Cell Phones Can’t Crash Airplanes

February 3rd, 2011

I have blogged in several places about the absurd FCC and FAA policy that bans the use of cell phones in-flight, and even before takeoff (see here, here, and here). Gizmodo has a great post about the great lie about the “threat” of electromagnetic interference.

But the thing about the electromagnetic interference is that it’s a lie.

The Federal Communications Commission and the Federal Aviation Administration banned in-flight cell phone use in the early ’90s, despite not having any evidence that gadgets had ever caused an accident. Hey, it seemed feasible that they could. In 2006, the FAA decided to conduct a study to see if cell phones actually did interfere with aircraft computer systems, and because they couldn’t find conclusive evidence that they didn’t mess things up, they fell back on their nearly two decade-old supposition that they might. (Update: Commenters point out that the Mythbusters found that TDMA phones (few and far between these days) can interfere with unshielded navigation systems, but for all intents and purposes on any commercial flight, it’s a lie.)

Plenty of other countries permit the use of cell phones in-flight.

Of course, the FAA has since approved in-flight Wi-Fi service, which is now standard on many airlines, and in the meantime we’ve stayed shutting off our cell phones before takeoff. But that doesn’t mean the rest of the world has. As the Daily points out, the Inflight Passenger Communications Coalition counts 139 nations that currently approve in-flight cell service. Over seven million in-flight calls have been completed to date. All those planes have kept on navigating just fine.

Grrr. This policy really ticks me off. Those few minutes from when the cabin doors are closed, and I am allowed to used portable electronic devices are among the most frustrating aspects of any travel experience. I hate it!