Feeds

FCC urges rethink of aircraft personal-electronics blackout

Signs of sanity over American skies

The Power of One Infographic

The head of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has written to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) asking for a rethink of the current ban on using electronic items in flight.

Currently all electronic devices have to be switched off on US aircraft operating below 10,000 feet, and can only used in flight-safe mode (i.e., with the radios turned off) above that ceiling. Now FCC boss Julius Genachowski is asking for a rethink.

"This review comes at a time of tremendous innovation, as mobile devices are increasingly interwoven in our daily lives," Genachowski wrote in the letter obtained by The Hill.

"They empower people to stay informed and connected with friends and family," he wrote, "and they enable both large and small businesses to be more productive and efficient, helping drive economic growth and boost U.S. competitiveness."

The FAA first started banning portable electronics on flights back in 1991, originally for devices using the 800MHz frequency range but now extending to portable electronics of all types. It looked again at the ban in 2004, but decided to do nothing, but has recently said it's examining its options.

There's no denying that the ban annoys air travelers, particularly since the rules as they stand make little sense. Electronic items that don't even have radios are included in the ban, for example, and there's never been a study that conclusively showed that passenger consumer electronics could cause serious problems for an aircraft.

Cabin crews also loath the rules, since it's a major point of friction between them and customers. Many pilots also question whether the ban is really necessary, particularly as the FAA has already certified them to use tablets at all stages of a flight if the fondleslabs contain flight data.

Keeping the ban on electronics, however, does have one major advantage as far as the FAA, airlines and aircraft manufacturers are concerned: it's cheap.

In order to certify electronics on aircraft, someone has to test each of the thousands of devices for interference on each type of commercial aircraft. But no one wants to pay for that, so it's simply more convenient to issue a blanket ban and leave the cabin crew to take the flak for it.

Hopefully the FCC letter may help nudge the FAA into a more reasonable frame of mind. But El Reg suspects that until a system is instituted for someone (probably the device manufacturers themselves) to pay the testing costs, we'll see no signs of sanity. ®

Maximizing your infrastructure through virtualization

More from The Register

next story
Sit back down, Julian Assange™, you're not going anywhere just yet
Swedish court refuses to withdraw arrest warrant
UK Parliament rubber-stamps EMERGENCY data grab 'n' keep bill
Just 49 MPs oppose Drip's rushed timetable
MPs wave through Blighty's 'EMERGENCY' surveillance laws
Only 49 politcos voted against DRIP bill
EU's top data cops to meet Google, Microsoft et al over 'right to be forgotten'
Plan to hammer out 'coherent' guidelines. Good luck chaps!
US judge: YES, cops or feds so can slurp an ENTIRE Gmail account
Crooks don't have folders labelled 'drug records', opines NY beak
Delaware pair nabbed for getting saucy atop Mexican eatery
Burrito meets soft taco in alleged rooftop romp outrage
British cops cuff 660 suspected paedophiles
Arrests people allegedly accessing child abuse images online
LightSquared backer sues FCC over spectrum shindy
Why, we might as well have been buying AIR
prev story

Whitepapers

Top three mobile application threats
Prevent sensitive data leakage over insecure channels or stolen mobile devices.
The Essential Guide to IT Transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIO's automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise.
Mobile application security vulnerability report
The alarming realities regarding the sheer number of applications vulnerable to attack, and the most common and easily addressable vulnerability errors.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Consolidation: the foundation for IT and business transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.