“Celling it” (Mobile phones on airplanes)

Flying comes with annoyances like delays, gate changes, removing shoes, taking out laptops, and three-course meals of water, peanuts, and more water.

Then there is being required to turn off cell phones in flight. Six hours cooped in a metal tube would be less taxing with access to social media, game apps, and texting. Alas, this is not to be. The implications and inferences are often that cell phone signals would interfere with the airplane’s systems.

This is a misnomer. The ban on wireless devices instead stems from possible overload of ground cell phone networks. The FCC, not the FAA is the Alphabet Soup Agency responsible for the banned in-flight use of most cell phones and wireless devices and the associated lack of access to Twitter, Yahtzee, and green bean casserole recipes. The evidence for this ground interference is lacking but the ban has nevertheless been policy for nearly three decades.

Airplanes are designed to resist foreign signals and, besides, cell phones operate on different frequencies than airliners. Placing a call to Aunt Polly about that aforementioned green bean casserole from a few miles in the air would mean that the cell phone signal might bounce off multiple towers, rather than just one.

Therefore, the concern is that too many persons placing cell phone calls on airplanes would overload the network. A non-profit called the RTCA serves as the Federal Advisory Committee for the FAA, and it released a detailed report which found cell phones pose no risk to aircraft safety.

Moreover, Boeing and Airbus routinely test their merchandise by bombarding the aircraft in order to harden them against various attacks, be they physical or electronic. If cell phones had the potential to endanger an aircraft, they would be no more allowed onboard than a time bomb, a la Airplane!

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