Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Please Turn Off All Electronic Devices

Everyone is aware that airlines require all passengers to disable all electronic devices during takeoff and landing. There are even laws in place that prohibit the use of cell phones on airplanes. Did you ever wonder why these regulations are in place?

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is in charge of regulating flight safety. The FAA has regulations which do not allow the use of electronic devices during takeoff and landing due to concerns regarding electronic interference. In flight cell phone use can potentially interfere with navigation, communication, and other vital avionics systems. The FAA, however, was not the first to implement this ban on in flight cell phone use. The Federal Communication Commission (FCC) is in control of national airwaves. The FCC has prohibited the use of cell phones on airplanes since 1991 to protect the wireless cellular phone infrastructure from potential interference with ground networks. Cell phone towers were designed to handle calls on land, not for calls from phones at 10,000 feet and traveling at 500 miles per hour. Each call would contact numerous towers and occupy numerous channels at the same time which results in network confusion, and reduced network capacity.

Concerned? Don’t be. Zero airplane accidents have been attributed to interference from an electronic device. Not one study has found a conclusive connection between cell phone use and electronic interference on airplanes. There is no scientific evidence to support claims that cell phone use is dangerous on airplanes.

There are a few reasons why these bans have not yet been lifted. Cell phone use on airplanes supposedly clogs multiple towers and channels to operate which can be costly for service providers. The FCC will keep the ban unless they are reimbursed for these costs. The FCC is concerned that it cannot keep up with the excessive rate of technological advancements. They cannot test every new technology and every new device that emerges in the mobile electronic device market because it would be too costly and too time consuming. Similarly, the FAA cannot afford the time nor the funds for studies designed to test the true affects of cell phones on airplanes. Keeping the ban is cheaper and easier to the alternative, so basically the FAA and FCC are playing it better safe than sorry. At one point the FAA attempted to remove the ban, but received an overwhelming amount of complaints from frequent fliers that enjoy peaceful travel. These passengers prefer the current peaceful flights over potential flights with noise from passengers talking on cell phones. The FAA quickly decided to keep the cell phone ban.

Modern technology now includes air-to-ground communication systems and in-flight mobile phone systems. These systems involve the use of a picocell which acts like a mini cell tower. In flight cell phone use is directed through there picocells allowing the cell phones on the plane and the cell phone towers on the ground to interact normally. The FCC has now approved these services which airlines are beginning to implement, so there is nothing to worry about. Technically, there was never anything to worry about in the first place.

The real question is … will you still shut off your cell phone before your next flight takes off?







  1. No... the cell will be staying on. We paid our bills for our cell phones, gotta use it or its wasted money!!!