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Cellphones On Airplanes 488

Bonker writes "According to this USAToday article two companies, AirCell, and Verizon, are developing technology to let airline passengers safely use cellphones while in flight. The system would block frequencies normally used by cellphones and force cell customers to 'roam' on the new network. Saftey concerns aside, I thought that a plane cabin was the one place I would never have to deal with people who won't quit talking on the phone."
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Cellphones On Airplanes

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  • Cost? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by semaj ( 172655 ) on Thursday October 24, 2002 @11:51AM (#4522566) Journal
    Presumably this also means that if you're using their "cell", they can charge you what they like. I can see their motivation ...
    • Control? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Gerry Gleason ( 609985 ) <gerry@[ ] ['ger' in gap]> on Thursday October 24, 2002 @12:02PM (#4522688)
      My understanding was that the people on the flight that went down in Pennsylvania were using cell-phones to get updated about what was going on in the real world. Or were they using the on-board phones they usually have in the seat backs? If the latter, it begs the question of whether the terrorists could have shut down that system from the cockpit, or did they? Even though cell-phones are not designed to be used from 30,000 feet, I imagine they work fine over most of the country.

      This proposed systems would probably be controllable from the cockpit as well, and could easily make any cell phone on the plane inoperable. Maybe that is what the control oriented security freaks want, but I think it has many dangers.

      • In several of the flights, actually. When they stopped caring about giving the pilots problems, the cell phones seemed to work OK. I also suspect, but don't know for sure, that at the times the cell phones were being used the planes were a bit lower than normal.

      • Re:Control? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by sql*kitten ( 1359 ) on Thursday October 24, 2002 @12:24PM (#4522921)
        My understanding was that the people on the flight that went down in Pennsylvania were using cell-phones to get updated about what was going on in the real world.

        Is there any actual evidence that phones do interfere with flight electronics? As far as I know, it's just an overdone precaution. After all, if it were a problem, why aren't phones also banned from airports? Why aren't phone masts, orders of magnitude more powerful than handsets, sited well away from airports? Is there any overlap between the frequencies used by phones any one of rader, air-to-ground comms, a plane's internal electronic buses?

        I was on a plane once where they didn't even let you use a Walkman in case it interfered with their electronics!
        • Re:Control? (Score:5, Informative)

          by squiggleslash ( 241428 ) on Thursday October 24, 2002 @12:39PM (#4523040) Homepage Journal
          The issues to do with flight electronics being interfered with are a by-the-way - they're not the primary reason why cellphones are banned from use on planes.

          In the US, the ban is an FCC one, not from the FAA. The reason is because a cellphone signal can easily be picked up across a very wide area on land when it's a mile up, and so the phone has the capability of interfering with a large number of other devices. The notion of "cells" becomes problematic when your phone can be seen by tens of them, and when the nearest cell can, when flying over urban areas, change six times a minute (600mph, cells spaced a mile apart...)

          As I understand it, the calls made from the hijacked planes were from in-plane back-of-the-seat phones, not from cellphones.

          • Re:Control? (Score:4, Informative)

            by ibennetch ( 521581 ) <(bennetch) (at) (> on Thursday October 24, 2002 @01:14PM (#4523381) Journal
            I don't know about cell phones (because they operate on different frequencies and are under a different set of rules and regulations), but amateur radio operators are prohibited from using their equipment when an aircraft is operating under instrument flight rules (unless the equipment is FAA approved) (reference []), and generally prohibited amongst the large commercial airlines (by the airlines themselves, not by the FAA or FCC).

            With that said; I do agree that at least part of the problem is created by the fact that at a mile up; you can cover a huge area (I'm sure someone knows how to compute this).
          • Wrong!

            It is the other way around. The FCC has done studies on traditional analog cellphones and determined that they should not be used by anyone on board an aircraft because of the wide interference that usage would cause. Similar studies were not performed for PCS and other digital networks, so there is no FCC regulation against using them in flight.

            The FAA, on the otherhand still bans any cell phone use, believing that any phone may cause interference, mainly based upon hearsay and conjecture; under no controlled circumstances has interference ever been shown to occur in flight. IIRC, there are some 40 or 50 incidents a year where pilots believe that they fell victim to some sort of electronic interference, almost exclusively from laptops.

            There was a congressional report a couple of years ago on this, I wish someone would post the link.

        • Re:Control? (Score:5, Informative)

          by jdreed1024 ( 443938 ) on Thursday October 24, 2002 @01:13PM (#4523365)
          I was on a plane once where they didn't even let you use a Walkman in case it interfered with their electronics!

          AFAIK, the FCC only bans radios and other "transmission" devices during flight. Other devices are at the discretion of the airline. For example, I was once on a flight where walkmans were allowed, but discmans weren't, because they could "interfere" with the electronics. This is a standard excuse given to everyone. If you actually get into the details, you'll find that the flight attendants know jack shit about electronics (not that they need to). It's probably just a CYA move for the airlines. Admittedly, much avionics hasn't changed much since the '60s, and it's likely it'd be far more susceptible to interference than modern stuff, but there's not much we can do about that. Laptop computers will be the next to be banned, because the flight attendants can't tell what has 802.11b and what doesn't. The simple solution is, of course, not to fly.

          Now, if you're talking about the restriction on electronic devices during takeoff and landing, that's because they don't want you playing Super Mario Brothers while you're supposed to be listening to the stewardess tell you how to get off the plane in an emergency. Of course, you could read a book and not pay attention, but I guess they assume that people who are reading a book and probably read the safety information card.

    • Does not matter (Score:5, Interesting)

      by ninjadoug ( 609521 ) on Thursday October 24, 2002 @12:04PM (#4522715)
      They will Ban them again, not for safety reasons but 'for the comfort of other passangers'. I would choose an airline with a 'no-cellphone' policy. especially on long haul flights.
    • Presumably this also means that if you're using their "cell", they can charge you what they like. I can see their motivation ...


      Cell phones bypass the airphone, with its big bill of which the airline gets a cut.

      Why should the airline take ANY risk of interference with the flight insturments when it's also costing them money? But they might accept a little when it's both under their control as to interference AND it's PAYING them money.

      But I bet part of the impetus comes from the cellphone companies themselves. Using a cellphone in the air works. But on the ground a cellphone is "heard" by only a handfull of cells. In the air it is "heard" by MANY cells, chewing up bandwidth on each - and the SAME chunk of it, making the allocation of channels to calls on the ground difficlut. So even if you're paying for the call you're a net loss to your cell carrier, possibly forcing him to drop several calls by other customers.
    • How can they charge you for using their cell? IIRC, your service charges you for using other cells, the cell can't directly bill your account.
  • deal? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by csimicah ( 592121 ) on Thursday October 24, 2002 @11:51AM (#4522573)
    What is there to "deal" with about people talking on phones? Do you also have to "deal" with people talking to the person next to them?

    Are you just upset about only being able to eavesdrop on one side of the conversation?
    • Have you ever been modded "Off Topic"? Well its the same thing. :-) Only we can't mod people with cell phones. Damn
      • Re:deal? (Score:5, Funny)

        by Maxwell'sSilverLART ( 596756 ) on Thursday October 24, 2002 @01:08PM (#4523332) Homepage

        Only we can't mod people with cell phones.

        Sure you can! In a restaurant, a glass of ice water is a wonderful moderator. In a theater/theatre, your hat (which you did, of course, remove upon entering the building) is a wonderful whacking device. Elsewhere, just join their conversation. "REALLY? I CAN'T BELIEVE SHE DID THAT!"

        They'll learn, usually quickly.

    • Re:deal? (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Because people tend to talk loudly on cellphones.. louder than they would be if the person was next to them.
      • Re:deal? (Score:3, Insightful)

        In my experience, the only people who talk loudly on cellphones are the ones I notice talking loudly on cellphones. I only notice the quieter ones when I'm actually forced to see them for some other reason - if it's a friend, etc.

        Either I have unusually quiet friends, or the loudmouths are in the minority. It's just there's enough of the loudmouths to be noticable...

    • Re:deal? (Score:5, Funny)

      by blincoln ( 592401 ) on Thursday October 24, 2002 @11:58AM (#4522646) Homepage Journal

      Are you just upset about only being able to eavesdrop on one side of the conversation?

      My personal complaint is that people on cellphones tend to act as if they're speaking from the privacy of their own home, rather than talking with someone in a public place. They speak in a louder voice, and they discuss more personal topics. I don't like being forced to know things I didn't want to about people.

      The worst, though, are people who use them in the restroom. "Ah, yeah, let's close that business deal. Hang on one second, will you? Unnnh! Unnhhhhhhh! [sploosh] oh yeah! Okay, now about those terms..."

    • Re:deal? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Xaoswolf ( 524554 ) <{moc.liamg} {ta} {flowsoaX}> on Thursday October 24, 2002 @12:09PM (#4522771) Homepage Journal
      You see, the people talking to those around them are normally using their inside voices, while those on phones are using their Cellular voices, which is about 3x as loud as a normal person's outside voice.

      Even people that use those headsets with the phone tend to talk louder than a 2nd grader running around on the playground.

      There are just a few places where cell phones are inapropriate, these would be places where you are crowded in with a group of people for a long duration of time, in lines at checkout counters, funerals, and on dates. Chances are, you are not important enough to have to talk on the phone during a funeral. And you're sister can wait an hour for the plane to land to hear about the cute guy sitting in 21-b.

    • Re:deal? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Powercntrl ( 458442 ) on Thursday October 24, 2002 @12:10PM (#4522783)
      What is there to "deal" with about people talking on phones? Do you also have to "deal" with people talking to the person next to them?

      I agree. I can understand cell phones being a problem when they're distracting someone from driving or being used during a movie or concert. But if you're at a resturant, the mall, in a plane, train, bus, etc. where it is considered acceptable to carry on a conversation with the person(s) next to you, there is no reason you shouldn't be able to talk into a phone.

      I'm personally sick of this argument that people talk louder or make profane/personal comments into cell phones. Not everyone does and quite a few people at resturants who have maybe had a bit too much to drink can be just as loud or make profane remarks to the other people in their party.

      • Re:deal? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Anonvmous Coward ( 589068 ) on Thursday October 24, 2002 @12:24PM (#4522914)
        But if you're at a resturant, the mall, in a plane, train, bus, etc. where it is considered acceptable to carry on a conversation with the person(s) next to you, there is no reason you shouldn't be able to talk into a phone.

        Well said.

        I want to know where all these people are that can't use a phone without pissing everybody off. I live in Portland, Oregon. You can't throw a rock here without hitting 3 people with a cell phone. Yet, they are not a huge nuisance here. Occasionally a phone rings in a movie, that's usually taken care of pretty quick. I don't even have any stories about people being stupid with their phones at a movie. Restaraunts: no biggie. Lotsa ppl use their phones, there are not lotsa people raising their voices.

        As a matter of fact, the only complaint I have about a cell phone user is an executive who likes to leave his phone on its loudest setting, and then the people who call him don't bother leaving a voice mail. Instead, they call again... and again... and again... In a cubicle environment, this is a no no. Is this a problem with him being a cell phone user? No, it's a problem with him being an executive. "My phone calls are important." Whatever.

        So every time I hear these people getting upset, a big question mark appears over my head. Either people in Portland are far more polite with their phones than in some other areas (which is possible...) or the people posting all these anti-cell phone posts on Slashdot are exaggerating.

        Bear in mind that I'm not challenging anybody's story, I just want to know why my experience is so different. If somebody can give me a good reason, then the next time I read somebody's "everybody who uses a cell phone is an ass" post my first instinct won't be to think "or you just need to grow a thicker skin."
        • thicker skin (Score:4, Insightful)

          by Ender Ryan ( 79406 ) on Thursday October 24, 2002 @01:48PM (#4523614) Journal
          I've had a very similar experience to yours. The only cell phone users who annoy me are those who drive erratically while talking on them, those who leave them on in the theater, etc. These people are usually equally as rude _without_ their phones, so it really doesn't matter.

          Now, my experience with people who get annoyed by people talking on cells is thus; they are simply annoyed by people carrying on a conversation with another party that they cannot see/hear. Perhaps it looks unnatural seeing someone going about their business talking to noone, but the personal feelings of the annoyed are, nonetheless, irrational.

          So, in conclusion, I think some people just need to grow a thicker skin, and quit worrying about what other people are doing.

          Just my experience/opinion, YMMV.

          • Re:thicker skin (Score:5, Interesting)

            by Anonvmous Coward ( 589068 ) on Thursday October 24, 2002 @02:02PM (#4523766)
            'Now, my experience with people who get annoyed by people talking on cells is thus; they are simply annoyed by people carrying on a conversation with another party that they cannot see/hear. Perhaps it looks unnatural seeing someone going about their business talking to noone, but the personal feelings of the annoyed are, nonetheless, irrational.'

            I had an experience like that once. I was at a McDonald's having a little dinner while I talked to my Dad on the phone. He lives 2,0000 miles away so I don't get a whole lot of time to talk with him. This old woman kept glaring at me. She mouthed a not-so-subtle comment about how I needed to get off the phone and eat my dinner. (no, I wasn't talking too loud.) She just had this thing about cell phone use.

            I think that she was mad at me because other people with cell phones had riled her up. I got the feeling it wasn't me specifically she had a problem with, but other people had annoyed her and I was 'one of them'.

            I'm not a big fan of being guilty of other people's crimes. I take extra care not to be annoying with my phone. As a matter of fact, right now my phone is on a low ring mode and set to vibrate. When it rings, my cubicle neighbor can't even hear it. I let my voice-mail get the call if I'm in the middle of a convo. I make a point of putting my phone on silent at a movie. I don't know about most places, but the theaters here ask you to make them silent.

            As you can see, I put a great deal of effort into not being a nuisance. So hopefully you can understand why I don't take too kindly to stories about how some public places (like malls) are considering the jamming of cell phones. That'd essentially 'ground' the offenders, but what about all the people out there who aren't being offensive?

            Half of the population of the US has a cell phone. If 110 million cell phones were ringing, I would understand the problem. We all know the number's nowhere near that high. In other words: Find a better solution.
    • The difference is in public places airplanes where people who can't stop chatting have to resort to talking with strangers such as myself, I can generally stop their inane chatter by not responding to it. I don't *want* to talk or have to listen to Bob the salesman from Oklahoma City. When these chatterers have cell phones this tactic doesn't work, unfortunately.
    • Re:deal? (Score:3, Troll)

      by DaytonCIM ( 100144 )
      People tend to speak LOUDER whilst speaking on a cell phone. In addition, people tend to be oblivios to those around them, hence they tend to not realise their being rude.

      We survived 20,000 years without cell phones. Why is it now we cannot?
    • Re:deal? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by nuxx ( 10153 )
      The problem I have with people incessantly talking on cell phones next to me is the fact that most people tend to talk loud. Did you ever novice that people seem to find it necessary to practically yell into a telephone, despite the fact that they typically talk in a normal voice? With the condenser mics on today's phones you can practically whisper and still be heard just fine.
    • the deal (Score:5, Informative)

      by technobabble ( 466430 ) on Thursday October 24, 2002 @12:42PM (#4523070)
      What is there to "deal" with about people talking on phones? Do you also have to "deal" with people talking to the person next to them?

      The deal:

      By some act of manufacturing or quirk of human nature, cell phones seem to have this inherent ability to turn otherwise friendly, considerate people into inconsiderate jerks.

      On top of the obvious rudness of leaving your cell phone to ring in a movie - and then talking on it as you leave the theater - there's the more subtle rudeness of ignoring the people who are actually *present*.

      Talking to Joe on your cell phone is isn't anything like a conversation with another passenger: It's the opposite. Conversations with other passengers are generally held at a respectful volume, and often other passengers are welcome to join in the discussion (a la slashdot).

      On the other hand, having a long, loud conversation on a cell phone is disrespectful of other passengers. It says, "Not only are you not interesting enough to talk to, but you're so insignificant, I'm not going to feel any qualms about interrupting your ride by talking at the top of my voice."
      • On the other hand, having a long, loud conversation on a cell phone is disrespectful of other passengers. It says, "Not only are you not interesting enough to talk to, but you're so insignificant, I'm not going to feel any qualms about interrupting your ride by talking at the top of my voice."

        Amen! This is the real problem with cell phones: people assume that the phone is the most important member of the party. Not just on airplanes, but everywhere. When I invite a group of friends to dinner, it's because I want to spend time with them, not with their cell phones (or mine). By answering that phone, you're promoting it over the people in your party. This is particularly rude if you're the host: "I invited you here to watch me talk on the phone, because I'm important." Reminds me of the Dilbert cartoon about the boss teaching himself to play the ukelele (or somesuch). If you're going to take the call (which you generally shouldn't, and Caller ID (included with all phones these days) can make the decision for you), at least excuse yourself from the table, so the rest of the party can continue their conversation.

        Finally, somebody who gets it. My kingdom for mod points, and the ability to highlight passages along with the moderation!

    • The strange thing is, people will YELL things into a cell phone that they would never say in a face to face conversation in a public place.

      On my train ride to work this morning, I learned all about a passenger's:

      1. Divorce
      2. Joint debts with ex wife.
      3. Kid's behavior problems and learning disorder.
      4. New house.

      I DON'T CARE. I WAS TRYING TO READ A BOOK. It's a public place and the rest of us shouldn't be forced to endure someone's personal business.

      Evening news: "Disgruntled DC area commuter assaults passenger on morning commuter train. Surgeons were unable to extract the cellular phone from the victim's [choose an oriface] and fear it may be permanently lodged there..."

      Ahhh... I feel better now.
  • Why the use of ANY electronic device is prohibited below a certain altitude, except when sitting still at the gate? Not that I followed the rules because I wanted to take some nice pictures on a flight that barely went above that altitude for long (BGR to BOS).
    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 24, 2002 @11:57AM (#4522632)
      "Please turn off all electronic devices. This includes pacemakers."
      • The complementary magazines on Southwest Airlines make a point of noting that you do NOT have to turn off pacemakers. Seriously.

        It'd be a bummer if we had to shut grandma down while we taxi, only to get delayed because of weather or something.

    • It was my belief that they could cause interferance with equipment used during the take off and landing of the plane.
    • by Gorm the DBA ( 581373 ) on Thursday October 24, 2002 @12:03PM (#4522707) Journal
      In theory, it's because any portable electronic device is capable of acting as a low power transmitter of radio signals in the course of normal operation (that's why there's that FCC "Part A" sticker on the back of them all that talks about not being able to cause interference and must accept any interferance that comes in, yadda, yadda, yadda").

      So it's theoretically possible that your gameboy's signal could jam the frequency that the pilots need for communication with the ground, or with vital control operation (which is largely done via radio waves these days).

      At 30,000 feet it's not a huge deal, since in the exceptionally unlikely event something went wrong, there's enough time to straighten it out before plane hit ground and go boom. At 30 feet during takeoff, however, there is no such recovery time, hence the ban.

      However, the odds of it happening are darned near astronomical in any case, since the sideband radiation caused by the gameboy would have to be right on the right frequency and strong enough to override the "correct" signal...not terribly likely.

      Cell phones, though, in that they are designed to transmit signals, have much more powerful transmissions (duh...) so it's more likely they could interfere.

    • by FreeUser ( 11483 ) on Thursday October 24, 2002 @12:04PM (#4522711)
      Why the use of ANY electronic device is prohibited below a certain altitude, except when sitting still at the gate?

      Because in some geometries, under some conditions, a cell phone or laptop can disrupt radio reception and navigational equipment. I have forgotten to turn my cell phone off more than once, and I routinely use my laptop to listen to ogg files while flying my Beech Sundowner on long cross country flight. The vast majority of the time there is no noticable effect, by on two different occasions I have had my laptop completely block my radio reception.

      Now, before some smartass, thinking they know what they do not, blurts something stupid like "how did you know you missed radio reception if you couldn't hear it?" I'll go ahead and point out what should be obvious:

      1) You get weather data prior to requesting permission to taxi. This whether data is broadcast on a looped tape, updated once per hour if it is ATIS, updated constantly by automated equipment if it is ASOS, etc. In one case the ASOS was silent with the laptop on, perfectly audible with it off (this was confirmed by power cycling the laptop severa times).

      2) When you call clearance delivery or ground for taxi instructions, you expect a reply. If you don't get one, you call again. If this persists, you probably have a problem (usually you've dialed up the wrong frequency, have your volume turned down, or aren't transmitting). Turning off my cell phone immediate resulted in my hearing "N6708R, how do you read?" to which my reply was, "Loud and clear, now." Meigs ground had tried to respond to my request several times, the transmission was blocked whenever I had the phone turned on.

      So, while such interference is rare, it can and does occur from time to time. Do you really want to risk having a Boeing 747 miss a call from the tower to hold short for crossing traffic while taxiing to or from the runway just so you can call your wife and let her know the plane is about to take off/just landed, or just so you can edit that Word document one more time prior to takeoff?
      • The vast majority of the time there is no noticable effect, by on two different occasions I have had my laptop completely block my radio reception.

        That must of been because your antenna was in close proximity to your source of interference. This is not the case with large airplanes. The vast majority of plane antennas are externally mounted with excellent RF insulation on the wires connecting the antenna and radio. Some are in the front of the plane to ensure minimal interference from the plane it self. In either case, your example does not apply in any way to typical commercial airplanes and their radio/electronic equipment.

        Small craft and private planes have a different set of standards. I'm not sure exactly how they differ in detail but I've flown on MANY small craft with phones and various electronic gadgets and have NEVER had a single problem. My father and uncle are both pilots. Both own their own planes. Needless to say, I get to fly a lot.
    • As they say here, read the article:

      "The FAA bars cell phone use in flight as well as other electronic devices during takeoff and landing to avoid disrupting plane electronics. AirCell's system would reduce cell phones' power and limit the number in use at once."


      "The FCC bans use because of ground concerns. Cell phones often don't work at 30,000 feet, but when they do, signals can reach hundreds of towers at once, clogging networks."
    • I'd guess it's very simple, if you are below a certain altitude (now I'm not sure what altitude this should be) you are going to be far more likely to crash if a problem occurs. If you are above a certain altitude the odds on the pilot being unable to recover the plane from a problem are far less. Obviously if the flight control system is completely shot the altitude makes no difference, but if it simply misbehaves until they figure out what is causing the problem than the more space you have before you die the better!
    • Yes. (Score:5, Informative)

      by Ungrounded Lightning ( 62228 ) on Thursday October 24, 2002 @12:12PM (#4522809) Journal
      Why the use of ANY electronic device is prohibited below a certain altitude, except when sitting still at the gate?

      Because you can get away with just about any manouver in an airplane as long as you don't do it close to the ground. Continents have the right of way.

      Takeoffs and landings require extreme precision, because going about a foot low means destroying the plane and possibly the cockpit crew and many in the cabin. There are a BUNCH of radio-based aids on a large number of frequencies and using a variety of methods - and if the one that's being used to guide the plane at a particular instant is suddenly interfered with, there may be no time to recognize that it's malfunctioning and switch to something else. So screwing up any one of them at a critical moment may result in a landing you don't walk away from, a mid-air collision, or some other mishap.

      Similarly, the airport and the space immediately adjacent is a 3D traffic jam, coordinated by radio calls. Garbling even one radio message could result in a collision, in the air or on the ground. (As with highways they have a few even when they're NOT being interfered with. Now imagine highways with an occasional light going all-ways-green...)

      Once the plane is AWAY from the space around the airport it has an ENORMOUS space to work in, and considerable time to work with. And there are "lanes" in airspace, as well as a rule that breaks it into stacks of altitude ranges where everything that isn't passing through in a well-known place is going in about the same direction. So if your laptop jams a navigational aid there's time to switch to another. (And if it somehow jams ALL of 'em the crew can run on internal nav and non-radio instruments and avoid other airplanes and mountains until the stew can get you to turn the bloody thing off.)
    • by CharlieG ( 34950 ) on Thursday October 24, 2002 @12:40PM (#4523047) Homepage
      The electronics rules came about due to an air crash (Midair) over Staten Island (NY) back in the early 60s. The results of the investigation blamed navigation error due to interference due to a portable AM/FM Radio (yes, one of those old transistor radios)

      The FAA Banned inflight electronics after that. Eventually, the loosened the standard to allow use at altitude, where you are in less croweded skys
  • by NetDanzr ( 619387 ) on Thursday October 24, 2002 @11:53AM (#4522593)
    I tend to whack people talking on cellphones during moview with a stick. Sitting on a plane with people all around you talking to their phones and not being able to whack them may get a little frustrating...
    • Sitting on a plane with people all around you talking to their phones and not being able to whack them may get a little frustrating...

      Easy. Just tell a stewardess that you heard them talking in Arabic. She'll take care of the rest for you.
  • by fobbman ( 131816 ) on Thursday October 24, 2002 @11:53AM (#4522595) Homepage
    I have no problem with allowing cell phone use on airplanes. The problem is when they expect to use them IN the airplane. When they do that, then they need to allow me to carry a stun gun.

  • What about the pilots? Will they have to use hands free models? :)
  • by JonTurner ( 178845 ) on Thursday October 24, 2002 @11:56AM (#4522622) Journal
    What about harmonics? Any length of wire or any metallic structure in the vehicle's chassis will act as a tuned antenna and pick up (or create) harmonics. This is the real risk. A benign use of a particular frequency can create unintentional interference on another.

    This so-called "solution" looks like more of a money-making scheme than a safety system to me.
    • This is a real issue, way back when I was in University the Student Union had a radio station. They did not have a registered frequency, such things have only recently become available in the UK, so istead they used induction loops which staid within leagal rage limits. However one of the buildings which was metal framed with glass paneling did not recieve the broadcasts, even though loops were clearly visable. It may have been a Urban Myth, but it was said that when live the harmonics broadcast conflited with a distress frequency in the North Sea.
    • by mesocyclone ( 80188 ) on Thursday October 24, 2002 @01:05PM (#4523309) Homepage Journal
      This is not true. Only non-linear devices will cause harmonics.

      Of course, it doesn't take much to make a nonlinear device - for example, corrosion on a metal to metal junction is sufficient.

      Not only does these devices create harmonics, they also create intermodulation. This causes the sum and difference frequencies of all radio signals and all of their harmonics to appear in the spectrum. This is a common problem on repeater sites where multiple radio transmitters and receivers a co-located. It is also a problem on navy ships, where there may be in some cases dozens to hundreds of radios operating, and the salt air is especially good at causing corrosion.

      I think any radio transmitter in the aircraft has some potential of causing problems. However, this, like any risk in life, needs to be quantified. After all, aircraft are already subject to interference from external signals. For example, some cable channels operate in the aircraft VHF navigations bands and have caused interference. The FCC has especially strict rules that cable companies must follow when they use those frequencies (which they pretty much all do these days).

      Back when I used to fly private planes, I experienced interference with my navigation radios and my VHF AM communications radio when I used my 2 meter ham radio handi-talkie.

      OTOH, when I used it in a glider I had no such problems, because there were zero electronic devices in the glider (sailplane for the purists) :-)
  • "I thought that a plane cabin was the one place I would never have to deal with people who won't quit talking on the phone."

    Planes have had cell phones built right into the seats for quite some time now.

    • by Anonymous Coward
      Actually, no, those are not cell phones. They are satellite phones which are operating on a shielded data buss which is part of the aircraft's communications system.

  • by Gorm the DBA ( 581373 ) on Thursday October 24, 2002 @11:57AM (#4522635) Journal
    Okay...ummm...if they're blocking the frequencies normally does my cell phone know to switch to a new frequency? Does my phone have the right transmitter to use a new frequency?

    Keep in mind, my cell phone is one of those dumb "Buy the minutes as you use em" kinda things, which is a good deal seeing as how I only have to spend $15 every 90 days, as opposed to $30/month for the 10 minutes I generally use the phone.

    • Okay...ummm...if they're blocking the frequencies normally does my cell phone know to switch to a new frequency? Does my phone have the right transmitter to use a new frequency?

      I was always under the impression that "roaming" mode was analogous to analog mode. When I'm using my Sprint PCS phone, and I'm not near a digital network, my phone will start roaming in analog mode. Presumably this company will block digital frequencies, and allow you to roam on their analog network?

    • Newer phones can operate in as many as 3 different frequency bands, one each for analog, digital, and 3G service. These phones will switch bands in an attempt to find the best service available at a given point.

      I don't know much about cell phones on airplanes, but I would imagine there is a fear of a cell phone operating in a radio frequency that could interfere with electronics or radio communications on the airplane. In that case, jamming the signal would force the cell phone to try a different band (say quit searching for a digital tower and start looking for an analog tower).

      Of course, then you gotta wonder why the jamming signal wouldn't interfere with the airplane's electronics just as the cell phone would.
  • Great (Score:5, Funny)

    by PygmyTrojan ( 605138 ) on Thursday October 24, 2002 @11:58AM (#4522645)
    Anyone who's willing to pay $3.99/minute roaming charges just to say "Hey! I'm flying over your house!" deserves a swift kick in the crotch.
    • Anyone who's willing to pay $3.99/minute roaming charges just to say "Hey! I'm flying over your house!" deserves to pay $3.99/minute roaming charges just to say, "Hey! I'm flying over your house!"
  • Jetblue?? (Score:5, Informative)

    by molo ( 94384 ) on Thursday October 24, 2002 @11:59AM (#4522651) Journal
    When on a cross-country flight this past december on JetBlue airlines, they specifically told us that we were permitted to use cell phones once we got above 10,000 ft.

    People were using them during the whole flight. They would get constantly cut off and have to re-connect as we went over areas that didn't have service.

    So, I don't get this whole thing. Every other airline specifically has said that cell phones need to be off once they close the cabin door. If it works for one, why not all the rest? What does the FAA or FCC have to say about all this?
    • Re:Jetblue?? (Score:5, Informative)

      by nosilA ( 8112 ) on Thursday October 24, 2002 @12:20PM (#4522885)
      Cell phone companies must hate that. One of the bigger problems with using cell phones in flight is due to roaming. Not only can your phone "see" many more cell towers than it was designed to see, but you are moving 10x faster than you would be driving. Handoffs are one of the hardest and most expensive things that a cell phone system can do. So you are using far more resources at 30,000 feet going 500mph than at ground level going 50. This explains why the calls were dropped, as the phone and network are not capable of handling this scenario very well.

  • I was on a flight once where they didn't serve peanuts to anybody because there was one person somewhere in the plance who was alergic to them. Made an announcement and everything!

    So can I keep everybody on my flight from using their phones because my doctor tells me that cell phone radiation is bad for me? If so, I'm scheduling an appointment right now. I'm sure I can find a doctor who will give me a note.

    I guess my only hope is that the charges for the network you're allowed to use in the air are as high as the AirPhone ones. Maybe that'll keep these fools off of their phones.

  • Once upon a time, every plane I got onto had an AirFone on it (or some other competitor), and charged like $1/min for use, but was safe to use while the plane was in the air.

    When I took an AA flight from SAT to ORD last week, there were little stickers on all of them that said "Service disabled effective March 31, 2002."

    It seems like the already-existing equipment is a better alternative than spending the money building out yet another network, plus rolling out yet another round of handsets, if for no other reason than the charges are going to wind up being about the same.

    What gives with yet another silly competitor?
    • Nobody uses Airfone because the cost is ridiculously high. The idea behind this project is to (a) offer service on a plane at a less ridiculous cost; and (b) to allow customers to receive calls in the air, which currently can only happen if you call Airfone, which is a major pain.

      AT&T Wireless quit the airfone business because nobody uses it, and they tried to sell it but nobody was buying; hence the deactivation.

  • by dnoyeb ( 547705 )
    "The system would block frequencies normally used by cellphones and force cell customers to 'roam' on the new network."

    Say which? How can one "roam" AND be on an abnormal frequency???

    In any event, I guess their saying they will turn an airplane into an in-flight cell tower. Personally I get my share of EMF without a cell phone but that aside...

    Sounds like a good business model. Planes are increasingly boring. THey can just slow down the flight a tad bit, and watch the chatting ramp up...It will likely feel like being in the NT stock exchange. Ugh.

    $50 extra to be in the cell phone section.
    $75 extra to be in the NO cell phone section. ;)
  • by z_gringo ( 452163 ) <`z_gringo' `at' `'> on Thursday October 24, 2002 @12:03PM (#4522695)
    This is all nonsense about mobile phones being dangerous to airplane communications. There have been lots of articles regarding this subject. One of many by John Dvorak who said "And I already mentioned the restrictions placed on cell phones in airplanes. There is no evidence that mobile phones interfere with communications. This just amplifies an atmosphere of utter stupidity and senseless rules that makes us all dumber. Logic, common sense, and science are shoved aside in favor of mysterious edicts derived from fear, lack of knowledge, New Age mumbo-jumbo, and superstition. Welcome to America, 2002."

    Also, if they were so dangerous, they would collect the phones at security like guns and knives.. its just a big scam. There are many articles on the subject.

    One of the John Dvorak articles is here. []

    There many more if you do a google search.

    • by ClamBoy ( 547304 ) on Thursday October 24, 2002 @12:10PM (#4522779)
      Here's the text from Dvorak's Inside Track about cell phones on planes:

      Traveling through the air at 500 mph while talking on a cell phone causes two problems. The first is that too many towers can be tagged at the same time, causing network congestion. And apparently, with so many towers being pinged on so many different systems at once, billing cell-phone calls from someone who is flying is a nightmare. Often the call goes for free. Of course, nobody stops people from using cell phones on private jets.

      In fact, if even turning on your cell phone on a plane is so dangerous, ask yourself why planes aren't checked over with radio emission scanners before takeoff. Where is the guy walking down the aisle with some device to sense phones that are turned on and packed away in suitcases? I know that I've accidentally left my cell phone on during a flight. I'm sure a lot of phones are on. So why don't airlines scan for them if they're so dangerous? It's a sham.

      And once the plane has landed, why do the flight attendants tell you that you can't use the phone until they open the door? With the plane on the ground, what difference does using a cell phone make? This nonsense is insulting.

      Here's the full article:,4149,589910,00.asp
      • by FreeUser ( 11483 ) on Thursday October 24, 2002 @03:08PM (#4524287)
        Dvorak is an ass. An ignorant ass, when it comes to understanding RF emissions and the interference they can cause with avionics.

        I have, on two seperate occasions that I specifically remember, had RF emissions interfere with radio reception. The kind of radio reception an aircraft taxiing to a runway wants to hear when the tower says "hold short of 31L for crossing traffic" or "Give way to the Boeing 737, then taxi to alpha nine".

        Once was from a cell phone, and once from my laptop. In both cases I was on the ground, unable to receive transmissions from the tower of the very airport I was at.

        It is rare, and it requires a number of factors to come into confluence for it to happen, but it does happen, and the results could be quite catastrophic.

        Dvorak is, in short, an ignorant ass who should stop talking on his cell phone long enough to consider the potential consiquences of what he advocates. The reduction of a small but verifiably real risk (which I have personally experienced in my own aircraft) with potentially deadly consiquences to zero risk is only insulting if one is a completely self-centered idiot. To those of us who are pilots, or otherwise involved in aviation, and who do value safety, the only insulting nonsense is that eminating from Dvorak's uninformed pen.
  • Captive Market (Score:4, Informative)

    by GoRK ( 10018 ) on Thursday October 24, 2002 @12:03PM (#4522699) Homepage Journal
    By "roaming" all they really mean is that they are forcing you to pay inflated prices because you are in a captive market when you are on an airplane. How do they propose to block the normal frequencies without active jamming? If they are using active jamming, then why would it be unsafe to use normal phones anyway? Smells like a scam to me. Creating more *reliable* service with a new range of in-air cellular frequencies is one thing, but doing it under the auspices of safety like this is pretty tounge-in-cheek.

    All phones look pretty much the same... Something you hold to your ear alongside your face. How do they plan on identifying "normal" phones from the phones that can be used in-flight unless they are in some way actively blocking the other frequencies from use?

    Anyway, the only really truly nice thing that can come from this is that whatever technology they develop to shoehorn people into paying inflated prices for cellular service while they sit in an airplane cabin could likely be adopted to things like movie theaters - your phone rings in the movies, for instance, and you owe the theater's private cellular network $5 and $2/min while you blabber. It would make people think twice before they allow their obnoxiousness to annoy everyone else, but still provide for emergency use and whatnot.

    While they are at it with adding some cell standards, they should also allow for some sort of device that would force a cell phone that is in-range of the device to vibrate, go silent (if it can't vibrate) - or at least switch to the lowest ring volume. Now *that* would be a nice idea.

  • I've flown on NUMEROUS flights up and down the west coast of Canada and the US, some time, I have forgotten to "turn off" my cell phone. Planes never crashed, and the odd time I remembered an pulled it out a 20,000+ feet, SUPRIZE there was no signal!

    Out east I'm note sure, but when a plane is at cruising altitude you are not going to get a standard cell tower signal, I'm sure it would be the old "only after 10,000 feet" rule for the phones on planes as well.

    I have yet to figure out why the airlines are so "scared" of electronics, if the RF output of my Visor or some kids GameBoy is enough to bring the plane down there is a serious problem, who needs a box cutter...."I have a GameBoy and I'm not afraid to use it!"

  • The problem I see here is that people's ears get messed up on airplanes. You know how you have to "pop" your ears after you land to hear properly. What I have noticed is that when a plane lands and everyone turns their cell phones on, they yell really loudly because they cannot hear well. Is this going to be a problem during the flight, too; or, is it only a problem after the landing. I don't mind people talking on phones, but a plane full of yelling people would not be very pleasant.
  • So radio signals aren't to blame for screwing with the navigational and computer systems of commercial aircraft. This development basically contradicts everything major Airlines have said to prevent the use of mobile phones on flights.

    More frigtening would be the prospect of electronic companies develping "airplane-safe" electronics, such as radio-signal free CD players, PDAs, laptops, etc. What's to stop airlines from demanding passengers from purchasing "safe" products and completely banning mainstream electronics on planes, and in return making us pay more money for redundent electronics? The development of such items would be a cash cow, targeting those who travel often, but are routinely forced to turn off our MD Walkmans and laptops because the flight attendent thinks it's going to screw with the electronics in the cockpit.

    Just think: "I'm sorry sir, but that's not a United Airlines Sony walkman. We can't permit you using that on the flight sir. Please go to the airport gift shop and buy a $400 new walkman."

  • Now if only there were a way to restrict usage of cell technology on planes to text messaging. That way the cellphone junkies could still communicate with folks on the ground, and everyone else could actually relax and (hypothetically) get some sleep while flying.

    Of course, it'll never happen. God forbid anyone should take away people's God-given right to use a cell phone.

  • by TheCodeFoundry ( 246594 ) on Thursday October 24, 2002 @12:06PM (#4522734)
    Funny, you fly in a Gulfstream or other smaller Lear jet type planes and the CEOs aka "rich people" are talking up a storm on their cellphones. Why is it you can use your cell phone on a Gulfstream but not a 727 or 737 or other big jet? They are less shielded than a Gulfstream?
  • Cell / Smoking (Score:2, Insightful)

    by D4Vr4nt ( 615027 )
    I can see Cell Phones turning into the same sort of thing that smoking becoming.

    Can't smoke on the plane, can't smoke in some restaurants (not that I'm complaining). I think they should establish the same rules, considering joe user isn't curtious enough to NOT talk on the phone at "place public location here".

    Can't smoke on the plane, shouldn't talk on a cellphone on the plane. It's an invation of my person space! :)
  • by GooberToo ( 74388 ) on Thursday October 24, 2002 @12:11PM (#4522793)
    ...and everything to do with money. The primary reason they don't want you using cel phones from the air is that the cel networks were never designed with this purpose in mind. The result is a HUGE capacity burden is placed on the network. In stead of a single cel phone using two or maybe three cel towers, suddenly you have one phone using a dozen to two dozen sites. It degrades performance and increases cost for proper and healthy network operation.

    This the real reason they don't want you using cel phones from planes. It has NEVER had anything to do with plane safety!

    I've never been able to get my phone to work with digital service from the air -- not reliably anyways -- only enough to initate a call and hear it ring. Analog service, on the other hand, I've used many times before. I have no idea why digital doesn't work.
  • A few things.... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by yoink! ( 196362 ) on Thursday October 24, 2002 @12:11PM (#4522799) Homepage Journal
    My first question is, does this mean we have to buy new mobile phones? Will all of them be compatible with this forced frequency range? I know my current phone, like many others, works on the following frequencies: 800Mhz for analog and digital, and 1.9GHz for digital. Are they going to force my phone into analog mode? Etc. And how, may I ask will an external system limit my cell phone's power? Are planes going to be specially shielded in some way, because as far as I know a phone doesn't regulate it's own output power, though of that I'm not absolutely certain. Another thing that seems to be left out of the article, is that even if it was possible to lower output and use a few phones safely on a plane, imagine what would happen if even half the compliment of, say 200 passengers, have their cell phones... that's a lot of radio signal emission in a very small area. Planes haven't exactly been known for their system's reliability when exposed to other sources of RF interference. My phone for example emits tons of interference, I can it hear when it's lying next to the phone (landline), it affects un-shielded audio equipment and it has even reduced a TV hooked up to an Xbox to simply static while I was talking, and the thing is a brand new model! I don't see how something like this could really fly, or at least the article is too vague to answer any of my questions.
    • Re:A few things.... (Score:4, Informative)

      by Koyaanisqatsi ( 581196 ) on Thursday October 24, 2002 @12:36PM (#4523023)
      as far as I know a phone doesn't regulate it's own output power

      Just for your information: almost all mobile phones do change its output power according to received signal level. That's the reason why you're battery (in case you noticed) lasts a fraction of its normal idle time when you stay on a place with low signal: the phone increases power output do compensate for the extra distance of blocking structures.
      • Just for your information: almost all mobile phones do change its output power according to received signal level.

        Actually, it's just the opposite: a cell tower will request a phone to change it output power according to the cell tower's received signal strength. Cell towers don't have to worry about a tiny battery like a cell phone does, towers can transmit with a lot more power than a cell phone.

  • who hates cell phones? What posses these people to constantly be rambling on about what they did last night? Oh right....they have a social life.
  • by Jugalator ( 259273 ) on Thursday October 24, 2002 @12:13PM (#4522822) Journal
    I mean.. How is the flight crew going to tell the difference from an "ok" phone and a "bad" phone? Will they have to take your phone and check if it has some special certificate or what?
  • "Hello Pizza Hut? I would like a large cheese pizza and some hot wings deleveried to the Atlanta Domestic airport. What....where am I right now? I am about 3,000 feet above North Carolina, but I will be at the airport in 20 minutes."
  • The story addresses issues of problems with cell phones crowding land-based cell networks, but doesn't address the safety concerns that 100 people in a metal cavity, all generating microwaves might (a) disrupt internal electronics and (b) spark flammable material.

    Cell phones can transmit at +30 dBm [] (= 1000 mW). 100 cell phones in the cabin would generate 100 W. Not much, if it's spread over the whole cabin volume, but if cavity resonances or multiple reflections create hot spots, it could be a problem.

  • "I thought that a plane cabin was the one place I would never have to deal with people who won't quit talking on the phone."

    I thought I was safe while running the Twin Cities Marathon last month, but I was wrong. On mile five I hear an annoying personalized ring and a "Hello!". The guy next me rigs up his hands free ear piece and starts jabbering away.

    Where will it end? Church? Public bathrooms? Theaters? I've heard cell phones in all of them! No place is safe!
  • by Maxwell'sSilverLART ( 596756 ) on Thursday October 24, 2002 @12:42PM (#4523067) Homepage

    Penya asks: "Why the use of ANY electronic device is prohibited below a certain altitude, except when sitting still at the gate?"

    The simple answer is "because the rules say so." To wit:

    14 CFR 121.306 - Portable electronic devices.

    (a) Except as provided in paragraph (b) of this section, no person may operate, nor may any operator or pilot in command of an aircraft allow the operation of, any portable electronic device on any U.S.-registered civil aircraft operating under this part.
    (b) Paragraph (a) of this section does not apply to --
    (1) Portable voice recorders;
    (2) Hearing aids;
    (3) Heart pacemakers;
    (4) Electric shavers; or
    (5) Any other portable electronic device that the part 119 certificate holder has determined will not cause interference with the navigation or communication system of the aircraft on which it is to be used.
    (c) The determination required by paragraph (b)(5) of this section shall be made by that part 119 certificate holder operating the particular device to be used.

    (14 CFR is the Federal Aviation Regulations, part 121 (and part 135, in some circumstances; 14 CFR 135.144 has identical stipulations) governs airlines)

    So the rule is actually a Federal Regulation, not the airline acting unilaterally.

    The reason for the rule is to prevent possible interference with not just aircraft avionics, but any systems in the aircraft. In addition to the avionics (comm radios, nav radios (typically just below the AM broadcast band and just above the FM broadcast band), marker beacons, and other devices), there are also sensors and equipment in the airplane that don't respond well to induced signals. I've seen a number of cases of electronics handling RF signals badly: monitors that shut down when I key a ham transmitter (2m (144 MHz), one watt, into a ducky at a distance of a couple of yards from the monitor), cars that activate the brakes when you key the transmitter (damn computer control!), and others. RADAR, in particular, responds badly to induced RF, and every airliner has it, for detecting weather. Some also have Stormscopes, lightning detectors that look for electrostatic discharge. The aircraft's electrical system itself is designed to run at 400Hz (not the usual 60), and inducing RF has the capacity to cause some problems. Introducing RF into the computerized engine controllers (remember, computer = clock = RF oscillator) is a really bad idea.

    The reason they allow the use of some devices at cruise is that cruise is a less critical phase of flight. In the terminal area, things happen quickly, with frequent heading changes, altitude changes, and such. Pilots must be in constant communication with controllers, and their navigation must be very accurate, to avoid hitting things that might hurt (which, when you're travelling at 250 knots, is pretty much anything). Approach is a particularly critical phase: the navigation equipment in most airliners is designed to bring the airplane down at about 750-1000 feet per minute (vertical speed) at around 150 knots (average; bigger airplanes are faster), down to 100 feet above the ground (Category II ILS; Cat I is 200 feet, Cat III can go all the way to the surface, with zero forward visibility for IIIc). If the navigation equipment should become unreliable during the approach, the result is usually a Bad Thing. In cruise flight, however, the precision required is much less, communication with Center happens relatively rarely, and there's a lot more time to see and correct a problem before running into something.

    The prohibition on the use of cell phones is actually twofold: the FAA prohibits the use of them, for the aforementioned reasons, and the FCC prohibits the use of them because sticking an antenna on a 35,000 foot tower is a great way to expand your signal coverage. Put a cell phone up there, which was specifically designed to have a small footprint, and one phone can simultaneously jam several dozen cells, preventing other people from using the network. It also requires rapid cell-swapping, which further overburdens the network (and eats batteries besides).

    The reason some, but not all, devices are approved above a given altitude (usually around 10,000 feet) is because they're generally considered safe, by the fact that they're not designed to radiate RF signals. Computers, CD players, Game Boys, etc., all have an oscillator (clock), but they're designed to keep it internal, and rarely radiate anything. Fine at cruise, but nobody wants to take chances in the critical phases, because there's less margin for error. Radios (receivers) are verboten because they use an internal oscillator (modern designs, anyway; most are superheterodyne, which requires mixing the received signal with a local oscillator), and they have an antenna connected. Even though they're not designed to radiate, they usually do so, to some degree. Transmitters are obvious, particularly aviation-band transmitters. Even if you just listen, you're still running the LO, and handheld radios have a way of getting put in places in such a way as to key the mic, jamming the frequency, which, presumably, had somebody talking on it, or it wouldn't be very interesting. See also: Bad Things.

    An interesting trend I have observed is the willingness of people to put themselves at risk, when they don't have the authority (as pilot-in-command) to do so. Passengers who insist on taking off into bad weather (against the advice of the pilot), or who ignore rules (such as portable electronics) because they want to. For example, Penya relates: "Not that I followed the rules because I wanted to take some nice pictures on a flight that barely went above that altitude for long (BGR to BOS)." You're playing dumb games here. No, you obviously didn't cause the airplane to crash, but unless you designed both the camera and the avionics, you didn't know what you were doing. Avionics are remarkably robust (they have to be before they can be certificated), but how do you know that the airplane didn't strike a small bird (I've personally hit two, on a single flight) that knocked loose some shielding or something? Ice, perhaps? Maybe there was a power surge that fried one of the filter capacitors. It has been my experience that the less educated the passenger on the possible dangers, the more willing he is to risk his (and everybody else's) life. Would you have argued if the flight attendant (or the captain) had asked you to turn it off, or would you have complied? (BTW, if you like aerial photography (I love it, as do a lot of pilots), there's a simple solution: a mechanical camera. A lot of them take better pictures than modern electronic ones anyway.

    Incidentally, this isn't news: I read about this system a couple of years ago. At the time, AirCell had a model that could be installed in the aircraft, and used only their network, and another model that was portable, and used both conventional (terrestrial) cell networks and the AirCell network, switching automatically between the two.

    And yes, I do know what I'm talking about. I'm a flight instructor/instrument flight instructor, and I regularly fly King Airs [], among others.

  • by Jugalator ( 259273 ) on Thursday October 24, 2002 @12:52PM (#4523172) Journal
    Check out actual reports [] from PED-related (Personal Electronic Device) incidents.

    You might also wish to read a discussion of the problems [] with PEDs on airplanes.

    Finally, here's a list of how the ASRS connect electronic devices to airplane anomalies, according to various reports they've received:

    Anomaly: NAV CDI needle swing (off course), Phase: CL, Possible Cause: tape players
    Anomaly: CDI needle swings, Phase: ER, Possible Cause: chess player
    Anomaly: erroneous nav signal of VOR station, Phase: ER, Possible Cause: dictaphone
    Anomaly: loss of VOR capability, Phase: ER?, Possible Cause: cellphone
    Anomaly: HSI's discsrepancies, Possible Cause: cellphone
    Anomaly: NAV compass & CDI oscillation (off course), Possible Cause: PEDs
    Anomaly: off VOR course, Phase: ER, Possible Cause: cellphone
    Anomaly: off course, Possible Cause: tape player
    Anomaly: music blocked VHF comm's, Possible Cause: FM radio
    Anomaly: comm's blocked, Phase: GR/CL, Possible Cause: Nintendo, cellphone, notebooks
    Anomaly: off course, Possible Cause: tape machine+Nintendo
    Anomaly: off course, Phase: ER, Possible Cause: cellphone
    Anomaly: both VORs lost, no VOR audio signal, Phase: ER, Possible Cause: cellphone
    Anomaly: all directional gyros lost, Possible Cause: 25 radio's, 1 laptop
    Anomaly: compass error; off course, Phase: ER, Possible Cause: laptop,
    Anomaly: 2 missed approaches, Phase: FA, Possible Cause: PED suspected
    Anomaly: loss of all autonav functions, Phase: CL, Possible Cause: 3 laptops, cdplayer/radio
    Anomaly: loc receiver anomaly; missed app., Phase: FA, Possible Cause: PED suspected
    Anomaly: compass precess 10deg, Phase: ER, Possible Cause: laptop
    Anomaly: Omega NAV unreliable, Phase: ER, Possible Cause: tv set suspected
    Anomaly: HSI errors, Phase: TA,CL,ER, Possible Cause: cellphone
    Anomaly: nav compass sys error; off course, Phase: CL, Possible Cause: cellphone
    Anomaly: temp loss of com freq., Possible Cause: cd player
    Anomaly: INS nav errors, Possible Cause: electronic games
    Anomaly: off course, Possible Cause: cellphone
    Anomaly: eng fuel ctlr + vhf radio interference, Possible Cause: cellphone
    Anomaly: off course, Possible Cause: laptop
    Anomaly: EMI interference & radio alt flag, Phase: ER, Possible Cause: cd-players (2)
    Anomaly: erratic cdi indications, Phase: ER, Possible Cause: 2 gameboys
    Anomaly: autopilot erratic, Phase: AP, Possible Cause: cellphone suspected
    Anomaly: off course, Possible Cause: gameboy
    Anomaly: nav radio interference; off ILS course, Phase: AP, Possible Cause: computer game
    Anomaly: EMI interference causes a split between the compass system in flight ER laptop both LOC and GS 'OFF' flags showed just prior to the Outer Marker
    Phase: AP, Possible Cause: PED suspected
    Anomaly: significant LOC rate of deflection, Phase: AP, Possible Cause: PED possible
    Anomaly: loss of Captain EFIS display, Phase: AP, Possible Cause: 8 laptops
    Anomaly: electronic compass erratic, Possible Cause: cd player
    Anomaly: interfering transmitter, Phase: AP, Possible Cause: cellphone
    Anomaly: NAV and COM radio problems, Phase: PED, Possible Cause: suspected
    Anomaly: off approach path, Phase: AP, Possible Cause: PED suspected
    Anomaly: off course due to drifting, Phase: FM, Possible Cause: PED suspected
    Anomaly: HSI discrepencies, Possible Cause: PED suspected
    Anomaly: EICAS interference, airspeed discrep., Phase: ER, DC, Possible Cause: PED
    Anomaly: loss of COM frequency, Possible Cause: cellphone
    Anomaly: ILS, radio altimeter, and primary flight display went out, Possible Cause: 20 cellphones
  • Burden of Proof (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Shadow Wrought ( 586631 ) <> on Thursday October 24, 2002 @12:58PM (#4523240) Homepage Journal
    I have read several comments along the lines of "there's no proof that cell phones are harmful," or that airlines are "overreacting". The burden of proof does not lie with the airlines to prove that they are harmful. Rather the burden of proof lies with the insecure yokel who cannot let go of the phone for a couple of hours.

    Until it is proven, conclusively, that electronic devices cannot, under any circumstance, affect in any way shape or form the performance of the aircraft's systems, then they should be banned.

    On a final note, doesn't anyone think about scale? ala "My laptop shouldn't cause any problems," or "My cell phone shouldn't be an issue." What about a plane full of cell phones, PDA's, laptops, and gameboys? One person using an electronic device may not cause a problem, but maybe a hundred of them stuck in a metal tube a couple hundred feet long might.

    I think that while most people haven't thought of this, the airlines have.
  • Why GSM Rocks (Score:3, Informative)

    by ellayguy ( 593597 ) on Thursday October 24, 2002 @01:11PM (#4523357)
    Virigin Atlantic has a service that allows GSM users to remove the SIM card from their phone and place it into a handset built into the seatback in front of them. It's been around since 2000: box There's no need for messy base stations and related transmission equipment to be built into the plane.
  • by smcn ( 87571 ) on Thursday October 24, 2002 @01:36PM (#4523521)
    *Nokia tune*
    No I'm on an airplane!
    An airplane! It's some new system! Total rubbish!
    Hang on you're cracking up!
    You're cracking up, call me back!
    Alright, ciao!
  • by MADCOWbeserk ( 515545 ) on Thursday October 24, 2002 @02:09PM (#4523823)
    Airphones have largely been very successful. They aren't quite as expensive as people here have said. However Airlines care most about business passengers, and letting them continue cell phone use would make flying that much more convenient for them. Technically there is no reason why current cell phones don'ty work on planes. Interferring with flight electronics is not a big problem. Frequencies are far enough enough apart that they won't clash with communications, and frankly if other avionics were fickle enough to have problems with cell phones, we would have planes dropping from the sky. Only the fact that Planes fly at 30,000 feet pretty far from the towers, and cross multiple towers simultaneously cause problems. The end result is that QOS is far from guaranteed. This technology likely works by placing a tower or active repeater within the plane. By being the closest tower the plane will grab all the traffic. I am not sure if they will try and extract a roaming charge for this, or if they believe this will increase ticket sales enough to cover the service. Personally I usually keep my phone on and on vibate all the time. I have recieved calls (I have never actually answered though) and generally get a signal when I fly, which is often. This will certainly be a boon on the short Boston New York Washington Florida, East corridor flights that business people crowd.

    As for the rudeness of people talking talking on cell-phones, well there is nothing that we can do. Get used to it. I do think that stewardesses should force people to put their phones on vibrate, frankly I never use my ringer anyway.

    With all the streaming babies, annoying rugrats, fat people, drunks, smelly people, people with tons of carryons and jerks who kick seats, someone talking on a cell-phone doesn't seem so bad.

MESSAGE ACKNOWLEDGED -- The Pershing II missiles have been launched.