15 June 2010

Turn That Phone Off!

In Flight Use Of PEDs?

It amazes me that we are still going through the somewhat ridiculous rigmarole of turning off cell phones when we are on planes. So enough is enough – I want to start a campaign to eliminate or legislate the whole thing. The first question I wanted to ask was – IS THERE REALLY A PROBLEM?

As part of my research I consulted the FAA on the subject. Guess what – they can’t figure out if there is a problem or not. The FAA has a nice set of information on the subject. http://www.faa.gov/news/fact_sheets/news_story.cfm?newsId=6275 http://www.faa.gov/news/fact_sheets/news_story.cfm?newsId=6275 Here is an extract.

"Gathering Data
From 2003 to 2006, the RTCA — an organization the FAA sometimes asks to help study technical matters that affect policy and regulatory decisions – looked at the issue of electromagnetic interference from intentionally transmitting PEDs, such as cell phones and WiFi transmitters in laptops. Air carriers collected data to support the RTCA’s work.
The final RTCA report said there is insufficient information to support a wholesale change in policies that restrict use of PEDs. But the group did publish thoroughly detailed processes by which operators and manufacturers can assess the risk of PED interference with aircraft systems, and similarly detailed guidelines for certification of such products, if it is requested from the FAA."

They even have a caveat that they MIGHT change the rules…

"Cell phones (and other intentional transmitters) differ from most PEDs in that they send out signals strong enough to be received at distances far away from the user.
Since 1991, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has banned the inflight use of 800 MHz cell phones because of potential interference with ground networks. This ban requires that in addition to the testing the FAA requires to show non-interference to the airplane systems, an airline would also need to apply for an exemption to the FCC rule before it could allow cell phone use inflight. The FCC proposed modifying this ban in 2004, but subsequently withdrew the proposal based on the comments it received.
Even if the FCC ever rescinds its ban, FAA regulations would still apply. Any installed equipment would be subject to FAA certification, just like any other piece of hardware. The air carrier would have to show that the use of a particular model phone won’t interfere with the navigation and communications systems of the particular type of aircraft on which it will be used."

End Quote
So now you know. The basic issue of course is that the FAA is treating PEDs like special things and as a result they are working on the incremental vs the class approach. While the rest of the world is using Mobile devices as a matter of course. I even know of the odd pilot who forgets to turn off their cell phones and blackberries.



Kieran said...

Here's the killer study. Despite the authors' bizarre conclusions, what it actually shows is that mobile phones are live on every flight and nothing ever happens. http://www.carnegiemellontoday.com/article.asp?aid=334

Grayum_ian said...

Thanks for this post, I get SO FRUSTRATED by it as well. They used to ban mobiles in hospitals because they may interfere with pacemakers... now all nurses carry phones with them all the time.

Im sure it won't be too long until this changes as well. I hope I can get 3g signal on domestic flights! :)