Do Gadgets Really Endanger Airplane Safety?
STEWARDESS: You can’t use your phone until we land, sir.
TOBY: We’re flying in a Lockheed Eagle series L-1011. It came off the line 20 months ago and carries a Sim-5 Transponder tracking system. Are you telling me I can still flummox this thing with something I bought at Radio Shack?
It’s a legitimate gripe — even more legit than working for the White House and still having to buy your own cell phone. There are plenty of us Tobys boarding flights every day and wondering how flipping on a phone, tablet or laptop could possibly result in a perilous loss of altitude.
As The Wall Street Journal recently noted in a related article, Federal Aviation Administration restrictions prohibiting the use of personal electronics during takeoff and landing date back to 1991, motivated by the concern among pilots and flight crews that such devices could affect navigation equipment or disrupt communications between the crew and ground control. But the suspected problems have never officially been verified, and the fact that countless travelers accidentally leave devices on or knowingly defy the rules outright suggests that the restrictions may have no basis in reality. The increasing number of pilots using iPads to replace hefty aircraft manuals may also be contributing to the FAA's weighing of convenience against questionable restrictions.
The truth is that nobody is really sure whether personal electronics pose a threat to aircraft safety. But the FAA aims to find out. Aware that the public is increasingly attached to electronics like a patient on a respirator, unwilling to pull the plug and have the world go dark, the FAA recently announced their plan to study whether portable electronics can be used safely during all phases of a flight, including takeoff and landing. And in an example of democracy that should make you proud to live in America, even if the political dialogue is not scripted by Aaron Sorkin, the Feds want to know what you think. On the site www.regulations.gov ("Your Voice in Federal Decision-Making"), the public has been invited to comment on the use of cell phones and other portable electronic devices onboard aircraft. Note that the input of informed engineers and communication experts will probably be considered more seriously than those professing an urgent need to play Angry Birds as the landing gear goes up. Check back with The Daily Dose for the results of the FAA's findings, expected at the end of February 2013.
Photo: Jay Silverman Productions/Getty Images
Just turn your damn phone off for a few hours! Why do people think they are so important that they have to be connected at all times or the world will come to an end?
A little over twenty years ago, this was not an issue....Why is it such an issue now? Try picking up a book for a change and expand your mind. Take a nap. Geez!
Look...these regulations were hatched in the infancy of cell phones when the telecommunications companies thought they were going to make a fortune on those seatback telephones. Remember those? You could swipe your credit card in a mag stripe reader and talk to anybody, anywhere, for a mere $5 a minute or whatever.
Follow the money. Always. F-o-l-l-o-w the money.
The seatback and console phones were a huge failure, in spite of the telecommunications companies lobbying (paying off) the legislators they owned.
So now it is time for some serious, scientific analysis which will show that cell phones mean diddly squat in terms of aircraft performance or safety.
As a private/commercial pilot, I can tell when cell phones are on in the plane because I can hear them make contact with ground antennas as I make the final approach. There is a distinct sound over the intercom headphones that sounds like morse code which is the phones squawking out their ID's to the ground antennas to establish what cell they are in.
On initial contact with a ground antenna, the cell phones make a high powered blast of wide frequency energy which bleeds over to the AM receivers on the communication radios and probably bleeds over onto the glideslope receiver. It only lasts about 5 seconds, but it could blank out a call from the control tower or hinder the glideslope receiver, which would be heinous on a true instrument approach.
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