Boeing Frontiers
August 2003
Volume 02, Issue 04
Top Stories Inside Quick Takes Site Tools
Industry Wrap

Cell phones on jets by 2006?

Cell phone use aboard commercial planes in flight could be approved in about three years if a new study authorized by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration shows that their transmissions don't threaten safety. According to USA Today, the study by the Radio Technical Commission for Aeronautics, a nonprofit advisory panel to the FAA, should be completed by October 2005.

The study also will look into what effects other portable communication devices, such as modem-equipped laptops and handheld computers and wireless messaging devices, have on aircraft equipment, the paper said.

In the meantime, airlines are moving to expand the time that passengers can use cell phones aboard planes on the ground. In July, both American and Continental began allowing passengers to use cell phones longer before taking off, and to turn them back on very shortly after landing.

Cell phone use aboard aircraft is banned by a Federal Communications Commission rule that the FAA supports. FAA rules also prohibit use of most personal electronic devices. Passengers can use items such as tape players, CD and DVD players, laptops, hand-held games and PDAs during flight but not during takeoff or landing.

There have been a handful of cases in which pilots have suspected that personal electronic devices were interfering with their instruments, but the effect has not been proven.

FAA spokesman Les Dorr told USA Today rapid changes in technology might mean that such devices are safe now, or could be made safe to use. "It's been seven years since we last looked at this issue," Dorr said. "That's like dog years, given the advances in technology."

Officials at the Air Transport Association, the industry's lobby, support cell phone use in flight, but only if it can be shown that energy emitted by phones won't compromise safety.

Currently, passengers are allowed to use their cell phones onboard planes only when the cabin door is open, or when permitted while rolling toward the gate


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