Smartphones on a plane

Adriene Hill Aug 28, 2012

What’s more grating than a fit-pitching toddler on a cross-country flight? A loud-mouth grownup complaining into a cell phone on that same flight. “The turbulence is crazy.” “Did you know crackers cost like 5-bucks now?” “And then he said….” From PC World:

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration is taking a new look at the use of portable electronics on airplanes, seeking public comments starting this week and forming a government-industry group to study when smartphones, tablets and other devices can be used safely.

But, and this is an important but: “One thing the study group won’t look at is allowing voice calls on cellphones during flight, the FAA said.”


Airlines once commonly offered pay phones in seatbacks, but since passengers started getting online in the air using Wi-Fi, the carriers have taken a firm line against calls using VoIP (voice over Internet Protocol).

Thank you FAA, for keeping a whole lot of passengers saner. (But if tablets and smartphones might be OK, what is the problem with VoIP calls?)

**Update: The FAA’s actual request for comments doesn’t make it sound like it has ruled out VoIP on Personal Electronic Devices (PEDs).  From the document

Increased access and usage of PEDs may distract passengers during crewmember safety briefings and instructions. In addition, PED usage may have an adverse impact on flight and cabin crew responsibilities and duties. In 2005, the FCC solicited comments on the potential to expand the use of cellular phones in flight and received responses from passengers concerned about the use of cell phones by other passengers. One of the main concerns expressed by the public comment was the fear of passenger disruptions caused by cell phone use in a crowded public conveyance. 

• If some PEDs are found to be compatible with aircraft systems, should there be
restrictions on the use of PEDs for other reasons?
• Should voice communications using other technologies such as voice over IP be
limited or restricted?

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