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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.

    ref:
    http://www.mobile-review.com/articles/2002/plane-en.shtml
    http://ntrs.nasa.gov/archive/nasa/casi.ntrs.nasa.gov/20030014749_2003016021.pdf
    See also Swiss Air 111, brought down by faulty wiring for in-flight entertainment systems.