The Raw Feed
Where technology and culture collide

Friday, July 13, 2007

Dear FAA and FCC: We Passengers Are Fed Up

The commercial airline status quo is unacceptable, and we passengers demand immediate action. More than 240 million of us fly on more than 875,000 U.S. air carrier flights per year and pay the airlines more than a quarter of a trillion dollars annually for airplane tickets. We spend billions more on taxes, year after year, to fund the Federal Aviation Administration and the Federal Communications Commission. We pay your salaries and pensions to ensure our flight safety (FAA) and to maximize the quality of electronic communications (FCC). All of you are failing us. It's time for you to step up and do your jobs. Here are our demands:

1. Install low-cost Wi-Fi on all passenger jet airplanes.

2. Shield all airplanes from gadget interference.

3. Ban cell phones forever.



Anonymous Anonymous said...


Your article had a number of points that are simply inconsistent with reality.

1. Cell phones are not dangerous to airplane instruments. Aircraft instruments are already required to be shielded because airplanes fly over hundreds of radio, TV and cell phone transmission towers broadcasting at thousands of times the power of a cell phone or PDA. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and FAA studied the effect of cell phones, laptops and PDAs on aircraft systems in flight and found nothing. Had they found a danger, cell phones, laptops and PDAs would be collected at the gate, forcibly turned off, loaded in a shielded baggage compartment, and returned after landing.

2. Most wireless devices do not work on an airplane at cruising altitude because they are too far from a cell tower. Cell phone range is 3 miles – 15,000 feet. Most wireless LAN ranges are far less, on the order of 100-400 feet. Commercial airliners cruise at 30,000-45,000 feet. They are only below 15,000 feet at take-off and landing. Cell phones are banned during take-off and landing because these are the most dangerous phases of the flight – most crashes occur shortly after take-off, or shortly before landing. The FAA wants passengers to hear the crew, not be totally absorbed in a phone call, if life saving instructions are being given.

3. The airlines, not the FAA, decided not to spend the money to put satellite broadband data gateways and network cables or wireless networking devices on their aircraft. Perhaps if passengers were willing to pay the extra cost of the systems the airlines might reconsider. The taxes and fees passengers pay to the Government provide for safe air traffic control and airport improvements. They are not intended to provide in-flight entertainment. Air Force One is a military aircraft connected to a military data system, not a civilian data system. The President cannot be out of communication for the 6-10 hour duration of a transoceanic flight. I seriously doubt many passengers on a commercial flight have the same responsibilities, or the same impact on global affairs, as the President. The Administrator of the FAA is provided with nothing more then a commercial cell phone when she flies. Members of Congress and other public officials have broadband access only if they are in a military aircraft, or a private aircraft with a gateway installed.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007 7:21:00 AM  

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