Up until recently, the FAA/FCC has held that devices emitting radiation can interfere with the airplane instruments and are therefore unsafe for use during flight, but people often don't know why. Some feel the claims of safety concerns are just a ploy to get people to pay the exorbitant fees of the built-in air phones, others think it's just to keep the chatter down in the cabin. But with business travellers and other consumers putting pressure on the airlines to provide affordable/complimentary services like WiFi and allow cell phone use, it's becoming clear that this needs looking into.
Some IEEE folks did covert studies of people using cell phones on commercial airlines, with somewhat surprising results. Despite the regulations, people often use their cells on planes, and not just in airplane mode to play games. They're using them to make and receive calls and messages. And the emissions from these devices do sometimes cause significant interference, especially with GPS navigational equipment used in take-off and landings.
The article talks not only about the state of regulation, but also offers some suggestions on more reliable testing of emission interference and how the regulating bodies could work more cohesively. The authors go on to show how some airlines are working around the problems and addressing the needs of their customers.
More At: IEEE Spectrum: Unsafe At Any Airspeed?.
So will airplane mode become obsolete? Will we be allowed to use cell phones and other communication devices on airplanes in the near future? Will it be safe? As Number-5 from Short Circuit would say, we need more input.
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