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Ars Looks At In-Flight Internet — State of the Art vs. Things To Come

timothy posted more than 2 years ago | from the we'll-look-back-at-this-one-day-and-laugh dept.

Cellphones 101

Ars Technica has posted an absorbing article about the short history of Internet and cell-phone access for passengers aboard commercial airplanes, which does a lot to sate my curiosity about the factors holding it back, and gives some ideas about what to look forward to. An excerpt: "Despite the volume of equipped aircraft, we're still in the early days and the continued availability of mile-high WiFi is certainly not guaranteed. It's an expensive, long-term investment to supply consistent and usable broadband Internet service at 35,000 feet. Surveys show people want access, but it's unclear how much (or even if) they'll pay for it. Aircell says that 20 percent of passengers on equipped cross-country flights use its service, but it's mum about numbers on shorter segments."

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101 comments

whoo hooooO! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36347374)

9000 penises in your mouth!

No shit, Sherlock (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36347412)

You have a two hour flight of which about an hour is no-laptop take off and landing time. There is so little time left it does not worth the bothering.

Re:No shit, Sherlock (4, Insightful)

mogness (1697042) | more than 2 years ago | (#36347612)

Maybe you have a two hour flight. On an 18-hour flight there's only so much you can read, sleep, and watch before you start to get antsy. I'd surely welcome internet on those flights.

Re:No shit, Sherlock (1)

SniperJoe (1984152) | more than 2 years ago | (#36348426)

I don't think the parent poster is speaking to overall flight length (or trying to brag that they only take two hour flights everywhere). Rather, I think they are speaking to the likelihood that shorter segments will see far fewer paying customers primarily due to the large percentage of the flight that the internet isn't usable.

Re:No shit, Sherlock (1)

xaxa (988988) | more than 2 years ago | (#36348472)

Maybe you have a two hour flight. On an 18-hour flight there's only so much you can read, sleep, and watch before you start to get antsy. I'd surely welcome internet on those flights.

You're supposed to at least read the summary, but I understand it's a lot of effort to get to the last sentence:

Aircell says that 20 percent of passengers on equipped cross-country flights use its service, but it's mum about numbers on shorter segments."

I'd use the service if cost no more than EU data roaming service costs, e.g. £0.10 to send an email is fine. But if it costs that much I wouldn't do much else.

Re:No shit, Sherlock (2)

petermgreen (876956) | more than 2 years ago | (#36348696)

£0.10 to send an email is fine.

I wouldn't even want to connect my computer on a service that expensive because i'd be worried about background data use racking up a huge bill.

Re:No shit, Sherlock (1)

mogness (1697042) | more than 2 years ago | (#36358860)

Cross-country flights are not exclusively what this article is talking about. In fact, there's a nice image on page two of the article showing Lufthansa's coverage area from Western Europe to the Western U.S.

Seems not all that useful (0)

the_humeister (922869) | more than 2 years ago | (#36347446)

When I'm on a flight, I'm usually asleep. And when I am awake, I'm watching videos, reading comics, or reading books on my Nook Color. So wifi might be interesting on a flight, but I definitely wouldn't pay for it.

Re:Seems not all that useful (1)

Man Eating Duck (534479) | more than 2 years ago | (#36347774)

So wifi might be interesting on a flight, but I definitely wouldn't pay for it.

Last year free Wifi via 3G became ubiquitous where I live on bus rides longer than a couple of hours. I'd guess that every other passenger accesses it from their smartphone or laptop, as the majority have metered data plans on their phones, and the benefits of "free" outweights the lower bandwidth due to several people using the line.

I also prefer to read, but it'd be handy for those "Oh, I'll google that"-moments. I wouldn't be interested either with the fees they mention in the article, but I'd probably go for it if they sold credentials for, say, two bucks. So, for you and me it's "meh", but if you're a business traveller interested in working in-flight it seems like a steal.

Re:Seems not all that useful (1)

petermgreen (876956) | more than 2 years ago | (#36348718)

the benefits of "free" outweights the lower bandwidth due to several people using the line.

There is also the not insubstantial advantage that a system built into the vehicle is likely to have an external antenna and possiblly a more powerful radio which should allow it to keep a much more stable connection. Some people apparently still buy fixed carphones (rather than just handsfree kits) for this reason.

My experiance with trying to use 3G mobile broadband sticks on trains is that the connection varies between slow and nonexistant.

Re:Seems not all that useful (1)

tehcyder (746570) | more than 2 years ago | (#36350682)

Last year free Wifi via 3G became ubiquitous where I live on bus rides longer than a couple of hours.

And in other news, there are places in the world where people take bus rides longer than a couple of hours.
Seriously, don't they have trains there?

It's pretty damn useful to business travelers (2)

yog (19073) | more than 2 years ago | (#36347956)

Regulars would love Internet access and will pay for it. For short hop flights, where there might be 45-60 minutes of internet time, you can do some email, review a report, check voicemail, instant message with colleagues, and so on. Lots of use cases.

Road warriors have things planned out. The laptop is hibernating in the seat pocket, or else, increasingly, you can use an instant-on tablet or smartphone. Leisure travelers obviously can use the same tools. The barriers to getting out a computer and using it are getting lower.

I'm just surprised it's taking so long. Southwest announced a couple of years ago that they were putting wifi on all their planes, but to date I have seen it only once, and I fly a couple of times a month. I wish they would hurry up. They charge $5 which seems reasonable enough for most people.

The only problematic area will be phone calls, either VoIP or cell. It's going to distract and annoy people who are stuck in these sardine cans, typically with no way to get up and move away from a loud talker. There's going to be a few air rage incidents before they figure out that they have to specifically ban voice communications in flight.

Re:It's pretty damn useful to business travelers (2)

base3 (539820) | more than 2 years ago | (#36348564)

There's going to be a few air rage incidents before they figure out that they have to specifically ban voice communications in flight.

The in-flight rag on Delta that had an ad for in-flight WiFi did include a clause specifically banning VoIP apps. With all the Fatherland Security "concerns," I'm surprised they allow the pax any way to communicate with the ground at all while in the air, actually.

I take several trans-atlantic flights a year (1)

vsage3 (718267) | more than 2 years ago | (#36347466)

I haven't considered using in-flight internet. If anything, it's a welcome respite from being connected. My boss usually pays for it, but he loves to micromanage and so it's understandable. I would pay for live TV though. I missed the Superbowl this year because I was on a flight :(.

Re:I take several trans-atlantic flights a year (2)

somersault (912633) | more than 2 years ago | (#36348742)

I missed the Superbowl this year because I was on a flight :(

If only there were some worldwide global communications platform that you could use to somehow stream video from your home to your computer.. oh well, maybe it'll happen one day!

Re:I take several trans-atlantic flights a year (1)

tehcyder (746570) | more than 2 years ago | (#36350716)

I missed the Superbowl this year because I was on a flight :(

If only there were some worldwide global communications platform that you could use to somehow stream video from your home to your computer.. oh well, maybe it'll happen one day!

Yes, that's exactly right, because of course we currently have free, high bandwidth internet access on all flights, so why on earth not use it?

Re:I take several trans-atlantic flights a year (1)

EastCoastSurfer (310758) | more than 2 years ago | (#36349198)

I would pay for live TV though. I missed the Superbowl this year because I was on a flight :(.

I'm surprised more airlines don't also have live TV. All the Frontier flights I take have live TV for $6/flight and I think it's free for their non-discount tickets.

Makes sense for long flights (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36347470)

Flying SFO to Fort Lauderdale I find it is always worth it. Plug the power, get online and suddenly it becomes a productive day rather than a total waste.

Re:Makes sense for long flights (3, Interesting)

matunos (1587263) | more than 2 years ago | (#36347768)

Question is: how many tax nexus areas do you cross while being productive? Well, at least I have to wonder about such things where I work. ;-)

Re:Makes sense for long flights (1)

base3 (539820) | more than 2 years ago | (#36348572)

Do states really have the power to tax transactions happening in their airspace? Could a state insist that state sales tax be levied on in-flight beverages, for example? Or for that matter, suspend sales of alcohol during the few seconds of flight over a dry county :) ?

Re:Makes sense for long flights (2)

mangu (126918) | more than 2 years ago | (#36349242)

Could a state insist that state sales tax be levied on in-flight beverages, for example? Or for that matter, suspend sales of alcohol during the few seconds of flight over a dry county :) ?

Could I get a hooker while the plane is flying over Nevada?

Re:Makes sense for long flights (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36349692)

My understanding (which is very limited, basically coming from an episode of Bones) is that the plane is considered of the jurisdiction of its last departure until it touches down the next time. At the first touch of rubber and pavement the jurisdiction switches. This might have just been a convenient plot device, but most shows try to get the law right.

Re:Makes sense for long flights (1)

FooAtWFU (699187) | more than 2 years ago | (#36350518)

I don't know about the on-flight commerce; I think the GP was suggesting he works for, say, Amazon, and there are some states which say they're entitled to sales tax on all your transactions if you even have someone in your affiliates program in the state (which is why Amazon has cut ties with all affiliates and ended affiliate programs in, e.g., North Carolina). "Nexus" is a term which shows up in the law around there.

Would someone working on a plane flying over the state count as presence in that state for tax purposes? I'm 98% sure it wouldn't hold up in the courts, but I don't think that would keep some states from trying. So quit giving them ideas. ;)

Re:Makes sense for long flights (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36348966)

Question is: how many tax nexus areas do you cross while being productive? Well, at least I have to wonder about such things where I work. ;-)

Generally, companies do the tax nexus by the origin of the flight. That's how I bill my time if I decide to crack open the laptop and work.

Let me make a prediction... (1, Insightful)

crdotson (224356) | more than 2 years ago | (#36347484)

49% of the comments will be from people who would not use this service and cannot understand why anyone else would want to ever act differently than they do.

49% of the comments will be from people who would love to use this service and cannot understand why anyone else would want to ever act differently than they do.

The remaining 2% might be vaguely useful, or they may be dumb like this one.

Re:Let me make a prediction... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36347696)

So 98% are egocentric asshats who think there is only one reality, and it's *theirs*. And the other 2% only aren't, because they are too dumb for it.

Sounds about right... ;)

P.S.: Could also be the numbers for Wikipedia admins. ;)
P.P.S.: Or politicians.

Re:Let me make a prediction... (4, Funny)

Farmer Tim (530755) | more than 2 years ago | (#36347716)

So 98% are egocentric asshats who think there is only one reality, and it's *theirs*. And the other 2% only aren't, because they are too dumb for it.

Sounds about right... ;)

That only applies to people who actually post a comment. Those of us who aren't posting in this discussion are the intellig...
 
...oh, damn! :(

Re:Let me make a prediction... (1)

Hazel Bergeron (2015538) | more than 2 years ago | (#36347778)

Can I be one of the ones who would not use this service but do understand why people would want to?

I'll still say they're idiots for contributing toward an always-available always-working world where one is so distracted by one's so important job that he will still waste hours either end through a theatrical security dance. There's only one sort to blame for the TSA: the man who chooses to fly.

Re:Let me make a prediction... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36348190)

I get to play the role of those would not use the service and cannot comprehend why the dirty little creatures would want too!

First off, as everyone knows, the internet is one of the known great evils in the world. This is reason number one for not using the internet aboard flights and on the ground. Secondly, the act of flying itself is unnatural to man and is thus another great and very well known evil. Finally, probably the worst one of all, coveting thy neighbors wife or any lustful act is a hugely known and abused great evil. Since this is pretty much what the internet [youtube.com] was designed for it should be avoided.

Anyhow, I'm off to do embark on a path of experiencing some known great evils!

Re:Let me make a prediction... (1)

somersault (912633) | more than 2 years ago | (#36348776)

I'll still say they're idiots for contributing toward an always-available always-working world where one is so distracted by one's so important job that he will still waste hours either end through a theatrical security dance. There's only one sort to blame for the TSA: the man who chooses to fly.

Sheesh!

What about those people that are going on, you know, a vacation?

How can you blame those who fly for the TSA being idiots? What about the terrorists on 9/11? What about the government/TSA themselves for being power grubbing and/or paranoid asshats? Are you saying people should just drive everywhere, wasting days of their lives rather than hours?

Honestly, your comments usually at least have some sense to them, but this.. I don't get.

Re:Let me make a prediction... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36348060)

I'm in the first camp. However I think there's a more practical solution for those in the second. Not much stuff on the Internet needs to be seen on a plane in real time, what would be wrong with cached version of the most used sites? You could update it easily enough at every landing, and most people could live with content that's only a few hours old. The solution is so easy it could be offered for free.
The big improvement I'd like to see is much more responsive ICE screens with proper multi-player capability. I could easily lose a few hours playing some Quake1 or something equally old-tech but hellishly addictive.

Re:Let me make a prediction... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36348350)

It won't make any difference, the airline industry will be going into the shitter once the shitstorm hits the fan and we'll be in another great depression.

Re:Let me make a prediction... (2)

GauteL (29207) | more than 2 years ago | (#36348706)

"49% of the comments will be from people who would not use this service and cannot understand why anyone else would want to ever act differently than they do.
49% of the comments will be from people who would love to use this service and cannot understand why anyone else would want to ever act differently than they do."

The difference is that the first 49% are irrelevant. The second 49% are not. Why? Because the last 49% would make the system commercially viable, and the first 49% does not have to pay for it if they don't want to.

Slashdot is full of cynical naysayers with opinions that the world does not care about one bit. Out of this large group, there is a small group of naysayers which the world really should have listened to. Separating the two is much more difficult than what one might think.

Takeoff/landing sequence key for shorter flights (4, Insightful)

mcrbids (148650) | more than 2 years ago | (#36347500)

Since my software company is still mostly regional in nature, it's rare for me to fly more than a 1-2 hour hop at a time. It's barely worth pulling my laptop out at all since I have to wait until about 15-30 minutes until after boarding to begin, and have to put things away 15-30 minutes before actually getting off the plane.

If there was some way that I could sit down, plug in and sign on, and use my computer while the plane is preflighted, taxi, waiting at the taxiway, takeoff, and then final descent from 10,000 to landed and departing the plane, I'd be far, far more likely to pay for the short-ish hops that I tend towards.

And don't give me the "radio interference" crap - there's no evidence at all to support this and it's routinely ignored by anybody in the industry. Think about it: how many routine flyers, do you think, have forgotten to turn off their phone when they sit down, or just didn't bother? How many incidents have occurred as a result?

It's zero, in case you are wondering....

On another note, I routinely send texts while flying my private plane, which I also use for the shorter end of the hops I take. (whichever's cheaper and/or more convenient)

Re:Takeoff/landing sequence key for shorter flight (0)

hardtofindanick (1105361) | more than 2 years ago | (#36347546)

And don't give me the "radio interference" crap - there's no evidence at all to support this and it's routinely ignored by anybody in the industry.

How many times do you have to be told that the point is to make sure you pay attention to what is happening around you since take off and landing is when the plane and you are most vulnerable.

Re:Takeoff/landing sequence key for shorter flight (4, Insightful)

erice (13380) | more than 2 years ago | (#36347636)

And don't give me the "radio interference" crap - there's no evidence at all to support this and it's routinely ignored by anybody in the industry.

How many times do you have to be told that the point is to make sure you pay attention to what is happening around you since take off and landing is when the plane and you are most vulnerable.

Actually, pretty much nobody is saying that except you and for good reason: It doesn't make any sense. The instructions are specifically to "put away all electronic devices", not "put away all distractions". They don't mention and don't seem to care about books, mechanical toys, etc. While rubik's cubes are rather uncommon distractions, books are not and yet passengers are never instructed to put away reading materials. This despite the fact that a good book can be every bit as distracting as a laptop computer.

Re:Takeoff/landing sequence key for shorter flight (1)

hardtofindanick (1105361) | more than 2 years ago | (#36347698)

What you say makes sense. But I have heard this excuse from two different flight attendants on different occasions, never thought to ask why they let the book readers read books. Still I am going to believe them. Perhaps electronic devices are more interactive and engaging?

Still you wouldn't have room to turn on your laptop without further endangering people in case of emergency.

Re:Takeoff/landing sequence key for shorter flight (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36347840)

There's a slightly different version which I've heard: in the event of a crash, any loose object is going to fly around and possibly hit someone. Electronic devices tend to be hard and dense, capable of injuring someone. Paperback books and magazines are usually lighter and softer.

Of course, neither this nor the distraction explanation can explain why you can't have an activated phone in your pocket during take-off or landing.

Re:Takeoff/landing sequence key for shorter flight (2)

longfalcon (202977) | more than 2 years ago | (#36347934)

operation of any electronic devices not certified by the FAA for use in the aircraft will technically invalidate the airplane's Airworthiness Certificate. so they are required by the FAA to tell you to turn them off.

Re:Takeoff/landing sequence key for shorter flight (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36348278)

There's a slightly different version which I've heard: in the event of a crash, any loose object is going to fly around and possibly hit someone. Electronic devices tend to be hard and dense, capable of injuring someone. Paperback books and magazines are usually lighter and softer.

Of course, neither this nor the distraction explanation can explain why you can't have an activated phone in your pocket during take-off or landing.

I dunno about you, but being hit in the head by the edge of a book that had just been traveling 100 mph or whatever the plane was at would probably kill me just as much as a 4 oz cell phone or Nintendo.

Re:Takeoff/landing sequence key for shorter flight (1)

AmiMoJo (196126) | more than 2 years ago | (#36348720)

Actually, on Virgin Atlantic at least, they insist on everything being put away. Blankets, pillows, jackets, everything has to be stored in the overhead bins or under the seat. Makes sense because anyone not in an aisle seat will have to get past all that stuff in an emergency evacuation. Plus loose items tend to turn into projectiles in the event of sudden deceleration.

Re:Takeoff/landing sequence key for shorter flight (1)

Man Eating Duck (534479) | more than 2 years ago | (#36348002)

How many times do you have to be told that the point is to make sure you pay attention to what is happening around you since take off and landing is when the plane and you are most vulnerable.

People like you will keep saying that untill Hell freezes over, and it still won't make any sense whatsoever. In the first seconds of a crisis your personal level of alertness simply won't make a difference; neither should it, that's what the crew is trained for. During take off or landing you can read, solve a crossword, fuzz with your (crying child|stressed out cat), be wildly panicked due to fear of flying, be three sheets to the wind, eat, sleep, or make out with your girlfriend, all without them stopping you. I've seen it all on flights.

I think it is mostly security theater combined with CYA. After all, they've no real incentive to "go out on a limb" by allowing you to do anything. I don't really care all that much, I can put away my ereader (no radio) during those few minutes, but I also don't understand why otherwise rational people keep bringing up this ridiculous statement.

Re:Takeoff/landing sequence key for shorter flight (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36347594)

If there was some way that I could sit down, plug in and sign on, and use my computer while the plane is preflighted, taxi, waiting at the taxiway, takeoff, and then final descent from 10,000 to landed and departing the plane, I'd be far, far more likely to pay for the short-ish hops that I tend towards.

I've never had a problem pulling out my laptop for the 5-15 min preflight time.

Re:Takeoff/landing sequence key for shorter flight (1)

mcrbids (148650) | more than 2 years ago | (#36347804)

I've never had a problem pulling out my laptop for the 5-15 min preflight time.

But then you have to put it away. Under the seat. And then you have to pull it out again, pick up your train of thought... etc Sorry, no.

Let me sit down, open up my lappie, and get to work!

Re:Takeoff/landing sequence key for shorter flight (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36347960)

I've never had a problem pulling out my laptop for the 5-15 min preflight time.

But then you have to put it away. Under the seat. And then you have to pull it out again, pick up your train of thought... etc Sorry, no.

Let me sit down, open up my lappie, and get to work!

Your ADD can probably be treated medically if it's that difficult to resume a task.

Re:Takeoff/landing sequence key for shorter flight (2)

OneMadMuppet (1329291) | more than 2 years ago | (#36347904)

Here's an interesting article for you: http://www.rvs.uni-bielefeld.de/publications/Incidents/DOCS/Research/Rvs/Article/EMI.html [uni-bielefeld.de]

Here's an interesting quote: "Nordwall reports that the RTCA Committee 177 inquiry found 137 `incidents' (pilot reports, anecdotes) reported either to them, or to the FAA/NASA Aviation Safety Reporting System (ASRS) program, or to the International Air Transport Association (IATA). VOR reception (2) was affected in 111 incidents -- by far the most common occurrence. From the 33 reports direct to RTCA, 21 incidents related to laptop computers and only 2 to cellular phones. Navigation systems were affected in 26 of those incidents; fuel systems, warning lights and propulsion reported one incident each. Rough correlation of suspect with effect by turning the suspect device on and off was found in 14 cases, on-off-on in 6 cases, and no correlation in 13 cases."

Incidents > 0.

If I remember correctly, Thales generation 2 HUDS for A737's had a known issue with interference from mobile phones / laptops - they would blank or flicker.

Re:Takeoff/landing sequence key for shorter flight (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36348314)

for those of us in more mundane terrestrial office jos:

how many of you have picked up interference on the speakers on your PC from having a cellphone nearby? Happens all the time at my office. Cell reception is poor-to-nil in the office, and phones jump up to higher power, "Searching for Service" mode all the time. might contribute. But the cellphones couple to the audio, whether because its some resonant aspect of the wiring or the circuitry. I haven't bothered to check, but it's there. It's not a long stretch to think the same noise might appear on an older commercial flight.

Quick response from a pilot (5, Insightful)

nhtshot (198470) | more than 2 years ago | (#36347998)

"And don't give me the "radio interference" crap - there's no evidence at all to support this and it's routinely ignored by anybody in the industry"

I love how technology types tend to think they know everything about every piece of technology because they can use VB.

Aside from being a geek and occasional programmer, I'm also a pilot. I've also personally encountered navigational interference from a cellular phone. I think that qualifies as "evidence at all to support this". You can also refer to the link posted below that gives detailed accounts of specific interference on scheduled airline flights.

Seriously, airplanes are not computers. The rules are not meant to be broken. The rules are intended to be as minimally invasive as possible while still protecting against all potential issues. Note: This statement does NOT apply to TSA rules. They are maximally invasive and minimally effective. I'm only speaking to FAA rules regarding flight safety.

The real issue in this case is that some devices can/do cause interference and others don't. But, on a commercial airliner with hundreds of passengers that might each be carrying a potentially interfering device, the rule is that everybody has to turn them off and safely store them. Of course, the issue of a laptop being a potential projectile during a rough take-off/landing is also a concern. Short of having flight crews carry around an FCC manual and an RF meter to test every single device that a passenger might want to use, I think the current situation is a reasonable compromise.

So, basically, you'll never get what you want. The FAA and the airlines are in the business of protecting and delivering passengers respectively. They are not in the "allow some random passenger to use whatever device he wants that can potentially screw up the airplane at any time" business. If you want that level of service, charter a Gulfstream. Small, private aircraft can and do provide that level of service. If some electronic device is screwing with navigation, it's very easy to know who's device it is and have them turn it off. That's not easy on a commercial airliner.

As for the article topic, I would LOVE to have this available and would happily pay probably as much as $20 to use it on a cross-country or international flight. Being able to accomplish something with otherwise wasted time is always a win.

Re:Quick response from a pilot (3, Informative)

hubie (108345) | more than 2 years ago | (#36348040)

I'm part of a research group where we fly all sorts of electronic crap on helicopters. We typically take off and land with computers and other stuff running. However, as an example of what you talk about, we have had a flight or two where we are flying and the pilot asks us "OK, who has their phone on?" because he can pick up the interference (I'm not sure exactly, but I think it was from GSM phones).

Re:Quick response from a pilot (1)

Agripa (139780) | more than 2 years ago | (#36348760)

However, as an example of what you talk about, we have had a flight or two where we are flying and the pilot asks us "OK, who has their phone on?" because he can pick up the interference (I'm not sure exactly, but I think it was from GSM phones).

Any phone using TDMA is just about the worst case for interference because the access method itself is effectively low frequency modulated AM which is easily detected (in the electronics engineering sense) by any non-linear device. The usual culprit oddly enough is the output stage of an audio amplifier through the speaker leads but almost any interface is susceptible.

This is also why CBs and AM modulated HAM transmitters cause problems.

Re:Quick response from a pilot (1)

L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) | more than 2 years ago | (#36348898)

Did he have a headset / headphones on?

Put your phone next to your speakers and have someone call you. That sound was almost certainly what gave it away.

Re:Quick response from a pilot (1)

hubie (108345) | more than 2 years ago | (#36350436)

He always had his headset on, but I do recall him saying that he picked it up on one of the instruments.

Re:Quick response from a pilot (1)

mjwx (966435) | more than 2 years ago | (#36360270)

I'm part of a research group where we fly all sorts of electronic crap on helicopters. We typically take off and land with computers and other stuff running. However, as an example of what you talk about, we have had a flight or two where we are flying and the pilot asks us "OK, who has their phone on?" because he can pick up the interference (I'm not sure exactly, but I think it was from GSM phones).

Put a GSM phone near a particularly delicate receiver and see what happens. I've seen managers get sacked for having their phones on in a call centre, the risk of crosstalk and shock is too great with so many sensitive audio devices. I'd bet a pilots headset was just as sensitive.

People (idiots) think that because their TV has become shielded enough that their mobile does not interfere with it means that mobiles are now safe, in actual fact, TV's have just been shielded.

BTW, computers without Wifi and BT on are safe from a transmission POV, the reason they tell you to turn these off during take off and landing is because they will become projectiles if it gets bumpy. Guy with broken nose from his own laptop == lawsuit for airline (== higher prices for everyone, sigh)

Re:Quick response from a pilot (1)

xtracto (837672) | more than 2 years ago | (#36348948)

No shit. In the last month I had to travel a lot within the EU.

On around 5 of those flights all passengers could *listen* to the interference of a mobile into the cabin communication system. This was while the lady was trying to tell the safety procedures; you could here the signal inteference which was a bit like this [youtube.com]. No way I will feel at ease knowing pilots have to consider an additional "variable" while taking me home.

On the other hand. I could live with a cabled LAN to which you can plug your laptop using an rj45 cable.

Re:Quick response from a pilot (1)

gad_zuki! (70830) | more than 2 years ago | (#36350420)

Agreed. There's all sorts of evidence.

The real issue is why no one is partnering with the FAA to get low EMI laptops going. I could see this as a feature in business class laptops. I imagine if its overly shielded and can be controlled by onboard wireless commands to disable its wireless/bluetooth, etc it'll work just fine. Some will balk at how big brothery this would be, but others might not care because they just want to get some work done during that long "we're starting to descend soon" call the pilot makes which can take up to an hour.

Or we can start slowly by approving new shielded Kindles and Nooks.

I could even see ethernet on every arm-rest. That way you can have a shielded laptop doing zero wifi and still getting internet. One can dream, I guess.

Oh America, why don't you have high speed rail connecting everything?

Re:Quick response from a pilot (1)

tlhIngan (30335) | more than 2 years ago | (#36351328)

The real issue is why no one is partnering with the FAA to get low EMI laptops going. I could see this as a feature in business class laptops. I imagine if its overly shielded and can be controlled by onboard wireless commands to disable its wireless/bluetooth, etc it'll work just fine. Some will balk at how big brothery this would be, but others might not care because they just want to get some work done during that long "we're starting to descend soon" call the pilot makes which can take up to an hour.

Or we can start slowly by approving new shielded Kindles and Nooks.

Because for every "usable everywhere" laptop passenger, there will be 100 passengers without, and who'll scream and shout about the one guy who cna use his laptop. And really, the flight attendant would hav eto know what laptops are and are not EMI shielded, when they really have more important things to do and know.

Also, certification takes time. Months. Laptops change almost weekly it seems - by the time a laptop gets through certification you'll porbably end up with something that's decidedly obsolete. And never mind stuff like upgrading RAM or hard drives - they can change the EM pattern a bit as well.

Plus, it's expensive - are people willing ot pay for it? Probalby not. And it has to be re-done if something fails.

Same goes for ereaders and the like - they're $140. A certified one will probably easily add 50% or more to the price, and even then they'll be replaced with a new one by the time it goes through certification.

That's why. Not enough people care about the 30 minutes per flight lost to takeoff/landing restrictions to really be willing to pay the premium. They'd just read a newspaper, a deadtree book, or something else. Or just take a nap.

Re:Quick response from a pilot (1)

gad_zuki! (70830) | more than 2 years ago | (#36351524)

Thats a pretty defeatist approach. Look at backpacks that fold open so you can scan your laptop without removing it.

If I presented that to you 10 years ago you'd think it was crazy and say "sheez just open the laptop bag."

Now I see professional travelers with these things at a rate of 80% or so. I have one also.

I don't see why the EM issue would be so difficult. Most of the changes would be trivial shielding and its not going to add that much when they are designing a new product.

Also its worth noting that this is not just a perk for passengers but a revenue stream for the airlines. I'd pay 15 dollars wireless if they allowed me to really use my laptop as opposed to keeping it locked up 50% of the time.

EM is probably something we're going to be looking at regardless. We're already replacing paper manuals with ipads. We're moving to a paperless society. This stuff is getting addressed now for a lot of equipment. Just make a spec companies can work off and let us make these machines.

Re:Takeoff/landing sequence key for shorter flight (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36348028)

Actually, they put this rule into effect NOT because of radio interference, but because of the risks involved in flying electronics in the case something goes wrong. The reason this rule is in effect at takeoff and landing is because that is when something is more likely to go wrong, and though you may have a strong hold on your electronics when things are going fine, in the event of an emergency, the last thing on your mind is carefully holding onto your electronics. That object that you just took your hands off can now fly around loosely in the cabin, potentially injuring another passenger. I suspect the radio interference excuse is 0.0000001% truth, and 99.9999999% because it's an easier excuse to use, and more apt to be believed by non-technologically inclined people, which is about 99.9999999% of the population.

Re:Takeoff/landing sequence key for shorter flight (1)

thegarbz (1787294) | more than 2 years ago | (#36348266)

And don't give me the "radio interference" crap - there's no evidence at all to support this and it's routinely ignored by anybody in the industry.

You may think yourself a lone hero against air flight regulations but your ignorant statement is common in nearly every industry where there is a rule which people disagree with. I can tell you radio interference is nothing to be scoffed at and we have had an oil refinery shut down traced to someone using a two-way radio in an equipment room. There are also documented cases of equipment causing interference to some equipment.

In general your issue is that the rules are designed for the lowest common denominator. Sure your fancy phone with it's airplane mode doesn't generate any RF, and the latest Airbus A380 may have fantastically hardened circuitry, but can the same be said for a shitbox plane on Aeroflot with a soviet era cellphone to go with it?

We have the problem in the oil industry too. I get constant complaints from people who think they should be allowed to use their phones in the control room, or worse yet in the refinery. "How can this possibly cause a spark and blow us up?" is the question they would ask. To which I show them a printout of a news paper clipping about a person who's cellphone exploded and set his pants on fire and reply "Given this evidence how can you prove to me that it can't?"

Despite what you may think most rules (TSA excepted) are not brought in at the bar after a couple of rounds. They are brought in in response to incidences. How invasive and practical the rules may be is often a point of contention. Saying no one is to bring any electronics on board would never fly (pun intended). But you have only two 15-30min periods in which you are disconnected.

Sit down, shut up, and do some meditation. You're quite clearly impatient and addicted to technology.

Re:Takeoff/landing sequence key for shorter flight (4, Informative)

Alioth (221270) | more than 2 years ago | (#36348400)

Radio interference from cell phones is real.

A few years ago I was flying (privately, in a light aircraft). I was flying with a friend on a trip, and it was to be his first real instrument approach (in the rain, at night). I was at the time instrument current.

And it was a good job too. Seconds after ATC cleared us for the approach, his wife called and his phone went off. Immediately, all audio was obliterated by "bip b b bip b b bip b b bip b b bip BRRRRRRRR" (if you own a GSM phone, you'll know the sound if you've ever left it near your car radio, or any audio equipment). If ATC had called at that moment to tell us to do something else, we wouldn't have heard a thing over that noise. Fortunately he could hand over to me and I could continue the approach while he dug his phone out and switched it off.

At the very least it was highly distracting, at the worst, ATC might have wanted to tell us something important and we'd have missed it.

Re:Takeoff/landing sequence key for shorter flight (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36351058)

Never mind the audio, the distraction in a critical part of the flight is far more dangerous.
"Flight mode" is the wise option to use when you are in the front row of an aircraft.

The real issue with the mobile devices is that 30 years ago people did not foresee everybody running around with transmitters, thus no effort was put in to shield anything. And the equipment in a lot of airliners was designed that long ago.

Re:Takeoff/landing sequence key for shorter flight (1)

Solandri (704621) | more than 2 years ago | (#36352434)

Putting this together with TFA, why is it that the airplane mode in seemingly all cell phones shuts off both the cellular service and the wireless? If your commercial flight has WiFi, you can't use it on your smartphone without the interference-causing cellular service also being on.

Re:Takeoff/landing sequence key for shorter flight (1)

emj (15659) | more than 2 years ago | (#36355844)

Radio interference from cell phones is real.

Back when phones had antennas I used to push the elevator button by placing the cell phone antenna beside it and make a call. It worked almost everytime.

Re:Takeoff/landing sequence key for shorter flight (1)

brunes69 (86786) | more than 2 years ago | (#36348428)

The reason you can't use electronics during takeoff and landing has nothing to do with additional interference, it has to do with distraction. They want you to be able to see and hear any and all instructions from the flight crew immediately. If you have earphones on that are not connected to their systems (where they can pre-empt them), then that is not possible, and dangerous.

Re:Takeoff/landing sequence key for shorter flight (1)

drolli (522659) | more than 2 years ago | (#36348746)

No, i give you "the radio interference crap".

I did measurements using electronics which was not designed to pick up signals in the GHz range. If i turn on my mobile phone, these goes mad.

The fact is simple: if you ask me to design a amplifier, switch, etc, then i will test it against the EMI which was specified. I wont give it a full spectrum test. when most commercial aircrafts where designed, the frequency ranges used for GSM/UMTS/WLAN/Bluetooth where not used. This means that 100s of electronic subsystems of a plane where *not* designed to operate under this kind of emi.

What is AFAIU (i am a physicist not a ee type) bad is that the CMRR of differential circuits breaks down at frequencies beyond the designed one. If you have anything rectifying in a highly sensitive input path of a standard instrumentation amplifier, then no matter what the processed output signal will be, you will see the amplitude of the input signal - even if you used the differential design to be insensitive to EMI (at the time of construction). Filtering out something like pulsed RF spikes, typical for mobile phones, is difficult it you know what to expect, and impossible if you did not even consider it. So, taking into account that an airplane has probably thousands of signal paths and probably hundreds directly relevant to the pilot.

Luckily pilots are highly trained in doing things which go beyond a simple PID controller and can recognize inconsistent inputs, and if a single subsystem fails, pilots can usually react.

Re:Takeoff/landing sequence key for shorter flight (1)

badboy_tw2002 (524611) | more than 2 years ago | (#36352692)

Is it just me or do non-US carriers seem to switch the "no electronics" sign off sooner? No idea if that's actually true, but when I fly Air Canada or Lufthansa, even in US airspace it certainly seems like they're much faster to say "ok, you can pull your stuff out now". Would that be FAA policy or just airline policy?

Re:Takeoff/landing sequence key for shorter flight (1)

evilviper (135110) | more than 2 years ago | (#36358810)

Think about it: how many routine flyers, do you think, have forgotten to turn off their phone when they sit down, or just didn't bother? How many incidents have occurred as a result? It's zero, in case you are wondering....

"Think about it" all you want, that won't make your gut feeling a fact. Let's try some actual facts:

http://m.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.php?c_id=1&objectid=10701029 [nzherald.co.nz]

Re:Takeoff/landing sequence key for shorter flight (1)

cthulhu11 (842924) | more than 2 years ago | (#36359308)

The ever-decreasing row pitch and lack of ways to stop the dumbass in front of you from reclining without warning have made it impossible to use a laptop on a plane anyway.

20% - really? (1)

friedman101 (618627) | more than 2 years ago | (#36347602)

I find that 20% number hard to believe. I make the trip from Seattle to Atlanta fairly regularly and I hardly ever notice anyone using the in-flight internet. It's hard to justify if your laptop battery will die half-way through the flight.

Re:20% - really? (1)

DarwinSurvivor (1752106) | more than 2 years ago | (#36347748)

I wonder if a large portion of that is people connecting with smartphones/iphones. Might be something to look for next time you fly.

Re:20% - really? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36347948)

Is there even room to use a laptop on an airplane?

When I'm on one of those international flights that still serves meals, I can barely even manage to eat the meal. I've got my elbow jammed against my sides so hard that I have to try to reach things my bending my wrists at extreme angles. And laptop is usually quite a bit bigger than those little airline food trays.

How do you evenpress the keys at the edge of the keyboard without elbowing the guy next to you in the ribs? Maybe it could work on a relatively empty flight next to an empty seat (or aisle) but trying to use a laptop on a full flight sounds really unpleasant - for everyone.

Re:20% - really? (1)

hubie (108345) | more than 2 years ago | (#36348052)

I don't even bother to try. Besides the elbow issue you mention, if the person in front of me reclines their seat, then I have to tip my screen forward where it gets too bothersome to try to use. I might try again if I ever move to a tablet computer.

Re:20% - really? (1)

rhook (943951) | more than 2 years ago | (#36349346)

I've never had an issue using a 15" laptop on a flight. Then again I do not fly coach unless it is a short trip.

Re:20% - really? (1)

ncc74656 (45571) | more than 2 years ago | (#36350860)

I wonder if a large portion of that is people connecting with smartphones/iphones. Might be something to look for next time you fly.

This. I usually have my phone out for reading ebooks, playing games, and watching movies, but the handful of times they've had free WiFi on flights, I haven't hesitated to connect. I usually have a USB battery pack with me, so running down the phone's battery isn't an issue.

Re:20% - really? (1)

FooAtWFU (699187) | more than 2 years ago | (#36350602)

My last United flight (actually Continental), IAH-SFO, had power outlets under the seat. Real, three-prong power outlets. Of course, given that it's United, it's only a matter of time before they start trying to charge you separately for that, too.

(Each and every seat had a video screen in front of it with a credit card swipe slot for you to pay for the television service. and also so they could advertise to you, naturally. i hate you, United.)

Already joined.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36347648)

the one-handed mile high club

I can see the ads now... (1)

MrKaos (858439) | more than 2 years ago | (#36347834)

in GENERICAIRLINE you can enjoy our in-flight intertainment system on every flight.

Almost as lame as this comment.

Re:I can see the ads now... (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#36350346)

in GENERICAIRLINE you can enjoy our in-flight intertainment system on every flight.

Almost as lame as this comment.

Lame, but knowing the type of people running this, I'm guessing the really lame part of this will be ads screaming the speed of 10 megs/sec in 50 point font and the download cap of 250 kilobytes per flight in 4 point font.

The whole wireless industry is such a dilbertian confuse-opoly whenever I hear anything about it, I assume they're trying to screw over the customer, more so than any other industry out there. So I avoid it as much as humanly possible. A pity, as I'd probably be a good profitable customer if I were not so repelled by industry practices.

Big technological problem... (1)

RyuuzakiTetsuya (195424) | more than 2 years ago | (#36348036)

...which causes a huge business problem.

The tech isn't cheap, and it isn't easy to use on the carrier's POV. So they're handing it off to companies like Gogo. Gogo needs to pay the bills so they charge users for the service. I can be amused without internet for over 5 hours, and I resent having to pay for internet access.

I'm not the only one either. It doesn't matter if your'e a techie or not, being a tightwad crosses all sorts of boundaries.

if they can't solve getting access in flight cheap enough to the point where it's free, it might stop here with Gogo taking $10 from every schmuck who can't stop tweeting.

(Don't get me wrong, I love twitter, but not enough to spend ten bucks to tell my friends that I'm taking a shit in that cramped box they call a toilet.)

Tried it (1)

frednofr (854428) | more than 2 years ago | (#36348256)

I've tried it on a Norwegian flight (2h). Low bandwidth and high ping made the connexion only good for light surfing and IM. Also, the connexion was unstable, and I experienced several 10sec+ drops.

I would pay for it on a 4h+ flight though. Sucks being offline on those longs flights.

Take a laptop (1)

ledow (319597) | more than 2 years ago | (#36348660)

Take a laptop, by all means, but internet-connectivity is hardly necessary or even desirable even on a long flight.

The laptop will die before you get there, guaranteed, and most planes *don't* have charge points that the passenger can access. And yet, without Internet, you can watch movies, listen to music, read books, program (it's brilliant for programming if you get a quiet night flight), draft email (yes, email does NOT have to be sent live every time), play games, etc. If you can't occupy yourselves with a pre-prepared laptop, I don't see that an Internet connection is going to help you.

And I'd really rather not have to share a high-latency, low-bandwidth, insecure, monitored, filtered and paid-for connection with 100+ other passengers who are all either a) using wifi on the same channel in a confined metal box or b) have cables strewn about the place (which is also still infinitely less useful than just giving people a mains socket which is still *NOT* standard on quite a lot of flights).

Gimme a mains socket, not an internet connection, and I'll have my own, personal, in-flight movies for the entire flight with MY OWN headphones for myself and my companion. Hell, you can even bill me for the electricity at an extortionate KWh rate if you like. I already do just that but there's never anywhere to plug in to recharge, especially on short European flights.

If you *need* Internet that badly that you can't be without it for a day or survive 24 hours in a plane without it, you seriously need to work on your attention span and getting a couple of hobbies (even if computer-related, e.g. programming, gaming, etc.)

Re:Take a laptop (1)

tzanger (1575) | more than 2 years ago | (#36349256)

I've used gogo's internet several times. It's exactly the same speed as a modern CDMA (Verizon) mobile internet connection. No drops, consistently 50ms latency, no apparent port blocking, although forced web proxy. I really don't know what kind of shit hardware you're using, because my 4yo macbook with original battery still gets 4h of battery life doing the kinds of things you'll be using internet for on a flight (i.e. not compiling or gaming). Hell, my 4yo Toshiba U300 with a new battery running Ubuntu gets between 2 and 3h doing the same thing.

I like their service, and $10 really isn't a bad price to pay if you want to chat on IRC or talk to your friends on MSN on an otherwise boring flight. It's about the same price you'd pay for a frou-frou coffee to do the same thing in a coffee shop. Sure, I'd prefer free, but let's be realistic here. All this "need internet badly" and "attention problems" bullshit comments I see here are missing the point entirely. I get by just fine without internet, but sometimes it's just nice to virtually hang out with your friends when you're flying over them.

Re:Take a laptop (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36351666)

Hmm I don't think they are bullshit comments. I like internet too, but I can live without it for a few hours. People who can't have serious issues. Sadly, they're usually the ones doing the most useless stuff with their laptops (Facebook, twitter, etc.)

Even if you really do get 4 hours of battery life, that's not really much on a 13 hour flight.

Re:Take a laptop (1)

rhook (943951) | more than 2 years ago | (#36349382)

Get a laptop that isn't old and you should easily get 4.5+ hours battery life. Many airlines have power outlets in the seats now (no, you cannot charge off of them), but you will need an airline adapter. If you want to be sure you have an outlet all you need to do is fly business class. It is much more comfortable anyway.

Re:Take a laptop (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36353468)

"all you need to do"? Yes, and if i want 3second 0-60 times, all I have to do is buy a $90k car. It's not like we all choose coach because we don't realize that business class is nicer. Thanks for letting us in on that little secret.

Re:Take a laptop (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36350140)

Some airports will let you charge anything for free (Hong Kong, some other airports in China), even when waiting for your baggage. Most European airports I've been through will let you charge stuff while you're waiting to board only. OK, I guess you can't do that in North America (funny story: my retarded relative brought a laptop to the US in 2002, but forgot the charger. Used up the battery in flight. They were going to detain her at the security checkpoint as she couldn't turn it on to prove that it was a laptop, but it just happened that some guy a few places back down the line had the same laptop and the charger).

WiFi is Useless for Laptop Users on Airplanes (1)

swrider (854292) | more than 2 years ago | (#36349658)

Unless you have a tablet or smaller device, WiFi will be useless on an airplane because as soon as you fire up your laptop, sign up, and pay your fee, the old lady in the seat in front of you will fully recline her seat. You won't be able to open your laptop more than an inch or so, unless you forgo your tray table. And, if you politely ask her to pull her seat up a bit, she will turn into the old lady that walked across the ceiling in that shitty apocalypse movie from a couple of years ago.

The airlines should set aside a section of seats with more space between seats, power outlets, and dedicated attendants for the people who want to pay extra to work while flying. Throw in a dedicated head and free drinks and it might almost be worth it.

Re:WiFi is Useless for Laptop Users on Airplanes (1)

rhook (943951) | more than 2 years ago | (#36349910)

Ever hear of business class? It really doesn't cost that much more and it is well worth it.

http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2352/2431564897_7f1b508c3e.jpg [flickr.com]

Re:WiFi is Useless for Laptop Users on Airplanes (1)

hey (83763) | more than 2 years ago | (#36350404)

"However, this does not come cheap: as rough rules of thumb, you can expect to pay four times the normal economy fare for business, and eleven times for first class! " from http://wikitravel.org/en/First_and_business_class_travel [wikitravel.org] (I donno how legit that site is)

Re:WiFi is Useless for Laptop Users on Airplanes (1)

rhook (943951) | more than 2 years ago | (#36355406)

I get offered upgrades for as little as $50 all the time.

Mile High WiFi (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36350070)

I have Mile High WiFi at home :-/.

I'll pay them for service (1)

guruevi (827432) | more than 2 years ago | (#36351292)

I would pay them a dollar or so for service if they offered it on short flights (4 hours) if I can get guaranteed service. The 'state of the art' is very slow, very intermittent service and they'll charge you $15 for the privilege of giving you an access code even if it never works during the whole flight + $0.25/minute when it actually works.

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