The Captain's Corner  

Posted by Brock Booher

Dear Blog Readers,

Thanks for reading. A few months ago I had an idea for a magazine column that could answer questions about flying. I posted something on Facebook and asked what you would ask your Captain. With that feedback, I developed the voice and style of the column. I wrote three articles and had them reviewed by my writing coach. Of course, as soon as I got feedback, I found out that USA Today had just started a similar column.

I haven’t given up, and I am actively seeking a magazine, but in the meantime, I wanted feedback from my blog audience. So, here is the first article.

Since the days of Icarus, we mere mortals have dreamed of flying. Today, thanks to modern technology, that dream is a reality. We streak across the sky in marvelous flying machines cocooned in modern comfort. Uncommon men and women deftly manipulate the controls to carry us up into the blue yonder, and return us safely to earth.

Captain Brock,

Do cell phones really interfere with the airplane’s systems, or is it simply a big hoax intended to keep people from loudly discussing their personal problems among total strangers at 35,000 feet?

Curious in Columbus

Dear Curious,

It is true that nothing is more annoying than listening to would-be Casanova loudly ramble on about his love life in the overcrowded line at Starbucks, but the ban on cell phone usage in flight does serve a higher purpose.

The Boeing 737 is equipped with several radios for communication and navigation that operate at bandwidths similar to cell phones. Communication devices, such as cell phones and radios, are susceptible to electromagnetic interference – when the signals compete or interrupt each other. Because of concerns over electromagnetic interference with aircraft communication and navigation radios, the FCC placed the ban on in-flight cell phone use in 1991.

In addition to the FCC, the FAA also requires that any communication equipment used on a commercial airplane be tested before use. That isn’t a blanket application. That means that each time a new phone is released, the testing for that individual cell phone model would have to be completed all over again, a cost prohibitive venture. (As usual it comes down to money.) Simply put, restricting cell phone usage is the safest course of action, and it costs too much money to prove that it isn’t the safest course of action.

Several airlines have begun equipping their airplanes with WiFi, and you will soon be able to Google and Facebook as we slip the surly bonds over Kansas. That equipment has been tested. Just to keep the flight friendlier, we have restricted the use of VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol).

So, to ensure the safest possible flight, since your particular new smart phone has never been proven not to interfere, turn off your cell phone. It is still the safest course of action. Besides, nobody wants to hear you blabber on about your trip to the dentist. Turn to the person next to you and start a conversation. Heaven forbid you make a new friend by talking to someone face-to-face.

Sit back and enjoy the ride.

Captain Brock

This entry was posted on Monday, August 30, 2010 at Monday, August 30, 2010 . You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed .


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