More on Wireless Devicess on Airplanes

by Devanshu Mehta

Yesterdays story about Australian officials blaming a wireless mouse and other consumer electronics for severe problems in their avionics left me very confused. Either they were looking for an easy scapegoat or there is something seriously wrong with airline security.

In 2004, the FCC was considering lifting the ban on wireless devices in airplanes. However, in March of 2007 the FCC terminated that effort. This was their statement:

Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rules prohibit the use of cellular phones using the 800 MHz frequency and other wireless devices on airborne aircraft. This ban was put in place because of potential interference to wireless networks on the ground. […]

The FCC determined that the technical information provided by interested parties in response to the proposal was insufficient to determine whether in-flight use of wireless devices on aircraft could cause harmful interference to wireless networks on the ground. Therefore, it decided at this time to make no changes in the rules prohibiting in-flight use of such devices.

The question is- in an environment where 4 ounces of liquid are deemed unsafe for travel, you would think the heavy-handed TSA would have banned cell phones and wireless mice a long time ago.

I’m not suggesting that they do that- in fact, I want someone to call Qantas and the Australian Transport Safety Board’s bluff. Or prove them right and take the entire airline industry down- because which suit wants to travel without their cell phone, laptop or PDA?

(Also: Scienceline investigates why you have to turn off your iPod at take off and landing.)

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