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Bluetooth on an Airplane?

Cliff posted more than 9 years ago | from the listen-to-the-stewardess dept.

Wireless Networking 145

bblazer asks: "Since I travel quite a lot, I am very familiar with the warnings about cell phone use on an airplane (could be bunk, but I still respect it and those around me). But what about using Bluetooth? I just got off an Alaska Airlines flight where the flight attendant said that we were not permitted to use any device that sends or receives a radio signal. I often use the bluetooth features of my PowerBook and Treo while onboard a plane (you can have the Treo on without having the cell phone on), or I set up a mini-network with others I may be traveling with. Could Bluetooth cause any problems, or is this something I need not worry about?"

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Are you (2, Interesting)

Jeremiah Cornelius (137) | more than 9 years ago | (#12286640)

...Less than 32 feet away from critical in-flight avionics?

Re:Are you (1)

voisine (153062) | more than 9 years ago | (#12288676)

Most passenger jets have microwave ovens on board for food service, so I'm sure the avionics are tollerant to 2.4Ghz interference. Of course I really have no idea. They might use some special super shielded micorwave ovens...

Only one way to find out! (1)

IIDX (873577) | more than 9 years ago | (#12286647)

Turn it on and see if you encounter "turbulence" ;)

ban all WiFi laptops (0, Flamebait)

nri (149893) | more than 9 years ago | (#12286664)

Mayby all WiFi enabled laptops should be banned.
Only older laptops should be allowed.

Re:ban all WiFi laptops (1)

mfos.org (471768) | more than 9 years ago | (#12287579)

Most laptops have a hardware switch to enable or disable wifi for this very reason.

Yes it could cause problems. (2, Insightful)

Banner (17158) | more than 9 years ago | (#12286681)

Personally I wouldn't use it. And if I was on a plan with you, and you were using it, I'd report you. Yes the odds of it causing the aircraft to crash are small, but do you really want to take that chance?

Anything that transmits has a chance of interferring with the signals the plane's navigation equipment receive. As the quality of a lot of consumer electronics isn't very high, the possibility that some unit may be broadcasting some horrendous noise on an off frequency is realistic.

Last of all, with these new fly by wire aircraft (and one company in particular has had major mishaps because thier code stinks), do you really want to do anything that might introduce a spurious signal into a system that can't deal with it?

I'd sure rather not.

(PS I used to test aircraft systems for a major aerospace company, my observations here are based on real life work experiences).

Re:Yes it could cause problems. (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12286992)

major mishaps because their code stinks? Are you refering to Airbus by any chance?

the parent poster is probably fine on a Boeing or (shudder) Tupolev bird, but airbuses are dangerous...

Re:Yes it could cause problems. (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12287064)

My understanding as to why you're not allowed to use cell phones on planes has to do with cell phone technology. When you're on the ground, you're only within broadcasting distance of one or two cell phone towers. But in the air, your phone can broadcast to hundreds of different towers. I'm not an expert in cell phone technology, but my understanding is that the signal would use tower resources from every tower within range.

Honestly, if a consumer wireless device can interfere with critical airplane functionality, we've got serious problems. It would be fairly trivial for a terrorist to boost the signal comming out of their cell phone or whatever was necessary to cause problems, yet we haven't seen anything like that.

Re:Yes it could cause problems. (4, Insightful)

BrookHarty (9119) | more than 9 years ago | (#12287188)

*cough* bullshit *cough*

First, the reason cell phones are banned was they cell sites couldn't handle the handoffs of cell phones in air. The wireless communications companies asked the airlines to stop in flight calls, and offered and created companies just for in fight service.

2nd. Fly by wire isn't, fly by RF, there are actual wires, and these wires wont pick up RF from a device as you say. If you're simple phone could put it out of service, any plane flying over a guys house with a HAM radio would crash it. Planes don't crash from RF like that.

And you say you worked for the industry, well guess what, so do I.

BTW, did you want a cookie for reporting the big bad man to the air stewardess (HA, Fuck Political Correctness)...

Re:Yes it could cause problems. (2, Interesting)

dubious9 (580994) | more than 9 years ago | (#12287548)

And you say you worked for the industry, well guess what, so do I.

What industry? Airlines? Baggage handlers also work "in the industry" but I wouldn't think of them especially suited to answer questions about RF interference.

Fly by wire isn't, fly by RF, there are actual wires, and these wires wont pick up RF from a device as you say.

So if by "in the industry" you mean have actuall experience testing for interference then you surely know wires are antennas. They *will* pick up RF signals. Chances are small that your RF unit will cause any malfunction in some instrument, but it has happened.

Several years ago, my EE prof was returning on a flight from his vacation when he observed a guy talking on his cell well into the taxi. Sure enough the flight attendant comes over and tells him to shut it off. He ends the call but doesn't shut the phone off. Long story short, his cell phone was interfering with some instrument needed for take-offs. The pilots repeatedly asked everybody to make *sure* they turned everything off. A stewardess heard his phone make a beep from an incomming message or something and turned it off. After it shut down, everything returned to normal.

Now, I've heard anacdotes about how cell phones and airplane cabins have been redesigned since then, so I wouldn't expect it to happen nowadays.

To the OP, yes it can happen, and if it happens at all it'll be at takeoff or landing when all of the instruments are being used. I prolly wouldn't worry about using Bluetooth stuff en route.

I used to think it was stupid that they made you turn off everythink too, but after taking RF theory and learning about all the different ways RF can interfere with electronics, I make damn sure everything is off at takeoff and landing..

Re:Yes it could cause problems. (4, Informative)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 9 years ago | (#12287650)

"To the OP, yes it can happen, and if it happens at all it'll be at takeoff or landing when all of the instruments are being used. I prolly wouldn't worry about using Bluetooth stuff en route."
The only instruments that require RF are navigation. Not used all that much at takeoff. Also all standard navigation instruments are VHF except GPS. Even if your GPS failed 100% the pilot would then use INS and or VOR/DME. As too a cell phone messing with FBW. If that ever happened the designer should be shot. A FBW system is well shielded from almost all RF if not then a good lightning strike or sunspots.
Frankly the story about the cell phone I find iffy at best. It might have happened back in the day of analog phones and it might have caused interference with a VOR or comm radio. Any worry about interference would have nothing to do with navigation it would have to do with interfereing with plane to tower communications. The pilot really need to keep in touch with the tower during take off an landings a garbled transmition could cause a near miss or worse.
Your bluetooth uses 2.4ghz and is so low power that you really do not need to worry about it. BUT they are so touchy these days I would shut it off just to avoid going to jail.

Re:Yes it could cause problems. (1)

Thing 1 (178996) | more than 9 years ago | (#12289756)

[...] a garbled transmition could cause a near miss or worse.

What could be worse than a collision?

Re:Yes it could cause problems. (1)

prefect42 (141309) | more than 9 years ago | (#12290527)

A near miss isn't a collision, it's a miss, that was close. Not even necessarily as close as you might think, it just means that the minimum separation distances have not been maintained.

Re:Yes it could cause problems. (2, Interesting)

finkployd (12902) | more than 9 years ago | (#12287674)

Really, so why are planes affected by the tiny transmitters inside cell phones but not the massive TV, Radio (commercial and amateur), radar, and other transmitters that blast them with many many times as much RF near the airports?

The difference in power more than makes up for the proximity issue.

As a further exercise, try finding a single verified instance of a cell phone affecting an airplane. I did some quick googling but all I can find are "friend of a friend" type stories.

Finkployd

Re:Yes it could cause problems. (3, Informative)

FreeLinux (555387) | more than 9 years ago | (#12287871)

I was in agreement with you, until you laid down the challenge and I remembered an FAA site. In searching for it, I found some other interesting stuff.

Interference and model jets [jetpilots.org] Ironic?
2002 CAA Omega interference PDF [caa.co.uk]
Did Personal Electronic Devices(PEDs) cause TWA 800 to explode?? [aviationtoday.com]
US House Commitee [house.gov]
2001 NASA Report PDF [nasa.gov]
2002 NASA Report PDF [nasa.gov]

I never could find the FAA listing of aircraft incidents. It showed several cases of problems with avionics that the cockpit crew attributed to PEDs

Re:Yes it could cause problems. (1)

BrookHarty (9119) | more than 9 years ago | (#12287856)

And you say you worked for the industry, well guess what, so do I.

What industry? Airlines? Baggage handlers also work "in the industry" but I wouldn't think of them especially suited to answer questions about RF interference

Yes, the baggage handlers post to slashdot during the work day.

Re:Yes it could cause problems. (2, Funny)

RevAaron (125240) | more than 9 years ago | (#12287825)

Well, I work in the industry too, and guess what? Farting at the wrong time can cause a huge catastrophy. So, obviously, our gentle readers should believe me over you and the grandparent!

Re:Yes it could cause problems. (1)

Jjeff1 (636051) | more than 9 years ago | (#12288634)

I don't know about planes, but my cel phone causes horrible static and buzzing around my PC speakers, car stereo as well as cheap analog phone sets.

My cel phone on my computer desk is apparently interfering with the amp from my speakers under the desk. It has to be a good 5 feet from the amp before the noise goes away.

So given that, my phone stays off on the plane.

Re:Yes it could cause problems. (1)

NickHewitt (876323) | more than 9 years ago | (#12290555)

My Nokia 6310i phone can cause my Laptop to switch off! - new Compaq nc4010 it is meant to be some kind of interference with the backlight electronics.. if my phone ringing can cause my laptop to turn off I would imagine that they can have effect on all maner of other objects (HP accept the fault as a known fault - however this doesnt help my company which uses these phones and laptops as their standard!) we all have to keep out phones as far away from the laptops as possible! which is really handy when using IR Dialup...

Re:Yes it could cause problems. (2)

richy freeway (623503) | more than 9 years ago | (#12290837)

I'd think that a planes electronics and cabling is shielded considerably better than any electronics you can find in your house. You're comparing apples and oranges.

Re:Yes it could cause problems. (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12288771)

So explain why radios and TVs are banned -- am I somehow sucking extra radio waves into the plane? Does the low quality of typical FM broadcasts annoy the flight crew into suicide?

Are the afraid that my radio will start transmitting? If they are, what's to say that it's any safer when it's off -- it's not supposed to transmit in any state, and "off" is hardly the same as "power disconnected" on most modern devices.

The whole thing is bunk and anyone who has spent more than 10 minutes studying electronics know it. Yes, you can cause harmful interference with common electronic devices, even those that aren't intended to transmit. You could also short out a set of D-cells and start a fire in the cabin, which would be at least as bad and at least as easy, but I am allowed to use D-cell batteries in a plane at any altitude.

Phones and other devices.... (1, Interesting)

zoloto (586738) | more than 9 years ago | (#12286690)

...simply won't take down an airplane. Even if you're in first class right behind the cockpit. I've had a wireless scanner agressively scanning in the background for a number of hours before I realized it was actually doing it and never ONCE did a pilot, flight attendant ever come on the PA, or heard chatter when the cockpit door was open.

Hell, I've even used my cell phone (with headset) to check voicemail. The things simply do not interfere with flight information systems etc.

It took me by surprise, but everything from a JetBlue flight to a jumbojet, anything by delta or the like have no problems. I'm not sure why they say such things.

They say it will interfere, but then again they're using industry grade devices that state by the FCC that it has to accept interference, even unintended or otherwise and blah blah blah. Everyone's read the warnings, they're just being overly cautious in my opinion. It simply won't take out a plane, no matter how hard they may argue.

And my roommate is a pilot, so argue with him. He says they "could", but there's that plausible factor that scares people into submission. But once again, IT WILL NOT TAKE OUT AN AIRPLANE SYSTEM!

~z

Re:Phones and other devices.... (2, Insightful)

Punboy (737239) | more than 9 years ago | (#12286736)

A wireless scanner doesnt transmit, it scans. It won't transmit unless it picks up a network to hitch on to. Unless you arent talking about a wireless network scanner, in which case i have no idea what a wireless scanner is.

Re:Phones and other devices.... (1)

T-Ranger (10520) | more than 9 years ago | (#12287520)

Well, thats not quite true. Wireless receivers resonate back, the power being a function of the frequency, antenna and other stuff. Thats how rfid works, after all.

I remember being told to turn off /all/ electronic gear during take of and landing (still?) because some of the various radio systems used during that phase are very close to commercial FM. FM receivers do resonate back in that range (which could cause a problem).

Re:Phones and other devices.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12286814)

And my roommate is a pilot, so argue with him. He says they "could", but there's that plausible factor that scares people into submission. But once again, IT WILL NOT TAKE OUT AN AIRPLANE SYSTEM!

Being a pilot does not qualify him to make decisions regarding conflicts among communications devices. Pilots are little more than glorified taxi drivers. The fact that you cite him as evidence that the scientists and engineers don't know what they are talking about is laughable.

Maybe you've just been lucky... (3, Interesting)

Banner (17158) | more than 9 years ago | (#12286959)

As I said earlier, I used to work on the systems that are in use today. I am an industry expert. Yes the odds are against you causing a problem.

But it CAN happen.

The worst place for it to happen is when you're in the weather, flying on instruments, and the plane already has some kind of problem. Then you're going to crash and die. Or burn to death in the wreckage.

You can quote your own ancedotal evidence, but again, I used to test those systems for a living. I'd rather not put a million to one chance against the lives of a plane full of people, or myself.

Re:Maybe you've just been lucky... (1)

littlerubberfeet (453565) | more than 9 years ago | (#12287056)

Speaking of ancedotal evidence, I was on a Cessna 182 long ago, and the Garmin GPS navigation/weather system would screw up whenever a cell phone was being used. The pilot semi-legally made two calls, both to FBOs at our destination. I remember big patches of yellow appearing on the Garmin screen, indicating a 100% chance of severe lightening on a crystal clear spring day.

I know the larger IFR-capable planes use more robust systems, but I would agree, the risk is still there...And I assume anybody using a cell phone on an airplane to be utting me in serious danger.

Also, if I remember correctly, commerical airplanes use wireless networks to communicate amongst different systems within the plane and also to send real-time diagnostics to the manufacturer or maintenence center.

Re:Maybe you've just been lucky... (1)

Skorpion (88485) | more than 9 years ago | (#12290223)

GPS is quite easy to distort. Yesterday I was unable to get a reading (hanheld unit) because of electrically-charged clouds - a storm was coming, and this is not the first time that it fails in such a weather.

I've seen this also when using GPS to track airplane flight I was on. The unit worked well during most of the flight, and then when the plane begun descent and went into a layer of thick, dark clouds, the signal was lost.

But I still don't understand why ban receivers. And in Europe it seems they ban only CD players and cellphones, the usual before flight spiel never mentioned radio receivers.

Re:Maybe you've just been lucky... (1)

BrookHarty (9119) | more than 9 years ago | (#12287214)

Million to one chance an asteroid will fly hit your plane. Better not fly.

Re:Maybe you've just been lucky... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12288000)

there are how many flights a day? Million to one adds up to like once or twice a year...

Re:Maybe you've just been lucky... (3, Insightful)

node 3 (115640) | more than 9 years ago | (#12288681)

So, exactly how many planes have crashed due to cellphone or WiFi usage?

Planes don't crash when they fly in areas that have radio towers, they don't crash when flying under satellites, they don't crash when people "accidentally" leave their cellphone one. But, of course, in the lab, when you turn on a cellphone right next to a radio receiver, you get little blips, oscillations, or otherwise see some minor effects. Yet it's absolutely clear that these effects aren't important in the real world. Is it because the radio sources are located tens of meters from the equipment? Is it because the effects are minimal (the device doesn't need the tolerances that the variations on your scope shows)? Is it because you cherry pick your results (well, if the system is hit by lightning and there are four cellphones equadistantly distributed around the plane at 25m, and they ring in order, the plane will think its headed backwards for 300ms)?

When people believe a theory that contradicts reality, we call it superstition.

You can quote your own ancedotal evidence

And you quote yours. Who wins in this discussion? How about the person whose claims actually match reality?

Now, if you have examples of planes being downed by a cellphone, I'm all ears. Let's hear some facts that turn your superstition into reality, if you're so convinced.

Re:Maybe you've just been lucky... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12290716)

The FAA gets reports on this sort of problem less than once per month. Compared to the number of flights, I would have to assume there's maybe a 1 in 3,000,000 chance that any given flight would have an anomoly due to a passenger's device.

Now how many of those flights with anomolies actually crashes? Probably none. If you're worried about the tiny chance that one of those 1 in 3,000,000 flights will actually crash, you shouldn't go out in the sun because of the risk of skin cancer, you shouldn't golf due to the risk of getting struck by lightning, and you should play lots of poker because you're probably going to get a royal flush 5 times before you're on a flight with a PED anomoly!

dom

Re:Phones and other devices.... (1)

Glonoinha (587375) | more than 9 years ago | (#12287081)

...simply won't take down an airplane.

Neither can a set of toe-nail clippers, but see it they don't play 'how many fingers can I get up this guy's ass' with you for trying to sneak em on-board.

What do you have to gain, and what do you have to lose?
Do you want to be right, or do you want to be happy?

The way I look at it, I'm generally not on the plane long enough to get anything done; at best the electronic toys are a nice distraction to pass the time. Read this month's Wired or LinuxWorld or whatever, get on the ground and get your groove back on.

Re:Phones and other devices.... (1)

X0563511 (793323) | more than 9 years ago | (#12288013)

The way I look at it, I'm generally not on the plane long enough to get anything done


That all depends on the length of the flight. Most flights I have been on spanned the country or the Atlantic, and they both exceed 6 hours. Are you saying that 3/4 of a work day is not enough time to get anything done? (assuming 8 hour shifts)

Re:Phones and other devices.... (1)

Glonoinha (587375) | more than 9 years ago | (#12288612)

Ahhh - I was talking typical travel within the US with at least one layover (ie, less than 2 hours total in the air.)

The other concerns I have are machine empathy - I can almost hear the laptop hard drive scream every time the machine is moved while running, and battery life (even the best laptops run maybe 3 hours on a normal workload.)

Re:Phones and other devices.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12288752)

Granted, the odds of something causing a problem are remote, but rather than sort out what might or might not be, it's easier to just have a blanket "no transmitters" rule. For a while they didn't even want laptops used (and some of the earlier ones had CPUs running at freqs in or close to aricraft comm band), in spite of noone being able to demonstrate any interference. That wasn't workable, so they settled on a no transmitters rule. Even if you are using handheld radio, designed and certified for use on aircraft (and licensed to use it), they still won't want you to use it.

Then again, there is serious talk about allowing cell phones to be used on planes (putting a cell site on board the plane). So the problem can't be too bad. I've also been told that part of the reason for banning cell phones is that they will try to connect to the network and when airborn, can hit too many cell towers causing confusion for the cell system.

Wrong place for such question (3, Insightful)

Turmio (29215) | more than 9 years ago | (#12286710)

Average member of Slashdot crowd isn't fully proficient in commenting flight safety. Your local air line representative is. So why don't you pick up your phone and make a call and have your question answered in no less than 30 seconds by a professional?

Re:Wrong place for such question (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12287041)

Because they'll obviously say that you shouldn't use Bluetooth on the plane, and we don't want that answer.

Re:Wrong place for such question (2, Insightful)

BrookHarty (9119) | more than 9 years ago | (#12287252)

Average member of Slashdot crowd isn't fully proficient in commenting flight safety. Your local air line representative is. So why don't you pick up your phone and make a call and have your question answered in no less than 30 seconds by a professional?

Most flight safty rep's will just read of a list of things they dont allow. They dont or have not tested RF in planes. Manufacturers do.

So, since a large group of engineers who do read Slashdot and design electronics for RF gear, or work in the RF industry might know a thing or 2.

Why believe everything you read or someone tells you. Question.

Youre an adult, "Because I told you" is not a good enough answer. Facts are.

Re:Wrong place for such question (1)

Flavio (12072) | more than 9 years ago | (#12288970)

So, since a large group of engineers who do read Slashdot and design electronics for RF gear, or work in the RF industry might know a thing or 2.

You're being too optimistic. Most posts are actually written by self-absorbed nerds who think they're experts in RF because they saw Maxwell's equations sometime during college. If that.

A lot of misinformation goes around in these discussions, and even though most posters want to sound authoritative, they certainly aren't competent engineers.

Re:Wrong place for such question (1)

EvilMagnus (32878) | more than 9 years ago | (#12288125)

When was the last time you encountered a first-level phone person who was a professional at anything other than reading from scripts?

Re:Wrong place for such question (1)

bblazer (757395) | more than 9 years ago | (#12288744)

Because when I did talk with a pilot for Delta, he didn't know what Bluetooth was....

Re:Wrong place for such question (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12288812)

My average local air line rep. has no idea how electronics work, how they might potentially interfere with other electronics, or what the probablity of such interference might be. Nor should they -- that's a job for someone like me -- an electrical fucking engineer -- and requires no knowledge of flight whatever.

Shouldn't affect anything (5, Informative)

glarvat (753298) | more than 9 years ago | (#12286723)

Here's a 2002 article [mobile-review.com] from Mobile Review that discusses that studies regarding cell phones and avionics. And they are seriously considering permitting cell phone and wifi usage in flight, as indicated by this article [com.com] from December.

They used to.. (2, Interesting)

Meph_the_Balrog (796101) | more than 9 years ago | (#12286784)

They used to say this alot for portable CD players too, though I doubt the average discman would output more RF noise than a walkman or other audio device.
Also AFAIK (dredging through my old basic electronics training and sometimes dodgy memory) RF interferance needs to be at the same or a harmonic of the broadcast frequency to generate problems.
This last part is only things I have heard, and isn't verified truth, however I have been told that the reason they don't like you using mobile phones in aircraft is less about affecting instumentation, and more about the signal "footprint" you leave on the ground as your phone tries to access the nearest phone tower. This apparantly ties up channels on multiple towers. Do take this with a grain of salt however, as I am unable to verify it as fact.

Re:They used to.. (1)

RustNeverSleeps (846857) | more than 9 years ago | (#12287260)

RF interferance needs to be at the same or a harmonic of the broadcast frequency to generate problems.
This isn't really true. Any RF signal can induce current in nearby electronic devices, and those devices don't even have to be radio devices for interference to result. Even purely digital systems with no radio component whatsoever can be affected by strong nearby sources of RF. I don't know much about airplane instrumentation, but I would imagine some of it is pretty sensitive and could be fairly susceptible to interference from nearby sources of RF.

Re:They used to.. (1)

bluelip (123578) | more than 9 years ago | (#12288677)

It doesn't need to be a harmonic (radio term loosely related to multiple) of the freq the transceivers are transmitting/listening on. The wavelength of the radiation emitted from the offending device just needs to match (or be a harmonic of) any length of electrical conductor used in an important system to cause noise.

Re:They used to.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12290684)

The issue with walkman types of devices isn't the RF they radiate, but that the headphone wires act as antennae.

dom

since they let laptops be used and airphones (1)

johnjones (14274) | more than 9 years ago | (#12286801)

ever seen someone use a laptop ?

these things are EMF monsters
compared this to bluetooth which is pretty low grade and moves freq's

ok look at what airlines do... switch everthing off at takeoff and landing

thats the time to switch off otherwise if they let you use a laptop then just use it...

personally use the time for downtime and read somthing good like
lookup the book airframe
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/redire ct?tag=zot tmann-20&path=tg/detail/-/0679446486%3Fv%3Dglance

or

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/03 93 324508/qid=1113949540/sr=1-3/ref=sr_1_3/104-029408 5-4492736?v=glance&s=books

get over it fly qantas they dont crash...

regards

John Jones

There's no danger (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12286846)

I'm on an airplane right now, over the Atlantic. Sure, THE MAN doesn't want you to turn on your devices because he thinks they will interfere with flight electronics, but you know better right?

In fact I think I'll turn on my PDA and hook it up with my powerbook via bluetooth right now, just to show them how it's done.

There, see? I'm still here! Still humming along! Plane didn't fall out of the sky!

Y'know, I don't remember the ocean being so

No FAA restriction of any kind... (3, Insightful)

nneul (8033) | more than 9 years ago | (#12286938)

There is no FAA restriction on the use of any electronics in flight. It is totally up to the pilot/flight crew. A pilot flying a private 747 owned by a sports team for example can freely allow use of any electronics at any time.

There are specific restrictions imposed by the FCC depending on the band in use, such as cell phones, and that is on it's way out.

Unless the FCC has applied restrictions to the band - you can freely use whatever you want subject to the requirements of the flight crew.

Now, that's not to say any pilot is going to approve - in the world of lawyers, it's far easier to say no than to take any risk, even if it's practically nonexistent. Think about it - the first accident that occurs after a pilot allows it - it's going to get blamed, even it it has nothing to do with the real reason for the event.

Re:No FAA restriction of any kind... (2, Insightful)

Banner (17158) | more than 9 years ago | (#12287004)

This must be new. Because back when I was flying the restrictions applied to all planes, even private ones, even private ones I was flying by myself, alone.

Re:No FAA restriction of any kind... (2, Informative)

nneul (8033) | more than 9 years ago | (#12287201)

Re-read my post... The FAA doesn't have any restrictions other than what is deemed acceptable by the flight crew. The FCC (not FAA) has a very specific restriction against cell phone use in the air.

If you look at the regs, pretty much all of the places it's referenced, you can see this exception to any restrictions: .....
(5) Any other portable electronic device that the operator of the aircraft has determined will not cause interference with the navigation or communication system of the aircraft on which it is to be used. ....

It's commonly perceived as an FAA restriction since the public only sees "faa people" i.e. flight crew - enforcing it, but the underlying restriction is done by the FCC.

Where it really sucks is that currently, even though it's perfectly safe, I can't use my cell phone in my own aircraft. That is on it's way to being changed, but unfortunately, what is likely to happen is that the big-money telecoms will get the rule changes worded in such a way as to only allow commercially provided aviation cell phone services, instead of a generic change.

Re:No FAA restriction of any kind... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12289651)

"There is no FAA restriction on the use of any electronics in flight. It is totally up to the pilot/flight crew."

You, sir, are full of shit--or don't know how to read.

I'm skimming through the 2005 FAR/AIM right now, and, well, looky here. Part 91.21 states (page 161 in the ASA version if you really want to be exact):

(a) Except as provided in paragraph (b) of this section, no person may operate, nor may any operator or pilot in command of any aircraft allow the operation of, any portable electronic device on any of the following U.S.-registered civil aircraft:
(1) Aircraft operated by a holder of an air carrier operating certificate or an operating certificate; or
(2) Any other aircraft while it is operated under IFR.
(b) Paragraph (a) of this section does not apply to--
(1) Portable voice recorders;
(2) Hearing aids;
(3) Heart pacemakers;
(4) Electric shavers; or
(5) Any other portable electronic device that the operator of the aircraft has determined will not cause interference with the navigation or communication systems of the aircraft on which it is to be used.

--

Basically, unless the pilot in command tells you that you are allowed to use your electronic devices, you're not allowed to unless you're in Visual Flight Rule conditions (e.g. not above 18,000 feet MSL/weather permitting/etc) or unless he/she gives you the okay to (with the exception of the devices listed under section "b").

Re:No FAA restriction of any kind... (1)

nneul (8033) | more than 9 years ago | (#12289774)

And that basically boils down to exactly what I said - "he/she gives you the okay to" is pretty much the same thing as "up to the pilot/flight crew".

If you want to nitpick on wording, fine. But the net effect is - the decision falls on the pilot with the requirement that they explicitly ok it, which is exactly what I said in the first place.

b.1-4 give you additional devices that allow you to go ahead and use without even asking.

dude, the law doesn't care if it is true or false (4, Informative)

imsmith (239784) | more than 9 years ago | (#12286943)

it is my understanding that there are two issues with cellphones and transmitters on commercial airplanes - neither of which were issues with military arcraft when I was on active duty (the 1990s).

Issue one is that airplanes move through cells too fast for most cellphones to deal with it, and that causes them to ramp up their RF signal strength and the frequency of their outbound conenction traffic in an attempt to maintain a conenction to the network. (cell phones weren't allowed on transports but our UHF, SHF, and VHF radios worked fine)

Issue two is that avionics packages are not always shielded to spec in older airframes and there is the outside chance that 'something' could go wrong. (just like the outside chance that 'something' could go wrong at the gas pump) (military airframes are emissions shielded by guys who make the tinfoil hat brigade look sane)

The technical problems are exaserbated by the social problems - namely that there isn't a lot of significant science on the validity of the fears, that there are issues of profit to be had by airlines for 'owning' connectivity onto and off of a plane in flight, and that the technology landscape is a too fluid for the legislative response to be valid. Add to this the blanket of "security" as a catch all excuse for anything feasable but hard, and you begin to get a real picture of the situation that results in the "no transmitters" rule.

The bottom line is that, while there may be no compelling technical reason to ban transmitters (my opinion) no one wants to be responsible for making the call and then have an NTSB report come back naming cell phones as the cause of a airline crash.

Until that changes, it is illegal, just like replicating digital instances of copyrighted material, carrying a disposable lighter or wooden matches through security, making jokes about something being "da bomb", asking to see the regulations on presenting ID at the gate, or telling your less geeky pal how to defeat the ROT-13 encryption on his e-book.

Turn off your wifi and bluetooth before you get on the plane.

Re:dude, the law doesn't care if it is true or fal (1)

Detritus (11846) | more than 9 years ago | (#12287199)

It isn't just transmitters. Back in the stone age of commercial aviation, they discovered that local oscillator radiation from super-heterodyne radio receivers was capable of jamming navigation receivers. Just tune your FM radio to a frequency that is 10.7 MHz less than the active VOR.

The Real Reason Why Phones Are Banned On Planes (5, Funny)

nathanh (1214) | more than 9 years ago | (#12286978)

It has nothing to do with "interference" with the electronic systems on the plane. Rather it's a social engineering trick. You see, when you're at 10,000 feet all the mobiles are out of reception range. So any calls or SMS are temporarily diverted to voicemail or messagebank. When the plane lands, suddenly every phone is in reception and all the stored voicemails and SMS flood through to every mobile on the plane. Simultaneously every mobile starts that stupid BEEP BEEP BEEP noise that lets you know about your stored messages. Imagine 700 mobiles all going BEEP BEEP BEEP in unison! It's enough to drive you mad. The flight attendants got pissed off at the noise and cleverly invented this cock and bull story about "interference". Now the mobiles are turned off until you reach the baggage claim area where everybody turns on their mobile phones and annoys the baggage claim attendants instead. You see, the flight attendants have this secret war going on with the hated baggage claim attendants; you and your mobile phones are merely pawns in their devious mind games. Muahahaha.

Re:The Real Reason Why Phones Are Banned On Planes (0)

greppling (601175) | more than 9 years ago | (#12287290)

Now I finally understand why cell phones are banned in the immigration area at least at Detroit Metropolitan Airport, it has never made sense to me before...

Re:The Real Reason Why Phones Are Banned On Planes (1)

aventius (814491) | more than 9 years ago | (#12288776)

thats funny, most people i know, including myself, turn their cell phone on as soon as they land.

Re:The Real Reason Why Phones Are Banned On Planes (1)

bluGill (862) | more than 9 years ago | (#12288956)

They make cells that are more than 6 miles wide, and cell have to deal with hills and trees. 5280 feet are in a mile. A plane at 30,000 feet is within normal range of some tower. However the plane has line of sight, so 40,000 feet is likely to still be in range, even though that distance on the ground might be just out of range.

You're forgetting something... (1)

i8a4re (594587) | more than 9 years ago | (#12289660)

The cell phone towers broadcast a signal perpendicular to the tower. While some of the signal goes up, most of it just goes straight towards the horizon. Under ideal circumstances, if you were directly above the cell tower, you wouldn't get a signal. If you're 5 miles above a tower in an airplane (which is almost a Faraday cage), you probably wouldn't get a signal.

Re:The Real Reason Why Phones Are Banned On Planes (2, Interesting)

TiggsPanther (611974) | more than 9 years ago | (#12290720)

You got modded up funny, and do seem to have put a largely humorous slant on it, but I think you do kinda have a serious point there. At least when it comes to the "700 mobiles all..." idea.

It may not be so much the message-alert tone, but there is that annoying buzz that can affect radios and stuff. Now one phone putting out interference as it searches for a signal then gets a backlog of messages may not pose too much of a risk... (Yes, I know that sometimes it can just be the one small signal in the wrong place in the wrong time)
...but 700 mobiles all making those connections at the one time could put out a hell of a lot of that damned buzzing. (Or possibly swamp out a small but vital device somewhere)

And maybe, compared to hardware failure, the buzzing noise might not seem like such a dangerous thing (personally I've found it little more than an irritation on my headphones) but do we really want a plane full of mobiles to result in the pilot getting a burst of buzzing on his headset when he's either trying to concentrate on something or get vital information over the radio?

Do you really want to find out? (1)

MichaelMarch (686675) | more than 9 years ago | (#12286989)

So you're in the air. The pilot comes on and tells everyone to put the air mask on and brace for impact. Do you really want to find out at that point that, YES this crash was your fault, or Possibly that this crash was your fault. When I'm in the air I read a news paper.

Re:Do you really want to find out? (1)

KTorak (860467) | more than 9 years ago | (#12287032)

You would know far in advance of that. If there was any type of problem with interferance, the Flight Crew would make an annoucement asking people to double check their cell phones/other electronic devices, or simply tell everyone to shut them off (such as taxi, takeoff, climbing, descending, and landing procedures require.)

Semi-qualified opinion (1)

Xavier CMU (829477) | more than 9 years ago | (#12287020)

I've been talking to my dad about this (who's degree is in electrical engineering but has worked for 20+ years as a commercial airline pilot) and he says that there is no documented situation, ever, where a cell phone has caused unsafe interference with the navigation equipment onboard the plane. The interference that these devices cause is an interference with signals that are already coming from outside the craft, there is no possibility of creating such a garbage signal that it would cause the plane to crash or otherwise malfunction. If this were the case then it would be quite easy for someone to dupe the navigation signals from the ground and incite some sort of catastrophe onboard, there are many failsafes in place to keep this from happening.

Re:Semi-qualified opinion (4, Informative)

Detritus (11846) | more than 9 years ago | (#12287124)

Tell your dad to check NASA's Aviation Safety Reporting System database. He should be familiar with it. There are many, many, reports of passenger electronics devices causing problems with aircraft systems.

Re:Semi-qualified opinion (1)

sakusha (441986) | more than 9 years ago | (#12287748)

Tell your dad to check NASA's Aviation Safety Reporting System database.

hee hee.. maybe he can ask his mommy to check back issues of the RISKS listserv, where the discussion of electronic interference has been discussed to death by professional avionics engineers.

Re:Semi-qualified opinion (1)

Xavier CMU (829477) | more than 9 years ago | (#12288686)

While setting the compass position off kilter, or slightly ebbing the coordinates of the plane may be annoying, these malfunctions are in no way 'unsafe' to the operation of the airplane, and are easy to correct. I'm not claiming that the cell phones don't do anything, I'm just saying that they aren't going to do anything seriously harmful to the plane or its occupants.

Re:Semi-qualified opinion (1)

lakeland (218447) | more than 9 years ago | (#12288980)

If cellphones really were effective in taking out planes, you'd see them banned as an anti-terrorism measure. That they're not strongly implies to me that cellphones have only irritating effects on flying.

Re:Semi-qualified opinion (1)

prefect42 (141309) | more than 9 years ago | (#12290538)

A recent report showed that there were audible artefacts heard in the pilots headset as a result of mobile phones. I figure this was the normal beepity-beep type noises people are familiar with picking up on radios and the like.

The conclusion I read was that while this wasn't exactly massive, if it happened during critical phases such as landing, it had the potential to increase pilot workload by garbling a transmission. Any increase in stress/workload during critical phases is ill advised.

Re:Semi-qualified opinion (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12287562)

Oh yeah? I was talking to *my* dad who happens to be president of, like, everything and he totally says that cellphones make planes go faster because the waves make the air smoother. The only reason they want you to turn off the phone is because it goes too fast for some of those candy-ass pilots they have now. After he told me that we toked up a wicked bag of kind bud together and played super mario kart.

My dad totally rules!

no problem (1)

ceejayoz (567949) | more than 9 years ago | (#12287158)

As Toby on The West Wing put it, "This aircraft rolled off the production line 18 months ago, and you're telling me I can flummox it with a gadget I bought at RadioShack?"

You should... (3, Funny)

Grounded0 (703575) | more than 9 years ago | (#12287255)

...take this [neisg.org] into consideration. :-)

Well. (4, Interesting)

ColaMan (37550) | more than 9 years ago | (#12287279)

I don't know about you, but I was on a flight out of Singapore once...

Casual Pilot: "Good evening everyone, we're ready to taxi, estimated flight time to Sydney is 8 hours, (blah ,blah, casual pilot chatter). Turn off all your cellphones for the duration of the flight, please."

Plane begins to taxi.

Plane abruptly stops taxiing.

Grumpy Pilot: "Whoever's using their cellphone, please turn it *off*. Crew, search the cabin."

After a pause of a few minutes, Plane begins taxiing again.

So, hell, maybe they've got a few blinkenlights that blink when someone's got the phone on. As for bluetooth, yes, the power is miniscule. But as a pilot, you'd be pissed off if the plane you're flying lost some crucial function, because of eg. an overload of some very sensitive preamp that happens to be in the roof just above some passenger using bluetooth.

So, I think they (and I!) would rather just leave the unknown variables out of the whole flying equation as much as possible, thanks very much.

Re:Well. (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12288931)

Grumpy Pilot: "Whoever's using their cellphone, please turn it *off*. Crew, search the cabin."

I'm gonna go ahead and say that, with no formal knowledge of electronics, and years of people telling him that cell phones do bad things, he attributed whatever bad thing was happening to the cell phone without any particular evidence. I could be wrong, but I dare you to prove it.

But as a pilot, you'd be pissed off if the plane you're flying lost some crucial function, because of eg. an overload of some very sensitive preamp that happens to be in the roof just above some passenger using bluetooth.

As a pilot, I'd be really annoyed that a professional engineer decided to use a really sensitive op-amp in my plane, and to leave it unshielded. Being angry at the passenger is like being mad at the power company when your UPS exlodes during a brownout.

Maybe true .. but (1)

OzPeter (195038) | more than 9 years ago | (#12289813)

(puts on tinfoil hat)
What an awsome application of social engineering to get everyone to turn their phones off :-)

yeh? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12287281)

I often use the bluetooth features of my PowerBook and Treo while onboard a plane

So why are you asking us NOW? You could have crashed long ago!

It's all FUD (1)

powdered toast dude (800543) | more than 9 years ago | (#12287287)

I've seen numerous legitimate studies and reports, originating in organizations from Boeing to the FAA, that found no verifiable or repeatable interference from any PED (personal electronic device) tested, including many which intentionally transmit.

Argue any conspiracy theory you like, whether financial or otherwise, but rest well assured that the device prohibition is NOT about interference.

$0.02,
ptd

Re:It's all FUD (3, Informative)

YrWrstNtmr (564987) | more than 9 years ago | (#12288007)

Uh huh.

A quick stroll through the ASRS database [faa.gov] , searching on "RF Interference" or "EMI"

Report # 541518
DEPARTING SFO WE WERE ADVISED THAT ATC WAS NOT RECEIVING OUR TRANSPONDER. THE ATC FAIL LIGHT WAS ON AS WELL AS NUMEROUS TCASII FAULT MESSAGES. WE SWITCHED TO TRANSPONDER NO 2 AS PER THE OPERATING MANUAL AND ATC WAS ABLE TO RECEIVE IT. THE AIRPLANE HAD ONLY ONE MODE S TRANSPONDER SO WE HAD NO TCASII AT THIS POINT. THE FLT CONTINUED NORMALLY FOR ANOTHER HR OR SO WITH NO CHANGE IN THE STATUS OF THE NUMBER 1 TRANSPONDER AND TCASII. IT WAS AT THIS POINT THAT I DISCOVERED THAT I HAD INADVERTENTLY LEFT MY PCS PHONE ON. AND THAT IT WAS IN SEARCH MODE. I TURNED IT OFF. IMMEDIATELY, ATC NO 1 AND TCAS WERE RESTORED TO FULL FUNCTIONALITY. NO FURTHER ANOMALIES WERE OBSERVED DURING THE FLT.

Report # 536654
NAV INTERFERENCE. OVER CHT, CLRED '10 DEGS R INTERCEPT LOC RWY 31L PLAN CIRCLE RWY 22L.' UPON TUNING LOC FREQ AND SETTING COURSE, IT APPEARED WE WERE ON THE LOC, ALTHOUGH VISUALLY WE APPEARED S OF COURSE. ATC ASKED IF WE HAD INTERCEPTED AND SAID WE WERE S OF COURSE. THE CDI THEN SWUNG FULL SCALE TO THE OTHER SIDE INDICATING WE WERE N OF COURSE. I TURNED TO CTR THE CDI AND WE SWITCHED TO TWR. MY CDI SWUNG R INDICATING WE WERE S OF COURSE. I NOTICED THE FO'S CDI WAS SWINGING THE SAME DIRECTION AS MINE, BUT MOVING ABOUT HALF AS FAR. WHEN WE SAW THE RWY, WE WERE N OF COURSE WITH CDI'S INDICATING WE WERE S OF COURSE. WE WERE HIGH AND WELL N OF COURSE WHEN TWR ASKED IF WE COULD GET DOWN FROM THERE. WE ASKED TO BE TURNED OUT TO RE-ENTER THE PATTERN. UPON TURNING OUTBOUND WE MADE A PA ASKING PEOPLE TO PLEASE MAKE SURE THEIR CELL PHONES AND OTHER EQUIP WERE TURNED OFF. THE CDI'S IMMEDIATELY BECAME STEADY AND WE COMPLETED A NORMAL ILS RWY 31C CIRCLE RWY 22L WITH NORMAL INDICATIONS AND THE FLT ATTENDANTS RPTED THAT A WOMAN IN THE FORWARD LOUNGE WAS TALKING ON HER CELL PHONE. AS SOON AS SHE TURNED HER PHONE OFF, OUR CDI INDICATED NORMALLY.

Report # 283948
CLBING THROUGH 13000 FT MSL, RADIO ALTIMETER INDICATED 900 FT. GPWS SOUNDED 'TOO LOW TERRAIN.' THIS WARNING CONTINUED FOR SEVERAL MINS. HAD FLT ATTENDANT CHK CABIN FOR ELECTRONIC DEVICES. PAX WAS FOUND WITH CELLULAR PHONE 'ON' BUT NOT IN USE. PAX SHUT OFF CELLULAR PHONE AND PROB STOPPED. NO FURTHER PROBS DURING REST OF FLT OR RETURN LEG (ORD-LGA-ORD).

Re:It's all FUD (1)

powdered toast dude (800543) | more than 9 years ago | (#12288098)

The reports I read mentioned anecdotal observations like these too. But none were repeatable or deterministically linkable.

If PEDs were the cause of those incidents, did anyone prove it measurably or repeatedly, or did they simply invoke post hoc reasoning to incite fear?

Let's face it, people leave their cell phones on during flight all the time, whether accidentally or obstinantly. If there was even a statistically remote likelihood of causal interference, wouldn't that be sufficient reason to not even allow them on board?

ptd

Re:It's all FUD (1)

webhat (558203) | more than 9 years ago | (#12288990)

In one of the many mobile comunications journals I get I get spammed with I read that one of the largest problems with inflight GSM trafic was not the interference - which is a semi serious problem - but the fear that Airlines would have to face litigation if they travel over multiple GSM masts at high speeds with many passengers with GSMs trying to connect to each of the masts.
As with wifi, GSM to AP communication can take some time, this is even more problematic if you take into account that the telco may be providing for partnered out of state/country telcos.
Traveling at over 1000km/h causes some disruption to normal service to not just the airborne customer, but to the ground based customers too. This searching/connecting is also the main cause of disruption to the inflight systems.

Flight crew rules, or else (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12287531)

If the FLight crew tells you it cannot be used it is a finable offence to use it. I believe it can be up to $25,000.

still sure you want to use it despite what the flight crew says?

Real info from a pilot. (4, Informative)

noahbagels (177540) | more than 9 years ago | (#12287652)

Dear /. readers.
I'm an FAA certificated private pilot of several years. I work in the aviation industry and have had some interesting experiences with this exact issue.

I do not know that, or pretend to know that operating any RF devices will "crash" an aircraft.

I DO know that even leaving a cell phone on during flight can interfere with avionics and communications. This is from real experience - and it was *very* distracting.

Here's the story: Flying closed traffic touch & goes at Oakland International Airport, my instructor (CFII) and I were both hearing a loud static noise at two places in the pattern. This was pretty darn distracting to say the least. Here we are, doing proficiency drills (landings / pattern / emergency landing without power, etc) and there's a darn buzzer in our ear shortly after takeoff and at midfield. What was it? I had left my cellphone on accidentally and buried deep in my flight bag. It was soo annoying that I asked my instructor to fly the plane while I akwardly tried to twist around the seat of the C172 and find the cell, and only was able to after several painful moments - but it was worth it for how annoying the buzzing was.

Now, this was a Day VFR (visual flight rules) flight under nearly ideal conditions. Most major aviation accidents that occur have some level of human factors that play into the incident. Further, the NTSB establishes a "chain of events" that leads up to the accident - any one of which being broken would likely have prevented the accident.

Let me ask you this. You are cruising at night in IFR conditions (in the clouds, no horizon) 30,000 feet in a commercial aircraft and the pilot loses his artificial horizon. Immediately, the pilot informs the copilot and the copilot starts flying the aircraft on his 'good' instrument. You land safely. This exact scenario was one of the more recent fatal airliner accidents in Asia, except that the pilot was distracted and did not properly give control to the copilot.

Do you want the pilot of your aircraft to be distracted by frequent buzzing in his/her headset? Aircraft these days have the capability of flying and landing themselves. Pilots are largely there for two reasons (IMHO). One of these is to re-assure the public. The other, perhaps more valid, is to deal with emergency situations. Please - don't mess with them, once the autopilot is disabled/off, they're your only chance.

Re:Real info from a pilot. (2, Interesting)

zerkon (838861) | more than 9 years ago | (#12288235)

I've also seen the static effect when a cellphone was left near a speaker of any kind, I think what you were experiencing was caused more by the fact that your cellphone was near your radio system. I doubt it would have a smimlar effect if the cell phone was farther away.

Re:Real info from a pilot. (1)

John Harrison (223649) | more than 9 years ago | (#12289715)

In my old office I would always know when my cellphone was going to ring about a half a second before it did. I simply set it next to my office phone and the office phone would buzz in an odd way immediately prior to the cellphone ringing.

Similarly I have witnessed clock radios doing the same thing.

Re:Real info from a pilot. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12289211)

Or maybe just ban the GSM phones that cause problems and leave the other technologies alone...

Re:Real info from a pilot. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12289641)

I'm a private pilot too!!

And guess what?

My instructor, on the longer cross country trips, would chat on his cell phone THE WHOLE WAY! (must be boring teaching n00bs to fly all day)

No bad interference, nothing bad at all (even better when he didn't notice that I'd randomly climb 500 feet higher than I was suppose to be)

and yeah, I flew a C172 too... woooo!

LSD while driving? (1)

cperciva (102828) | more than 9 years ago | (#12287775)

Since I drive quite a lot, I am very familiar with the warnings about drinking while driving (could be bunk, but I still respect it and those around me). But what about using LSD? A police officer just told me that I'm not supposed to use any recreational drugs while driving. I often take LSD while driving my car. Could this cause any problems, or is this something I need not worry about?

Ok, maybe I'm taking a few liberties in rewriting the question, but in all seriousness... you are required by law to obey instructions given by aircraft personnel concerning what equipment you can use while on the plane. The fact that they warn you about drinking (using your cell phone) more than they do about taking LSD (using bluetooth) doesn't mean that one is any more legal than the other, or any less stupid than the other.

Re:LSD while driving? (1)

OzPeter (195038) | more than 9 years ago | (#12287982)

Of course here in Australia they are starting to implement random drug testing of drivers. So in fact you re-writing of the question is not as outlandish as you think.

A kick in the face to other Treo users (2, Insightful)

mbstone (457308) | more than 9 years ago | (#12288994)

It wasn't so long ago that the airlines banned [slashdot.org] PDA-cellphone combinations such as the Treo. Now, many airlines including AA, Southwest and JetBlue allow you to use your Treo if you can show the flight attendant that the wireless feature is turned off (see, e.g., the back pages of American Way magazine). All it would take is one ***hole to be found interfering, say, with the intracabin communications system used by the Federal Air Marshals to have the policy revoked, and then I wouldn't be able to read ebooks or AvantGo on airplanes anymore. Thanks a lot.

Perhaps you'll understand this explanation... (3, Informative)

stienman (51024) | more than 9 years ago | (#12289109)

Have you ever played with those science exhibits where two parabolic reflectors are seperated by a large distance in a room? You talk towards one, and someone at the other reflector can hear you clearly while others between you cannot.

Have you ever driven a car that, at a certain speed or on a certian road, the car got *very* loud, and all you had to do was speed up or slow down to dampen the noise?

The first example has to do with reflection. The second has to do with resonance.

In a flying tin can you cannot possibly know where the reflections and resonance will occur. You do not know what equipment may or may not be affected by your transmissions.

While holding your cell phone next to an avionics box may have no effect, sitting in seat J23 with the cellphone in your pocket as it broadcasts at maximum power (because, see, you're in a tin can) may be just the spot to form a nice reflection which, coupled with a resonance, would put a very strong signal right at the wrong spot of an important piece of equipment.

Your blue tooth has the same problem, though the frequencies are difference, and the power *should* be less. This doesn't actually make it any less dangerous, however.

The plane you are riding in is likely very old. The equipment can easily be more than 20 years old, and if the equipment itself isn't, the design is.

The long and short of it is: Planes are a bad place to use equipment that intentionally radiates (ie, transmits). They aren't so great for devices that unintentionaly radiate either.

While "testing" does take place there is no way to ensure that everything will operate properly in real conditions - only a complete design analysis could come close to providing that information.

-Adam

Re:Perhaps you'll understand this explanation... (1)

fuzzybunny (112938) | more than 9 years ago | (#12289477)

Agreed. I think that a lot of the hysteria surrounding cell phones (for example, the ability to turn gas stations into firebombs) is bogus. Likewise, a large reason behind aircraft cell phone bans seems to be that they cause problems for providers when attempting to peer with every single mast over the tri-state area at the same time.

But as you state, you simply don't know what radio waves interfere with which electronics under what variations of a given condition. As for bluetooth, various implementations of it are specced to 2m, 10m, 30m, 100m & up. But as to how far the traffic can actually carry [gizmodo.com] ...

That said, I still think the best reason to ban cell phones on planes was laid out by a letter to the editor in a recent economist: because they're (really fucking) annoying. Do you want to spend 8 hours surrounded by "HI, I'M ON A PLANE"?

Why not shield the cockpit (1)

rueger (210566) | more than 9 years ago | (#12289114)

In all seriousness, aren't the aircraft manufacturers more than a bit negligent for not building avionics etc in ways that shield them from unwanted RF?

If every airliner has a couple hundred cel phones on it, and if in all likelihood at least couple will not be turned off, should airlines really be working to design the passenger compartment to keep that RF inside?

Or, if you're a passenger, wouldn't you prefer to know that the plane had been designed to keep cel radiation from interfering? As it stands now you have to trust that bubba two rows back is technically advanced enough to remember to turn of his mobile.

Re:Why not shield the cockpit (1)

YrWrstNtmr (564987) | more than 9 years ago | (#12289419)

In all seriousness, look up how old some commercial aircraft are.

My take on this... (1)

kernelistic (160323) | more than 9 years ago | (#12289176)

is rather simple! [properkernel.com]

Since 802.11b/g is okay ... (1)

Tyrell Hawthorne (13562) | more than 9 years ago | (#12290346)

Considering some flights offer Internet access using 802.11b/g it seems the flight companies acknowledge it to be safe. Bluetooth is using the same frequencies (the ISM bands) as 802.11b/g, but at lower power. If the flight companies allow 802.11b/g, there really shouldn't be any problem with Bluetooth.

But what do I know (IANAAirplane technician), maybe they have given the airplanes that allow 802.11b/b some special treatment? I find that unlikely though.

Simple Really (1)

orn (34773) | more than 9 years ago | (#12290610)

It's pretty simple. If you get on a commercial aircraft, you're implicitely agreeing to whatever rules they tell you. So don't be a schmuck and do what you promised to do. Don't turn on your cell phone. Don't use your laptop, game boy, whatever until after you're in the air for 10 minutes.

You agreed to it, so do what you agreed to do.

Second guessing them doesn't get you anywhere, it's just being shitty.

By the way, the AOPA right now is working to get cell phone use from the air approved. If that's done then you'll probably be allowed to use your cell phone. Until then, keep it and your bluetooth and anything else that has a transmit function off.

Its not just a good idea, its the law. (2, Insightful)

DjReagan (143826) | more than 9 years ago | (#12290686)

I doesn't really matter whether its a risk or not - the fact remains that failure to follow the directions of the airline crew is a federal offence.

I wondered this the other day.. (1)

danielrose (460523) | more than 9 years ago | (#12290922)

I wondered this the other day when I caught a flight with my new Nokia 9500. It has built in WLAN and Bluetooth.

Turning off the phone leaves the SymbianOS running inside the phone, and it can be used like a PDA. If you have WLAN or Bluetooth on, even though you have the phone part turned off, it continually scans.

I turned them both off, because I thought of it. Though I bet it does very little on a large commercial aircraft, otherwise they would have problems with people NOT turning off the WiFi on their phones.
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