FCC to FAA: “Ease Up on Your In-Flight Restrictions”

We might never get in-air cell phone ser­vice (and frankly, who wants to or be the guy who takes a call in-flight?), but it’s a nice start.

The head of the Fed­eral Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Com­mis­sion (FCC) on Thurs­day pushed for wider in-flight use of elec­tronic portable devices dur­ing air­plane flights.

FCC Chair­man Julius Gena­chowski called on the Fed­eral Avi­a­tion Admin­is­tra­tion (FAA) to “enable greater use of tablets, e-readers, and other portable devices” dur­ing flights in a let­ter sent Thurs­day to Michael Huerta, the act­ing admin­is­tra­tor of the FAA.

The FAA launched a study group this sum­mer to review its poli­cies and guid­ance on in-flight use of elec­tronic devices as peo­ple have increas­ingly turned to mobile phones and tablets to con­nect with one another. To the cha­grin of most pas­sen­gers, the FAA said the study would not con­sider allow­ing “voice com­mu­ni­ca­tions” dur­ing flights.

This review comes at a time of tremen­dous inno­va­tion, as mobile devices are increas­ingly inter­wo­ven in our daily lives,” Gena­chowski writes. “They empower peo­ple to stay informed and con­nected with friends and fam­ily, and they enable both large and small busi­nesses to be more pro­duc­tive and effi­cient, help­ing drive eco­nomic growth and boost U.S. competitiveness.”

In the let­ter, Gena­chowski pledged to work­ing with the FAA, air­lines and man­u­fac­tur­ers on the review.

The FCC is pretty much telling the FAA what every­one knows: Cell phones (tablets, com­put­ers, iPods, etc, etc, etc) won’t trig­ger bombs.  Stop over-reacting and try­ing mak­ing these people’s lives a lit­tle less hell­ish as you ferry them across the coun­try in your tin cat­tle cars of the sky!

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  • dual­freq

    I don’t think this has any­thing to do with det­o­nat­ing a bomb. The prob­lem is that all the pos­si­ble com­bi­na­tions of wire­less devices and their phys­i­cal con­di­tions can not be safely tested.

    Cros­sair Flight 498 in Switzer­land is often cited as an exam­ple of dan­ger­ous radio inter­fer­ence as recorded by the black box recov­ered after the acci­dent. Inter-modulation from a GSM phone receiv­ing a text mes­sage and a sec­ond phone receiv­ing a call com­bined and the dif­fer­ence fre­quency cre­ated inter­fer­ence in an fre­quency range des­ig­nated for air­craft nav­i­ga­tion con­tribut­ing to the acci­dent. This wasn’t cited as the pri­mary rea­son for the crash, but every air­craft acci­dent is the result of a series of domi­noes falling. Remove one fac­tor and the acci­dent doesn’t hap­pen. Inter­mod prod­ucts have been shown to exist in lab test­ing. For exam­ple, when com­bin­ing var­i­ous sig­nals from dif­fer­ent devices, radio fre­quency sig­nals can be cre­ated in the ILS/VOR/DME/GPS fre­quency bands.

    The more trans­mit­ters you put inside of a metal tube, the more chances that some of those could com­bine in a harm­ful way and cre­ate a prob­lem with nav­i­ga­tional radios or other elec­tronic air­craft sys­tems. Con­sider also that these pas­sen­ger phones and wifi devices are not exactly the most well cared for devices. They get dropped, and abused in ways that might affect their oper­a­tion. Would this make them more or less likely to cre­ate harm­ful inter­fer­ence? I don’t think it’s para­noia to say this is some­thing that needs to be solved with sci­ence, not politics.

    Per­son­ally, I’d rather be bored and land safely than enter­tained and fur­ther increase the chances that we might not make it there safely. I think there is more to it that greedy air­lines want­ing you to pay big money to use their air phones.

    See also Swiss Air 111, brought down by faulty wiring for in-flight enter­tain­ment systems.