (2222716)

      Wow... 10 minutes when I can't use my iPad. If this is your biggest problem in your life, celebrate like there's no tomorrow.

      It's not the biggest problem of my life, but when I'm using one to calm down a 1 year old who doesn't understand why he has to sit still for so long, in cramped quarters; it certainly is the biggest problem of my day. And if you were sitting next to me, his meltdown would be more annoying to you than it would be to me.

    • Ah yes....the 1st world guilt complex variant of "Eat your leftover meatloaf 'cause there are starving kids in Africa". -------- "We have deserts in America too....we just don't live there!" __Screaming Sammy Kinison
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 08, 2012 @10:35AM (#42224881)

    Is this for real? Can people really not go without using their stupid devices for 5 minutes at takeoff and another 5 minutes at landing?

    SERIOUSLY! You're going to be in the plane, in the air, for an hour, if not far longer. A few minutes at the beginning and end of the trip won't have much impact at all on "economic productivity".

  • Crash and burn (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Jetra (2622687) on Saturday December 08, 2012 @10:37AM (#42224891)
    If they ease the ban and it turns out that there IS a device that could mess with an airplane's electronics, people will be complaining that the FAA didn't warn them. The FCC should stay out of matters that could potentially kill hundreds as well as cost airlines money and costumers. It's better to be safe than falling to your death from a couple of miles up.
    • Re:Crash and burn (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Samantha Wright (1324923) on Saturday December 08, 2012 @10:41AM (#42224929) Homepage Journal
      I'm strongly of the opinion that the question of interference was mostly just an excuse to get people to put their gadgets away and pay attention. Takeoff and landing have the potential to be pretty dangerous, despite their routine nature, and it's not in your best interest to be distracted instead of alert. It seemed like a little bit of a childish lie to make, but, honestly, understandable given the human tendency to get used to safety.
      • Re:Crash and burn (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Jetra (2622687) on Saturday December 08, 2012 @10:57AM (#42225039)
        A new piece of hardware comes out faster than news is made. Out of the millions, perhaps tens of millions of devices being made around the world, don't you think that there might be one with that "perfect frequency?" I'm all for safety and I'm all for using my phone. I agree it might be an excuse, but heck it works. All of my friends require a 24/7 connection to some kind of device so I think a bit of a breather from all the gadgetry is helpful to the populace as a whole.
        • by houghi (78078)

          I agree it might be an excuse, but heck it works.

          Yeah, just like the TSA and some snake oil, I am willing to sell you.

        • It cannot be possible. That is like saying that we need tighter restrictions on wireless devises becuae theri might be that "perfect frequency" that causes all humans in a 10 mile radius to defecate themselves.

          It is not a plausible idea, so it does not matter how bad the consequences would be if it proved true.

          I could say god exists and he hates cell phone users, he will send them all to hell. According to your logic, now you must go out and start convincing people to throw away their cell phones. Since if

      • Re:Crash and burn (Score:5, Insightful)

        by quacking duck (607555) on Saturday December 08, 2012 @10:57AM (#42225041)

        The "pay attention" rationale doesn't hold water since they're not preventing people reading paper books or the newspapers they sometimes give out when you board.

        Also, it's pretty well proven portable electronics like smartphones and tablets do not affect takeoffs/landings. Although there's airplane modes in many of them to disable wifi and cell transmissions, the idea is that all electronics are supposed to be off... and simply "sleeping" them does not turn it off. Even moving electronic components aren't a big deal--people were taping takeoffs and landings on camcorders long before solid state memory recorders came around.

        Disallowing kindles/ereaders is especially hilarious considering they're effectively "off" all the time except when changing pages... and who remembers to turn off their kindle's wifi? I just realized I've flown 4 times without doing that (it's the basic version--the wifi disables airplane mode at some point to try downloading new ads).

        No, I think the old rule was indeed to prohibit electrical/electronic devices back when they were new enough that they didn't know how to shield aircraft systems properly from a wide range of devices, and the "pay attention" rationale, while a good idea regardless, is just a way to avoid making significant bureaucratic/regulatory changes.

        • The "pay attention" rationale doesn't hold water since they're not preventing people reading paper books or the newspapers they sometimes give out when you board.

          Books and newspapers typically do not feature headphones. To me, it seems much easier to say "put away all electronic devices" rather than try to hash out a list of exceptions.

        • I think it might be more about, busing able to react quickly.

          If you have a book in your hands you can just throw it to the ground; They are cheap and rugged. If you have a $2K laptop you are probably going to spend 10 second powering down and putting it in its case.

        • back when they were new enough that they didn't know how to shield aircraft systems properly

          Not quite. Radios have been banned for a long time, but I used to listen to music on cassette and CD while taking off and landing back in the 80s and 90s.

      • by Drathos (1092)

        I believe the same, but because of the letter of the rule, it leads to stupid situations. I have to turn off my noise-cancelling headphones, which actually make it easier for me to hear and understand them, because they're electronic. Meanwhile, the guy sitting next to me can have earplugs in making it impossible for him to hear anything.

      • i have said this before when this terribly stupid reasoning comes up: what the hell am i going to do when the plane starts doing cartwheels on takeoff? paying attention is not going to help me survive.

        i would much rather be listening to headphones in a crash though, rather than the screams of people burning to death in an aluminum tube.
    • by ethanms (319039)

      If there were a relatively simple electronic device that could interfere with a planes operation, it would have been found and exploited by now.

      Short of intentionally jamming radio frequencies or sending out radar-confusing pulses, etc, there isn't all that much that can go wrong in that regard... and the stuff that can go wrong is generally just nuisance-level, not crash-level... I don't think there is any straight forward way to disable an engine or a computer through interference (at least, not on the le

    • If interference could really be a problem (unlikely), then politely asking passengers to put their gadgets away is a laughably dumb solution, because it doesn't account for people forgetting to do so accidentally or willfully (say, terrorists). The only sane solution is to design the planes to be robust to interference, which I'm pretty sure they do already anyway.

    • by IAmR007 (2539972)
      No FCC approved consumer device is allowed to transmit or cause problems on the restricted frequencies used by airplanes to begin with. Devices that do transmit at non-public frequencies require licenses to use. Source: A friend with a PhD in aerospace engineering who has worked for Boeing and Airbus.
  • Safety (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 08, 2012 @10:42AM (#42224939)

    I always assumed it was because takeoff and landing are done at the lowest altitiudes, and have a higher risk of an emergency happening. Having items stowed and not being distracted may help in surviving an emergency. The fact that passengers can't even manage the feign interest in the safety instructions makes me question if people could pry their eyeballs away from their super important game of angry birds in the event of an emergency :) I've seen plenty of people (of all ages) get sucked into tv and computers so much that it appears they are in a trance and they don't respond to verbal directions as if they hadn't even heard them. I fly frequently, but I say keep them off.

  • >" but the agency still refuses to allow passengers to read on Kindles and iPads during takeoff and landing."

    Great! Then I can use my Xoom or Nexus 10!

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 08, 2012 @10:49AM (#42224985)

    Honestly, do people *really* need to have phone and other electronic devices during takeoff and landing? They can't put the stuff aside for 15 minutes? Are they that dependent? What next, you HAVE to leave the tray table down, you MUST leave your seat back? You're on a fricking plane. Put your stuff away and prepare for landing/takeoff.

    I've never really understood why it's so difficult to stop using these things during the crucial parts of the flight. Aside from the electronic signals part, it's also better not to have a bunch of hard, breakable glass, and/or relatively heavy objects floating around the cabin space. Stuff should be stowed below the seats in case there is turbulence or some other issue with the takeoff/landing. It might also be a good idea to have passengers' full attention in case the phrase "brace for impact" comes over the sound system.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Orphis (1356561)

      I vote for banning hard cover books too. I think they hurt far more than a kindle when thrown at you.

  • Blanket Ban (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    I'm a pilot, and as much as I think the ban is BS, I also understand. The problem is that the FAA cannot (practically) garuentee any level of quality or standard compliance for any piece of electronics that a passenger may bring on board (think $50 imitation iPad that may have bad or poorly designed radio components and transmits way outside the frequency band and power limits of wifi).

    Another half truth I've heard is that it keeps passengers more focused on their surroundings, so you may be able to take in

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      If a piece of consumer electronics can bring down a plane, don't you think you should... fix the plane?

      As for 'more focused', when the people on the plane tell me to turn off my Kindle, I close my eyes and try to sleep instead. So I'm far less focused.

      All it really does is make regular flyers regard anything the crew say as stupid BS.

      • Well at least if they yet at you when you are asleep to get into the fetal position you are not like "wait, I am powering down, don't crash yet."

    • by BitZtream (692029)

      As a pilot I would have expected you to have more common sense. You design aircraft to be 'fail safe'. You don't assume no interference, you design around interference.

      If it was an issue, they wouldn't allow them to be carried into the cabin and your baggage would be checked like your check your wing tanks for water before every take off.

      If they cared about focus, books wouldn't be allowed during that time either, nor would they allow people to sleep.

      Every reason you've used doesn't make sense.

  • If a random normal everyday wireless signal can cause any damage or impediment at all to an airplane, then that airplane has a faulty design.
    End of story; No ifs, ands, or buts.

    • by PPH (736903)

      If a random normal everyday wireless signal

      Define "normal". And then try to get your everyday wireless device certified to RTCA DO-160 [wikipedia.org] standards.

      • Anything that is not specifically designed to stop other wireless devices from failing to work.

        You do not just accidentally create a crappy device the throws out 1000 times the normally allowed power and blankets whole frequencies with static.

        • by PPH (736903)

          You do not just accidentally create a crappy device the throws out 1000 times the normally allowed power

          Actually, that's pretty easy to do. Its not a matter of 1000 times the 2 Watt allowable transmitter power. Its 1000 times over the -43 dB (or more) maximum allowable out of band emission. That's still down in the milliwatt range.

    • One single device won't. That's why one passenger ignoring the instructions may happen a lot, but isn't a real issue.

      The problem is having several radio devices in close proximity transmitting at the same time, because of intermodulation [wikipedia.org]. Two transmitters can produce interference at a third frequency - one that neither device is designed to transmit on. The more devices you have - and the more frequencies involved - the more likely such interference is, which increases the chance that some spurious product

      • If this is a potential issue then the passengers and their cargo would have to be sealed in a wireless insulating material so that no signal could leak out.
        It is a faulty design if we are just getting by on luck.

      • by BitZtream (692029)

        Right, and when the plane is taking off ... most of the time over/nearly over a city ... there aren't FAR more transmitters on towers in the vicinity with FAR higher power.

        *no* radio can reject interference on a frequency it is trying to receive.

        Really? There are some engineers that would tend to disagree with you. Thats the beauty of the digital age. Our radios aren't passive, they are active now. They can filter AND reject on their own AND cope with the problem. Extreme cases may lead to loss of signal, but they certainly can reject bad signals and validate the integrity o

        • Right, and when the plane is taking off ... most of the time over/nearly over a city ... there aren't FAR more transmitters on towers in the vicinity with FAR higher power.

          Transmitters not close to each other aren't much of an issue. Transmitters on the same tower *are* an issue - but they are heavily checked for IM products, both by the radio engineers who design/install the transmitters, and by the FCC monitoring bureau. There is usually lots of very expensive (and very large) equipment to prevent such interference - such as cavity resonators - that are not practical to add to a consumer product.

          Really? There are some engineers that would tend to disagree with you. Thats the beauty of the digital age. Our radios aren't passive, they are active now. They can filter AND reject on their own AND cope with the problem. Extreme cases may lead to loss of signal, but they certainly can reject bad signals and validate the integrity of the signal. Hell, even GPS signals can be validated and ARE in military receivers.

          Digital can actually make things worse. Static and distortion on an analog voic

  • by whizbang77045 (1342005) on Saturday December 08, 2012 @11:07AM (#42225099)
    This isn't just a ban on consumer electronics. The FAA doesn't allow much of anything to be used on aircraft until it has been thoroughly tested, and shown not to interfere with the operation of the aircraft. It's been this way since just about day one at the FAA.

    If you demonstrate, for example, that a Nintendo does not cause interference, then the approval would apply only to the model tested, and not to any other gaming devices.

    One could argue that this is overly cautious, but there are devices out there which do interfere with the aircraft. FM radios, for example, can and often do interfere with VOR navigation receivers. If they err, it is on the side of safety. It would take one really bad accident traced to an unapproved device to have the NTSB screaming for the head of everyone concerned.

    Disclaimer: I hold airframe and powerplant mechanics certificates, an inspection authorization (lets me inspect aircraft on behalf of the FAA each year), and a general radiotelephone certificate.

    • by jader3rd (2222716)

      The FAA doesn't allow much of anything to be used on aircraft until it has been thoroughly tested, and shown not to interfere with the operation of the aircraft.

      Well, they allow them in the cockpit where if they were going to cause interference, that would be the most likely place for them to do so. Plus, they have been thoroughly tested, and they've been shown to be safe. If FM radios are the one thing that causes interference, let's ban FM radios.

    • by Viceice (462967)

      I have a cousin who is a commercial pilot. He was first officer on a flight years back when wifi was first gaining popularity. After take off and the plane was levelled out, all of a sudden some of the nav equipment started giving false readings.

      Long story short, it turned out that the wifi transceiver on a Toshiba laptop owned by one of the passengers was defective and was transmitting on frequencies it was not supposed to.

      So yeah, while on paper it should not happen, you only need 1 fuckup by a minimum wa

    • I have personally observed a digital camera (Nikon D200 I think), interfering with the navigation receiver on a small plane. Every time we took a picture the VOR needles would jump slightly. We were at cruise altitude and VFR so it wasn't a problem, but it would have been disturbing if it happened low on an ILS approach.

      I think the issue is that most electronics will not interfere with aircraft electronics, but a couple of things to consider:

      The transmitter powers add - so a plane with 400 activated cell p

  • by PPH (736903)

    I didn't know these things were banned during flight. I've used my Kindle many times without an issue being raised by the cabin crew.

    Of course, this means using them in air mode (no radio transceivers operating) and not during takeoff and landing. The reasons for a ban during these flight mode is two fold: These are the most critical (and dangerous) parts of flight and distractions from cabin crew instructions or PA announcements need to be minimized. Also, its not so much the nav equipment that interferen

  • Imagine a future where this ban is lifted. Phone/tablet manufacturers would probably do away with "airplane mode" in software. There is so much going on below the surface on these devices, you don't always know what it's doing.

    Whether out of concern for being able to use the device without being tracked by your cell carrier, or without phoning home data to an app developer, or without using pulling any data when you are close to your monthly cap (which is becoming increasingly common... To the point where
    • by BitZtream (692029)

      They'll leave airplane mode so your battery doesn't die in 30 minutes while it transmits and maximum gain searching for a tower it can't talk to.

  • I don't care if you use your smartphone/tablet to play games, read documents, write email whatever...

    I just don't want to sit next to you for 6hours while you talk on the phone or use Skype/facetime, any more than I want to sit next to a screaming child for those same 6 hours.

    As for the take-off and landing ban? That's what 15minutes and takeoff and 15minutes at landing? If you can't put that stuff down for 30minutes out of the entire flight, than you should stop referring to that device as your phone or t

  • by ace37 (2302468) on Saturday December 08, 2012 @02:06PM (#42226293) Homepage

    Boeing has an explanation of the rationale and the steps they've taken to examine the effects of electronics on aircraft in their "Aero" magazine. This is pretty old (2000) and would certainly benefit from an update, but they did real live technical investigation instead of just mixing assertions with quasi-technical arguments. A link to the full text:
    http://www.boeing.com/commercial/aeromagazine/aero_10/interfere_textonly.html [boeing.com]

    TLDR Summary:
    After receiving very specific, detailed claims/complaints from airlines, Boeing inspected the frequency range output and dB level of electromagnetic emissions from several specific devices. Their biggest concerns in the testing seemed to be the EMI due to frequency harmonics and interactions between devices--the premise and conceptual explanation seems unlikely but isn't completely meritless. No airplane susceptibility was demonstrated. Boeing clearly said that since they tested specific items, the testing was not conclusive for all devices and all interactions.

    The excerpt on cell phones in particular deserves to be fully quoted, as it illustrates their thinking:
    *Cell phone tests and analysis.*
    Boeing conducted a laboratory and airplane test with 16 cell phones typical of those carried by passengers, to determine the emission characteristics of these intentionally transmitting PEDs. The laboratory results indicated that the phones not only produce emissions at the operating frequency, but also produce other emissions that fall within airplane communication/navigation frequency bands (automatic direction finder, high frequency, very high frequency [VHF] omni range/locator, and VHF communications and instrument landing system [ILS]). Emissions at the operating frequency were as high as 60 dB over the airplane equipment emission limits, but the other emissions were generally within airplane equipment emission limits. One concern about these other emissions from cell phones is that they may interfere with the operation of an airplane communication or navigation system if the levels are high enough.

    Boeing also performed an airplane test on the ground with the same 16 phones. The airplane was placed in a flight mode and the flight deck instruments, control surfaces, and communication/navigation systems were monitored. No susceptibility was observed.

    Telephones installed and certified on the airplane by Boeing or operators are not actually cell phones, but part of an airborne certified satellite system. These phones are electromagnetically compatible with the airplane systems because their emissions are controlled. In contrast, the emissions from passengers’ cell phones are not known or controlled in the same way as permanently installed equipment.

    • by russotto (537200)

      It doesn't matter. The nervous nellies are going to insist that every device, and every possible combination of devices in every possible mode, be tested before the ban is relaxed. They know that's impossible so they'll just sit back smugly and imply that you're willing to risk a crash for trivial reasons.

  • The summary mentions "The FCC studied the question several years ago but found insufficient evidence to support lifting the ban at the time." It is not talking about the FAA ban.

    The FCC also bans cell phones [fcc.gov] and some other wireless devices in aircraft, not only the FAA.

  • I always figured the idea was that enforcing a silly rule would agitate the people who were generally likely to make trouble, and get them thrown off the plane before it was in the air.
  • There would be few things in life worse than being stuck sitting next to some dipstick talking on their phone with no hope of reprieve or escape. I would vote for continued ban on phone calls and noisy electronics (MP3/Game/DVD player, etc) for the sheer nuisance factor. Use your phone menus, apps, camera, text messaging, fine. But no calls. Everything else is fair game... except I suppose electric shavers, that's just wrong.
  • by mark-t (151149)

    ... the agency still refuses to allow passengers to read on Kindles... during takeoff and landing.

    Do they also refuse to allow people to read paper books during those times?

    If it's an attention issue, do they prohibit people from sleeping during those times?

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