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Air Traffic Controller Lands Stricken Plane By SMS

timothy posted more than 5 years ago | from the r-u-here-yet-lol dept.

Cellphones 177

There's a new reason to hope that the no-cell-chatter bill now under consideration in the US doesn't bring with it a Faraday-cage mandate, and that reason is landing safely. Reader ma11achy writes with an excerpt from a scary story (with an SMS-based happy ending) from the Irish Times: "Five people on a flight from Kerry to Jersey received mobile phone text instructions from a quick-thinking air traffic controller when he guided them in to a safe landing at Cork, after the plane lost all onboard electrical power, communications and weather radar soon after take-off from Kerry airport."

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177 comments

Oh dear (5, Funny)

i_liek_turtles (1110703) | more than 5 years ago | (#24544625)

Hay r u ok 2 land lol?

Re:Oh dear (5, Funny)

FinchWorld (845331) | more than 5 years ago | (#24544671)

BRB, cnt talk, crshing.

Re:Oh dear (4, Funny)

Plutonite (999141) | more than 5 years ago | (#24545167)

haha what u crshing on she not into u lolz

Re:Oh dear (1)

Kjella (173770) | more than 5 years ago | (#24544691)

Have you seen their weather reports? They probably invented communicating that way and it took IM and SMS for the rest of the world to catch up.

Re:Oh dear (1)

xaxa (988988) | more than 5 years ago | (#24545049)

Have you seen their weather reports? They probably invented communicating that way and it took IM and SMS for the rest of the world to catch up.

I take it you mean the Shipping Forecast [bbc.co.uk] . I don't know if Ireland has one, but the UK does. To be read out in a very British accent:

And now the Shipping Forecast issued by the Met Office, on behalf of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, at 1130 on Sunday 10 August 2008.

There are warnings of gales in Viking North Utsire South Utsire Forties Thames Dover Fastnet Shannon Bailey Faeroes and Southeast Iceland.

The general synopsis at 0700: Low north Forties 989 moving north expected Viking 982 by 0700 tomorrow. Low Bailey 980 slow moving filling 987. Developing low 150 miles southwest of Bailey moving south expected 150 miles west of of Rockall 985 by same time. Low Malin 991 losing its identity.

The area forecasts for the next 24 hours:
Viking North Utsire South Utsire: Cyclonic 6 to gale 8. Rough or very rough. Rain. Moderate or good, occasionally poor....

The names are all regions of the sea/oceans around the British Isles. Living about as far inland as is possible in Britain, it's all irrelevant to me, but I could probably still name most of them, probably in order, just from hearing them on the radio.

mms://wm.bbc.co.uk/news/media/avdb/news/uk/audio/116000/bb/116406_au_bb.wmv is a recording of one from a few years ago.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shipping_Forecast [wikipedia.org]

Re:Oh dear (1)

crontabminusell (995652) | more than 5 years ago | (#24545075)

First thing I thought of was METAR [noaa.gov] .

Re:Oh dear (1)

ardin,mcallister (924615) | more than 5 years ago | (#24545787)

Yeah METAR/TAF reports look a lot like SMS. But METAR is far easier to decode than SMS garbage

For those who dont understand (1)

brightpilot (1313767) | more than 5 years ago | (#24546293)

METAR text: KAUS 101553Z 21015G21KT 10SM FEW030 SCT250 32/19 A2988 RMK AO2 SLP104 T03170194

Re:Oh dear (1)

B4light (1144317) | more than 5 years ago | (#24544711)

Oh wow, that's pure awesome

Why didn't he just call them? (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24544659)

Would've been cheaper.

Re:Why didn't he just call them? (4, Informative)

bondsbw (888959) | more than 5 years ago | (#24544681)

Why didn't he just call them?

He did. FTA:

Eventually he [the pilot] managed to contact Cork [the air traffic controller] on his phone, telling them about his problem and his intention to approach the airport from the sea.

He then lost audio telephone contact but the air traffic controller switched to texting and told the pilot that he had a primary radar signal on the aircraft and that Cork would allow them to land there. He then used texts to guide the 30-year-old plane in.

Re:Why didn't he just call them? (3, Funny)

FinchWorld (845331) | more than 5 years ago | (#24544693)

Maybe this will be a boon for women in air traffic control, most can type a sms out faster than most people could speak it.

Re:Why didn't he just call them? (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24544825)

They can also start recruiting air traffic controllers right out of junior high school.

"U r clr 4 laning lol"

Re:Why didn't he just call them? (3, Insightful)

caluml (551744) | more than 5 years ago | (#24544887)

Bring back Morse code - even faster than texting [youtube.com] .

Re:Why didn't he just call them? (3, Funny)

Fumus (1258966) | more than 5 years ago | (#24545653)

That's why I love my Nokia 6822 and will never go back to any non-qwerty keyboard phone. Without any effort I could outtype the Morse code in that vid. (Though I knew the text, but then again, I don't type much. Just under 50 texts a day on average.)

Re:Why didn't he just call them? (3, Funny)

dotancohen (1015143) | more than 5 years ago | (#24545913)

I don't type much. Just under 50 texts a day on average.

I also don't read /. much. I probably hit F5 no more than 50 times a day.

Re:Why didn't he just call them? (1)

houghi (78078) | more than 5 years ago | (#24545663)

And more acurate then e.g. the GPS locator in your sig.

Re:Why didn't he just call them? (1)

Alsee (515537) | more than 5 years ago | (#24545899)

Yep, and it's often easier to read than SMS-speak.

-

Re:Why didn't he just call them? (3, Insightful)

Guano_Jim (157555) | more than 5 years ago | (#24544687)

from TFA:

He then lost audio telephone contact but the air traffic controller switched to texting and told the pilot that he had a primary radar signal on the aircraft and that Cork would allow them to land there. He then used texts to guide the 30-year-old plane in.

What would make a phone lose audio but not SMS ability?

Re:Why didn't he just call them? (3, Informative)

Adreno (1320303) | more than 5 years ago | (#24544697)

... a moving vehicle - going in and out of range.

Re:Why didn't he just call them? (5, Informative)

BAKup (40339) | more than 5 years ago | (#24544721)

Because cellphone voice communications requires a constant link between the cellphone and the tower, where SMS is transmitted in bursts when the cellphone and the tower can hear each other.

You'll find in situtations where the cell towers are jammed with calls of people calling each other to see if everything is OK after a major storm, a SMS will get through even if you can't make a call.

Re:Why didn't he just call them? (2, Informative)

Lupu (815408) | more than 5 years ago | (#24545241)

True, you can continue texting when the tower is jammed with calls, but I doubt he got disconnected because of a rapid increase of simultaneous calls. A more plausible explanation would be that he exceeded the maximum range of some 30km from the tower. It would also make sense considering that he was supposedly approaching from sea.
GSM uses time division multiplexing, which means that the "constant link between the cellphone and the tower" is infact a set of short and frequent bursts. A burst sent from a phone from further than 30km will cause the tower to receive the burst out of its allocated time slot and as a result the call couldn't be maintained.

Re:Why didn't he just call them? (1)

jcr (53032) | more than 5 years ago | (#24545541)

It also helps that SMS requires a miniscule fraction of the bandwidth that an audio connection does.

-jcr

Re:Why didn't he just call them? (1)

jacquesm (154384) | more than 5 years ago | (#24544743)

It's a good thing they didn't have KPN as their cell provider (dutch company, so obviously not a chance), because I regularly get messages hours after they've been sent even with both phones in range of a cell tower and no other connectivity issues that I'm aware of.

Re:Why didn't he just call them? (5, Informative)

Gordonjcp (186804) | more than 5 years ago | (#24544807)

What would make a phone lose audio but not SMS ability?

Shite signal. An SMS is sent in a single frame of GSM data. Audio needs 50 frames per second.

Re:Why didn't he just call them? (2, Insightful)

norova (1199601) | more than 5 years ago | (#24545681)

An SMS is sent in a single frame of GSM data. Audio needs 50 frames per second.

And again I'm reminded of why I'm so sick that we pay so much for SMS services.

Re:Why didn't he just call them? (1)

azgard (461476) | more than 5 years ago | (#24545709)

Maybe you are paying for the reliability? ;-)

Seriously, I agree that it's outrageous.

Re:Why didn't he just call them? (0)

hey! (33014) | more than 5 years ago | (#24545853)

No, you pay for not paying attention.

Re:Why didn't he just call them? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24545137)

SMS is more reliable when it comes to intermittent service. If it can't send or receive at the current time, it can queue the message until it has a connection. Voice communication isn't as reliable, since a delay / retransmission is much more noticeable and makes communicating more difficult.

Re:Why didn't he just call them? (1)

jabithew (1340853) | more than 5 years ago | (#24545201)

Happens to me all the time; signal quality may just be too poor for voice. I often end up hearing about 30% of what a person is saying. While I have voice on paper, meaningful communication it ain't. Texting will get through even if voice is too choppy.

Re:Why didn't he just call them? (3, Funny)

jalet (36114) | more than 5 years ago | (#24545621)

Maybe the plane was in a tunnel at that time.

Re:Why didn't he just call them? (1)

drseuk (824707) | more than 5 years ago | (#24545923)

What would make a phone lose audio but not SMS ability?

PMS. (or RMS).

Re:Why didn't he just call them? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24545943)

SMS takes significatnly less bandwidth than audio communications. The only reason the cell phone companies charge extra for it is because the government lets them. As for free market malarkey, the companies are colluding together to artifically keep the price high on SMS messaging. This is standard anti-trust behavior of the type governments, if allowed, are supposed to prevent -- to keep the market actually free and not fake Ayn Rand/Antonia Scalia free.

Re:Why didn't he just call them? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24547331)

Wrong, the only reason there are only a few major carriers (in the US at least) is that the government only licenses frequencies to a few carriers. If the government was completely out of the game, or allocated spectrum fairly, there would be too much competition for collusion to take place.

Re:Why didn't he just call them? (2, Informative)

arielCo (995647) | more than 5 years ago | (#24544695)

from the article thingy:

[The pilot] then lost audio telephone contact but the air traffic controller switched to texting and told the pilot that he had a primary radar signal on the aircraft and that Cork would allow them to land there. He then used texts to guide the 30-year-old plane in.

What? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24544663)

I don't see what the big deal is. People talking on a cell phone is hardly any different than two people talking to each other on the plane. Except you only get (have) to hear one side of the conversation.

If you don't want to hear it, then get ear plugs, plug in your iPod, or just not listen. I mean, seriously, you don't hear people complaining about cell phones at restaurants, yet it is the same concept.

When did flying become a "quiet zone"?

Re:What? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24544737)

1 - People have an annoying habit of yelling into their cellphones for no good reason.

2 - Maybe you don't hear complaints about people on cell phones in restaurants because you're too busy yelling into your cellphone.

3 - Passengers are packed pretty tightly into those airplanes.

Re:What? (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24544741)

If you don't want to hear it, then get ear plugs, plug in your iPod, or just not listen

You're louder than my music, moron. Get off the f***ing plane.

Re:What? (3, Interesting)

eharvill (991859) | more than 5 years ago | (#24544747)

I don't see what the big deal is. People talking on a cell phone is hardly any different than two people talking to each other on the plane. Except you only get (have) to hear one side of the conversation.

If you don't want to hear it, then get ear plugs, plug in your iPod, or just not listen. I mean, seriously, you don't hear people complaining about cell phones at restaurants, yet it is the same concept.

When did flying become a "quiet zone"?

I think it would be a non-issue if people talking on cell phones would use a normal level of volume to speak. It becomes a problem when people are practically yelling on the phone and can be heard three rows down the airplane. Most normal face to face conversations on an airplane are barely audible b/c of the background noise on the plane.

Re:What? (1)

wisty (1335733) | more than 5 years ago | (#24544779)

Also, people can lip-read a bit when speaking face to face. You can't lip read with phones, so you need to be louder or clearer.

Re:What? (1)

Chineseyes (691744) | more than 5 years ago | (#24545253)

You are either from Europe, Japan or don't own a cell phone in the US. I've had a plan with every single major carrier in the US and you have no choice but to yell into your cellphone the reception is just that bad. With that in mind I avoid having drawn out conversations in public places on my cell but there are idiots who don't. I've lost count of how many times I've been on the train on my way to work and heard something like this:

WHAT WAS THAT?!?
No, I said X
Y
Z
No can you hear me?
No I said XYZ
Yeah yeah thats what I said.
What was that?
I said WHAT WAS THAT?!?
Hold on I'm having trouble hearing you now I think we're hitting a dead spot.
I said, I THINK WE ARE HITTING A DEAD SPOT.


I've seen people continuing conversations at the top of their voices like this for an hour and a half train ride.

Re:What? (1)

eharvill (991859) | more than 5 years ago | (#24545433)

You are either from Europe, Japan or don't own a cell phone in the US. I've had a plan with every single major carrier in the US and you have no choice but to yell into your cellphone the reception is just that bad. With that in mind I avoid having drawn out conversations in public places on my cell but there are idiots who don't. I've lost count of how many times I've been on the train on my way to work and heard something like this: ------ I've seen people continuing conversations at the top of their voices like this for an hour and a half train ride.

I've owned a cell phone since 1996, worked a number of years for Nextel in the late 90s, my wife currently works for ATT and I have probably used over 2 dozen cell phones/PDAs from all the carriers as well (although mostly Nextel/Cingular/ATT).

Our experiences have been very different apparently. Reception is not a volume issue, it's a clarity issue and speaking louder/yelling is not going to help the conversation. I think it is human nature to raise your voice when their is poor reception. It is similar to someone speaking English slower and louder to person that speaks broken English (well, the slower part might help, but louder is irrelevant).

I find myself speaking loudly as well and when I make an conscious effort to speak at a normal volume level, I've never had the caller on the other end tell me they could not hear me. I've found this to be true on any type of phone, blue tooth, headset or earpiece.

Re:What? (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24544801)

I don't see what the big deal is. People talking on a cell phone is hardly any different than two people talking to each other on the plane.

As others have already pointed out: it is, my friend, oh well, it is.

Except you only get (have) to hear one side of the conversation.

Which is even worse. I find it much more easy to ignore a completely understandable talk between two people. With just half of the communication present, some nerve tickles all the time and tries to make sense of all this gibberish.

If you don't want to hear it, then get ear plugs, plug in your iPod, or just not listen.

Thank you, but I get seriously irritated when not hearing what goes on around me. I dislike ear plugs and I dislike the wet atmosphere they generate inside my ears; earphones, on the other hand, induce very discomforting pain (the anatomically more suitable earphones are so sound-proof that I can't use them in public; see above).

I mean, seriously, you don't hear people complaining about cell phones at restaurants, yet it is the same concept.

In my country, this is mainly because nobody uses the cell phone while in a restaurant. If they have to, they go outside. Very polite.

When did flying become a "quiet zone"?

Why should it become a terroristic attack on my ears and--maybe more importantly--on my intellect? Flying is uncomfortable enough as it is, no need for additional yelling.

Re:What? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24544999)

Why should it become a terroristic attack on my ears and--maybe more importantly--on my intellect? Flying is uncomfortable enough as it is, no need for additional yelling.

Learn to fly first class noob. It's only uncomfortable when you don't have a stewardess sucking your balls through the flight.

Re:What? (4, Insightful)

matria (157464) | more than 5 years ago | (#24545841)

Give it up, friend. People who are determined to do whatever they please whenever they please and have a "screw the rest of the world" attitude will always attack anyone who dares question their right to do so.

Re:What? (1, Offtopic)

dontmakemethink (1186169) | more than 5 years ago | (#24547667)

Give it up, friend. People who are determined to do whatever they please whenever they please and have a "screw the rest of the world" attitude will always attack anyone who dares question their right to do so.

Works for Bush.

Re:What? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24546325)

I don't typically bash people for who they are, but "I dislike the wet atmosphere they generate"?

Oh, come on! Seriously? You should take a bottle of Vagisil with you on your flight. And don't forget -- keep it under 4oz ;)

Re:What? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24546625)

You fucking asshole. Thanks to you, someone is going to read the post you make, they're going to read you comparing having to listen to someone talk on a cellphone to fucking terrorism, and they're going to start thinking that making these kinds of comparisons is acceptable. You have furthered the incredible damage to the value of an already badly-overused word.

And you did it because you can't tune out someone talking.

Once again.. (4, Funny)

consonant (896763) | more than 5 years ago | (#24544705)

..what would be the point of this act? To reduce passenger annoyance? Great, might as well ban cellphones in cinema halls now.

I think a more sensible legislation would be legalizing poking obnoxious cellphone loudmouths in the eye with pencils..

Re:Once again.. (0)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 5 years ago | (#24544731)

I, for one, would support any pro-poking legislation.

Re:Once again.. (1)

vertinox (846076) | more than 5 years ago | (#24544843)

I think a more sensible legislation would be legalizing poking obnoxious cellphone loudmouths in the eye with pencils..

Personally, I have found that its more annoying when other passengers try to strike up a conversation with me.

Once I was flying during the summer by myself for business and I ended up sitting next to this really intoxicated lady in her late 50's. On retrospect it was kind of funny, but kept asking me personal questions and even offered me several thousand dollars if guessed her age right as well flaunting his rings and so on.

Being the gentleman that I was I politely declined and the paranoid in me felt that she was probaly trying to get me into a hotel room by herself and she wasn't exactly a looker. I tried to smile and answer with as short as possible the ever probing questions but she almost got into an altercation with the flight attendant over more drinks.

Luckily she passed out about 60 minutes or so into the flight and I fled my seat as soon as we landed.

If she had a cell phone, I'm sure it would have kept her occupied rather than having her attention directed towards me.

To be fair, its rare to be sitting next to an ever inquisitive passenger and most of the time the person sitting next to me is uninterested in me as I am of them.

Re:Once again.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24544997)

If she had a cell phone, I'm sure it would have kept her occupied rather than having her attention directed towards me.

Why didn't you make a big deal of putting on headphones and saying something like, "Well, I'm going to listen to some music now..."

If she persists in trying to talk to you, just point to your ears and shake your head.

Re:Once again.. (1)

consonant (896763) | more than 5 years ago | (#24545513)

Personally, I have found that its more annoying when other passengers try to strike up a conversation with me.

Amen to that. I wouldn't call myself reserved, a loner or even an introvert. But when I travel, I usually make it a point to carry along something to keep me occupied for the journey. Something constructive, like a book, or podcasts, or even a laptop, if I need to get work done.

Co-passenger conversations are tolerable, and even fine if the discussion is more on a /.-ish line, like on news, issues etc, but personal questions are plain uncomfortable..

p.s: As an even further aside - quite a few Indian train stations have warning signs discouraging passengers from discussing religion or politics while travelling..

Re:Once again.. (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 5 years ago | (#24545933)

Amen to that. I wouldn't call myself reserved, a loner or even an introvert. But when I travel, I usually make it a point to carry along something to keep me occupied for the journey. Something constructive, like a book, or podcasts, or even a laptop, if I need to get work done.

Put your ear buds on, slide one of these bad boys [aircraftspruce.com] over your head and you're golden.

Re:Once again.. (1)

Buscador (1057444) | more than 5 years ago | (#24545349)

Great, might as well ban cellphones in cinema halls now.

On behalf of anyone who has ever gone to a movie in China, Mexico, or the Philippines, I say please, please do.

Re:Once again.. (1)

DriedClexler (814907) | more than 5 years ago | (#24546485)

Please elaborate on your experience in China, Mexico, and the Philippines.

Re:Once again.. (4, Funny)

ceoyoyo (59147) | more than 5 years ago | (#24545755)

You can be thrown out of a theatre for talking on your cell phone (or having it ring). Perhaps we should indeed have the same rule for airplanes.

Re:Once again.. (1)

Kazymyr (190114) | more than 5 years ago | (#24546511)

Mod parent up. Parachute optional.

Whats the tech hubub about cell phones? (1)

Bananatree3 (872975) | more than 5 years ago | (#24544709)

Is it really a technical issue, or is it that airlines are lazy about protecting their electronics?

I find it hard to believe that something as critical as the electronics system in an airplane would be so prone to cell calls.

Re:Whats the tech hubub about cell phones? (3, Informative)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 5 years ago | (#24544735)

The Mythbusters already exposed this as a load of crap.

Re:Whats the tech hubub about cell phones? (4, Insightful)

Tx (96709) | more than 5 years ago | (#24544827)

The Mythbusters, while highly entertaining, would not win any prizes for designing good experiments. They are entertainers, not scientists, and you could poke huge holes in quite a high percentage of their endeavours, so I wouldn't cite them as a meaningful reference.

Re:Whats the tech hubub about cell phones? (4, Insightful)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 5 years ago | (#24544855)

Since rhe airline industry and TSA have, to date, provided not a single study or even shread of evidence thar cells pose any threat, I'd give the Mythbusters the edge on this one.

Re:Whats the tech hubub about cell phones? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24545635)

Yea, there are several times I have been like "um, you are comparing apples to oranges, but if you would have tried 'this', it would have worked"

I give em props for one thing tho....they brought on Ron Siegel saying he was the only American to win Iron Chef Japan, when in fact, Bobby Flay also did, but only in a rematch, and only after the threw a fit.....so they brought him in basically for a pity battle...lol...

So, technically, there were 2 Americans to win Iron Chef Japan, but only one of them deserved it. LOL

Re:Whats the tech hubub about cell phones? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24545963)

I, for one, welcome our entertaining, MythBusting overlords.

OK, meme done. Honestly, I think they do more science behind the scenes than they get credit for - as quite frankly good luck getting viewers to tune in if you showed all the calculations, repetitions, double-blind, yada, yada of the full on (important) scientific method. They do need to be entertaining; and I think they got the mix right on that front.

Re:Whats the tech hubub about cell phones? (1)

bikeidaho (951032) | more than 5 years ago | (#24546427)

They are also potheads so with each experiment they are secretly trying to figure out how to smoke out of it.

Re:Whats the tech hubub about cell phones? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24546223)

That's not entirely true. From memory, they did find that older cellphones could cause problems, as they saw spikes in the equipment readings.

And before you go blabbering on about how no one uses an old cellphone, you'd be fucking surprised. A lot of people are just too god damn lazy to upgrade, or they simply don't need to upgrade.

Re:Whats the tech hubub about cell phones? (1)

Clueless Moron (548336) | more than 5 years ago | (#24547635)

The mythbusters experiment was highly flawed. They used a single cellphone for all their tests.

There's this effect called "heterodyning", where two signals mix to produce two more (sum and difference). When you have multiple cellphones going on, their signals will mix to produce all kinds of nasty products. If one of them happens to land on the VOR/glideslope frequency, things can very suddenly get interesting.

Re:Whats the tech hubub about cell phones? (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 5 years ago | (#24544989)

On the one hand the aluminum tube body of the typical modern aircraft is potentially an antenna which can deliver your cellphone signal at full strength (which isn't much, I'll grant you) directly into the cockpit electronics. On the other hand, the signal strength is jack diddly shit and your laptop backlight probably has at least as much chance to interfere with something, and the only time they make you stow that is on takeoff. It has nothing to do with the electronics, though; they just don't want stuff flying around the cockpit if there is a problem during takeoff or landing, typically the most dangerous portions of any non-combat flight.

I remember reading some studies where it was shown that one model of cellphone could cause problems with one model of some instrument or something. Frankly this is not very relevant; if anything it should be a reason to recall that instrument for being a piece of shit.

Re:Whats the tech hubub about cell phones? (1)

TheLink (130905) | more than 5 years ago | (#24547589)

Maybe one phone in a metal plane doesn't do anything.

But how about 300 phones? And what happens if all of them go to max power because they can't reach a cell? Or when the plane's micro cell goes down.

Just putting an active GSM phone next to audio equipment makes it buzz. With such phones you can even tell that you are about to get a call just by the distinctive tatata-tatata-tatata-ta-ta sound from the interference.

So I won't be confident on it not causing problems to avionics.

Another thing - does using a phone in a fuel station really pose a significant increased risk?

Re:Whats the tech hubub about cell phones? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24545985)

You know how the power from an incoming call will often disturb bad monitors and speakers?
I thought this was a neat idea, so i used to place my cellphone beneath my monitor. The monitor would then get distorted a couple of seconds before the call showed.

It worked okay, until one time were my monitor just shut off...completely dead. Couldn't get it to show a picture again.

Since then, i've always kept my phone off in planes.

Re:Whats the tech hubub about cell phones? (1)

brightpilot (1313767) | more than 5 years ago | (#24547419)

That's exactly the problem. Especially when the phone is trying to connect with different towers every few minutes because of your location.
From personal experience, I left my razr turned on during a flight earlier this year and the noise it generated on both headsets made it impossible to communicate.

thats standard procedure (3, Interesting)

Spliffster (755587) | more than 5 years ago | (#24544717)

My Brother flies an A320 for BA.

They have constant contact via cell phone to their dispatchers. Even tho they require flight passengers to shut down theirs.

Once the shit hits the fan, I guess it would be the first they use to contact Ground for any vectors, weather infromation or whatsoever.

-S

Re:thats standard procedure (1)

hax4bux (209237) | more than 5 years ago | (#24547453)

It's not "cell phone" - it's satellite based, but your right to mention this.

All major carriers have their own dedicated communications systems. If it wasn't an immediate safety issue, the flight crew would probably call ground maintenance for help troubleshooting a problem.

This story is dramatic and stupid.

If I lost my electrics, I would simply reach for the battery powered VHF radio I keep in my flight bag. Cell phone wouldn't even feature into the discussion.

"this never happens" (1)

Iamthecheese (1264298) | more than 5 years ago | (#24544723)

Someone is going to say that complete communication failure is too rare to worry about, and they will be right and wrong.

While the situation described shouldn't effect new communication rules, there are many different ways cell phone communications can be useful. Furthermore, the ability to communicate using cell phones is a deterrent to hijackings. The person in charge of the plane is not certainly in charge of all communications, and thats a good thing.

Re:"this never happens" (1)

1u3hr (530656) | more than 5 years ago | (#24544817)

l. Furthermore, the ability to communicate using cell phones is a deterrent to hijackings.

It didn't "deter" the 9/11 hijackings, did it? It probably was the reason the passengers rushed the cabin and crashed Flight 93 though.

Re:"this never happens" (1)

yabos (719499) | more than 5 years ago | (#24544835)

It's fairly common in older small planes due to the old wiring and older equipment. Even new light sport aircraft can cost upwards of $100K to buy so many people buy these older airplanes.

With my plan... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24544733)

(1) Verizon would have charged me for the phone number for the tower - perhaps $2.

(2) Then they would have charged me for each in-bound and out-bound text message - perhaps another $2 in all.

(3) Some texts would likely have been deferred, making it unlikely to be useful for critical, near-real time communications.

(4) And, of course all this would be on top of my $80 per month, 450-minute "Crackberry" plan. (Not including miscellaneous "recovery fees" that they seem to slip onto every bill, every month)

Re:With my plan... (1)

X0563511 (793323) | more than 5 years ago | (#24546213)

Must be nice. I pay $80/m for my Sidekick, and I get all that stuff "free". I have yet to hit one of those "unlimited" caps, nor to see anything inexplicable with my bill.

Enjoy that Verizon-branded rape! Ask for some lube next time!

(I will never touch Verizon. Any cell company that removes a functional button to stick their logo in, are a bunch of assholes. See the Motorola RAZR on Verizon - right soft-key is nonfunctional and contains the Verizon logo on the screen.)

"landing safety" -- bullshit (5, Insightful)

1u3hr (530656) | more than 5 years ago | (#24544795)

Timothy (The "editor") wrote "There's a new reason to hope that the no-cell-chatter bill now under consideration in the US doesn't bring with it a Faraday-cage mandate, and that reason is landing safely."

How about reading TFA: "the twin-engined Piper plane ... with four passengers". It wasn't a fucking jumbo jet. That kind of plane is never going to be affected by any "no cell chatter" rules, much less have any "Faraday cage" built into it. And I think an airliner would have multiple multiple communications backups.

Reminds me of the wackos who say cell phones should be allowed in cinemas "in case of terrorist attack".

The only reason Timothy linked this with the cell phone ban on passenger planes is that it is guaranteed to start up a multi-page thread arguing that subject again, reardless of its irrelevance. Too bad he couldn't think of a way to get gun rights or evolution into the story too.

Re:"landing safety" -- bullshit (1)

pecosdave (536896) | more than 5 years ago | (#24545139)

Reminds me of the wackos who say cell phones should be allowed in cinemas

I've never been in one that doesn't allow them in. They just ask you to silence the damn thing, during the previews, often with some very creative short films. I still usually hear at least one.

Re:"landing safety" -- bullshit (1)

1u3hr (530656) | more than 5 years ago | (#24546791)

I've never been in one that doesn't allow them in

I should have said "allowed to use".

This isn't new (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24544811)

This happens every now and then in Australia for similar sized aircraft in Eastern parts of Australia. It isn't new. You should see the stuff they do when there are lots of aircraft around, they just switch to visual and get them to tilt their wings in response to instructions.

Keep them off for sanity's sake. (1)

hal9000(jr) (316943) | more than 5 years ago | (#24544919)

There's a new reason to hope that the no-cell-chatter bill now under consideration in the US doesn't bring with it a Faraday-cage mandate, and that reason is landing safely.

I hope this law never gets passed and I don't care what lie the gov't has to tell to keep cell phones turned off. Planes are already noisy. People who talk on cell phones talk LOUDLY. Add a lot of people in a noisy environment all talking at the same time, and that makes for a lot of noise.

Non-Story (5, Informative)

tweak13 (1171627) | more than 5 years ago | (#24544949)

So a 4 passenger light aircraft landed with no electric power. Big whoop. Electrical failure on an aircraft like that means the radios go out, you lose a couple instruments, and that's it. Most of the important instruments for maneuvering are either powered by the pitot static system or an engine driven vacuum pump. Speaking of the engines, their ignition systems are powered by a fully redundant engine driven system and don't require any external electric power.

If the pilot wouldn't have had the cell phone, he would have been given signals from a light gun as he approached the airport. Losing radios isn't exactly all that uncommon, especially in older aircraft, so pilots and controllers have come up with ways to handle the situation.

Re:Non-Story (1)

song-of-the-pogo (631676) | more than 5 years ago | (#24547319)

exactly. i was a passenger on a similar flight, once, myself (hi, john!). a fellow student was working on his pilot's license and took me out for a spin. the plane gradually lost all internal electrical and radio, leaving us out of contact with the tower and without that directional thingy (i don't know about planes) or lights (it was still daylight, though). in addition to the redundent system for the engine you mention, there is also a mechanical override for lowering the landing gear. i was a bit disappointed to discover that, as i though we were going to get to do a belly landing in the grass. there really was no worry, especially as the airstrip at which we were landing was extremely underpopulated (in fact, once we'd landed we discovered we were the *only* people there ... including "air traffic control"). the approach to the landing strip was easily the most humorous part of the whole experience, as it involved him looking out his side of the plane, me looking out mine and then both of us agreeing that no one was coming - much like crossing an intersection. the whole thing was a non-thing, in terms of fear factor, as we were really never in any danger (and the pilot really kept his cool well, leaving me feeling very confident), but it's been a fun story to relate to others.

Re:Non-Story (1)

samkass (174571) | more than 5 years ago | (#24547433)

Even the title sounds pretty silly to a pilot. Air traffic controllers didn't land the plane-- the pilot did. It MIGHT have been a story if the guy was flying through dense clouds and fog and lost control just as another radar contact was intersecting his vector at high speed or something.

Re: Air Traffic Controller Lands Stricken Plane (2, Informative)

dubner (48575) | more than 5 years ago | (#24544973)

Sheesh! Air controllers don't land planes, stricken or otherwise. Aircrews land airplanes. The airplane will land (and fly) just fine without an "air controller".

Air traffic controllers _clear_ airplanes to land. This involves traffic de-confliction and statistically improves safety but there are plenty of non-towered airports where the aircrew routinely lands without benefit of Air Traffic Control.

For instance: http://flightaware.com/live/airport/KPUW [flightaware.com]
At Pullman/Moscow Regional Airport, a non-towered field near Pullman, WA, Horizon Airlines makes almost a dozen arrivals and departures a day _after_ they leave air traffic control.

The pilot actually landed the plane (3, Informative)

mhteas (34268) | more than 5 years ago | (#24545295)

The controller doesn't land the plane. The controller works with pilots to keep the airspace and runway coordinated and air traffic moving smoothly. That's an essential job, but it doesn't include flying.

After all, there's no way (in a short time) to MacGyver a cell phone SMS to an autopilot. And this plane may not have an autopilot anyhow.

The pilot followed standard lost contact procedures and augmented them with the call to the controller. The controller wisely used SMS when voice was lost.

Anyhow, the article writer's hook for large commercial aircraft is nonsensical since this is a four-seat aircraft and wouldn't fall under those rules anyhow.

Sega is awesome! (1, Insightful)

Artuir (1226648) | more than 5 years ago | (#24545333)

I always knew the Sega Master System was an awesome console but this article finally gives it the recognition it deserves! Now if you'll excuse me I'm going to get back to playing Wonder Boy III.

The obvious solution... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24545683)

Install a cell phone battery as backup in every plane!

Reasons for airliner cell phone ban (3, Insightful)

whizbang77045 (1342005) | more than 5 years ago | (#24545747)

First off, when an aircraft is in an emergency, you can do a lot of things that would otherwise be banned. You save your fanny first, then worry about regulations later.

Second, the reasons given for the cell phone ban appear to be largely misinformed. I know of two: potential interferrence with aircraft equipment, and interferrence with ground cell phone towers.

To demonstrate that cell phones categorically do not interfere with aircraft equipment, in the US, the FAA would require that each cell phone design demonstrate that it does not cause interferrence. Change the design, or have a different design? New demonstration required. Cell phones passing the test would more than likely need some sort of identifying mark showing that they were approved for aircraft use.

Don't like this idea? Perhaps you'd like to fly with someone who can interfere with the aircraft instruments. I can imagine the headlines: "FAA fails to insure airline safety. Cell phone determined to be cause of crash claiming 150 lives!"

As much as I dislike the airlines getting a free ride on their phones being the only ones usable on the aircraft, those phones have been verified not to interfere with other equipment on the aircraft.

The other problem is that ground based cell phones were designed for ground usage. They punch into whatever cell phone towers happen to be in range. As long as the cell phone itself isn't at a higher elevation, it only reaches a limited number of towers. Put it in an airplane, and it reaches a much larger number of towers. Which tower should be handling the call? Who knows?

This might not be too bad for one or two cell phones, but open it up to all cell phones, and significant interference could result.

It is possible to design a cell phone for airborne use. All it takes is money.

One can, of course, legislate this problem, and declare whatever the legislators think will please the electorate the most. But that, of course, does not change the laws of physics.

I can't decide (1)

Nakito (702386) | more than 5 years ago | (#24545801)

OK, let me weigh these options. On one hand, there is the one-in-ten-million risk that someday I might need to have a cellphone conversation with ATC to talk me down when my entire panel fails. On the other hand, there is the virtual certainty that I will be sitting next to some compulsive-talking boiler-room operator on every commercial flight from now until eternity. Which to choose, which to choose . . .

SMS does get through better (1)

Animats (122034) | more than 5 years ago | (#24545869)

SMS does get through when voice can't. Especially since analog AMPS service was discontinued.

Last month I was using SMS to communicate with a friend who was spending a week horse camping in San Mateo County. This isn't exactly Outer Nowhere, but there's a big area of hilly parks west of Silicon Valley with no cell towers. She was camped in a valley, and I couldn't reach her with voice calls, but if I sent her a text message, it would be delivered the next time she rode up to a ridge line and briefly got line of sight to a distant tower. When she sent me a message back, it would queue in her phone until she got connectivity again. So we could communicate, with hours of delay.

When I went out to the horse camp, I couldn't get any service. A year ago, at the same place, I'd get service via Analog Roam, when my tri-band phone dropped back to AMPS. Now that AMPS is history, there's no more service in many remote locations.

It's not that there are no locations for towers in the parks. We could see a nearby radio tower, and rode up to it, but it was a VHF repeater for fire, police, and rescue services. Cell companies could co-locate there if they really wanted to, or were required to provide coverage. But none of them had.

Originally, cellular licenses required the company to provide service in 100% of their area within a certain number of years. But the FCC backed off on that requirement, as "deregulation". This was a mistake.

Misleading, a bit (2, Informative)

Ancient_Hacker (751168) | more than 5 years ago | (#24546097)

There have been pretty good rules around for over 60 years regarding what the pilot should do when they can't contact the tower. Similarly the tower has an old red/green light gun for communicating with planes that can't hear.

It's unlikely there was any safety added by the cell phone sms messages. In fact, bypassing the usual no-radio procedures may have compromised safety. There may be some flags dropped on this play.

That IS a Scary Scenario! (1)

morari (1080535) | more than 5 years ago | (#24546157)

People's lives in the hands of text messages. As if mobile telephones weren't annoying enough without butchering written languages as well.

I expect a new Irish drinking song (2, Funny)

navyjeff (900138) | more than 5 years ago | (#24546243)

As I was flying Nor'ward
'tween Cork and Kerry airports
I saw the dash go dim,
and me passengers did scream out,
"You better land this plane, man
or the Devil, he may take ye"

Whack fol my daddy-o,
Whack fol my daddy-o,
there's whisky in the jar

I switch to my cell phone,
for my cell phone never fail'd me.
But, the Devil take that cell phone,
for when I called the tower,
that damn'd thing went and dropped me!

If anyone can aid me,
it's controller in the Tower.
Send forth me text message
and direct me to the runway!

Because air traffic controllers can land planes? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24546497)

Amirite? No. They didn't. The pilot landed the plane. Watching Pushing Tin 50 times != aviation expert. Reword your fucking headline...

illegal in minnesota and other states (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24547093)

good thing the pilot was not from minnesota or washington - he'd get a big fat ticket for texting while operating a vehicle...

Making a bigger deal than it should be... (1)

mpn14tech (716482) | more than 5 years ago | (#24547327)

There are established procedures for landing with no radio. A light gun with red and green is used so that the tower can signal an aircraft when it is okay to enter final and land.

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