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back to article Senator threatens FAA with legislation over in-flight fondleslabbing

US Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) has written to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) asking for a rethink of the rules governing the use of in-flight electronics, and has threatened legislation if the agency won't shift its position. "We live in an increasingly connected world, and information is traveling at the speed it …

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Childcatcher

Speaking as someone who has been involved in a military air crash I can tell you coffee cups made a horrible dent in skulls when moving at speed. Keeping bags, purses, music players, tablets and other crap people bring on-board secure is common sense for when the excrement strikes the rotating impeller.

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Stop

True, but the airlines are quite happy to let people continue to read their dead-tree books, which are equally adept at becoming dangerous projectiles when moving at speed. Seems a bit of a double standard to me.

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Linux

Sometimes you fight the battles you can win. It might make sense to secure the entire cabin but we know that won't happen on a civilian flight. People will get their panties in a bunch over a minor inconvenience.

That's all this really is. It just took this long for someone sufficiently powerful to run afoul of this particular rule.

Some senator was inconvenienced, so now suddenly things much change.

If you can't be unplugged long enough for a plan to get into the air then you really need to be unplugged for purely therapeutic reasons.

Reminds me of a certain recent Dr Who episode... Upgrades!

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unplugged

"If you can't be unplugged long enough for a plan to get into the air then you really need to be unplugged for purely therapeutic reasons."

Oh I sure can be. But,

a) If the rule is pointless then it shouldn't be there.

b) Some flights they load up, then they wait and wait and wait and wait (like an hour or more) on the ground and they will claim no electronics that entire time. It's not like this is necessarily some 5 minute wait.

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Anonymous Coward

But usually when a member of the government is inconvenienced they introduce legislation that only helps them. You had members of congress that would set the metal detector off, they did behind the scenes changes so they would be excluded from the additional screening all while the average citizen with the same implants gets the extra treatment.

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"Some senator was inconvenienced"

Well, it probably wasn't this Senator as I understand she shares a Pilatus PC-12 with some friends. It must have been another Senator she is friendly with that got busted playing online word games in exclusive1 first class on the taxpayer's dime.

1 all other first class tickets are purchased for the Senator's entourage not including the Senator's personal prostitute who is forced to fly business class.

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@Henry Wertz 1

"Some flights they load up, then they wait and wait and wait and wait (like an hour or more) on the ground and they will claim no electronics that entire time. It's not like this is necessarily some 5 minute wait."

Boredom. The worst of all human diseases.

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Re: @Henry Wertz 1

> Boredom. The worst of all human diseases.

It is bring the boxcutter out in you!

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Re: ...fly business class.

At least, he didn't have to fly coach!

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Anonymous Coward

@NoneSuch

Well said that man. People who have no direct experience of it are blissfully unaware of the sheer violence involved in a crash, or in certain non-catastrophic emergency manoeuvres for that matter (high speed aborted take-off, full-thrust go around).

As for that woman, no, the ban is not on a scientific basis. It's on an *engineering* basis. We're not proving it's harmful--we just can't prove it's not, and lives are at stake.

Lastly, these restrictions are usually based on ICAO rules or recommendations (although I admit I'm not at all sure about this specific one), so it might well be that the FAA is powerless to change anything in the first place.

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FAIL

Re: @NoneSuch

"We're not proving it's harmful--we just can't prove it's not, and lives are at stake."

Except they did enough proving to allow the full fight use of ipads by the pilots.

Pilots who sit right in the middle of all the equipment that is apparently susceptible mind you.

hmmm

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Meh

Re: @Henry Wertz 1

"It is bring the boxcutter out in you!"

That of course is the metaphorical boxcutter, since that's the only kind you could have on a US aircraft without the risk of being shot in the head.

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Meh

@Goat Jam

"Except they did enough proving to allow the full fight use of ipads by the pilots.

Pilots who sit right in the middle of all the equipment that is apparently susceptible mind you.

hmmm"

And while the FAA many not have checked for compatability I seem to recall there is a US federal agency that's very concerned about EM radiation in portable devices.

I think it's called the FCC.

Perhaps they could IDK compare notes?

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Testing iPads

There is a bit of a difference here

1) The pilots have been given a specific make and model. It would be possible to test this for interference (Don't know if they have or not, but it's possible). In addition, because they are being used for manuals, the equipment could be put into flight mode permanently.

3) Passengers can use anything from a mobile phone to a 5GW radio transmitter (OK I made that up). Although it's possible that some of them have been tested and shown to be clear, how do you know that every piece of equipment in use is OK? I can imagine the anger if the announcement was made "We are shortly due to take off. iPad owners can continue to use their equipment; Android users must switch their equipment off".

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Anonymous Coward

Re: @NoneSuch

"Except they did enough proving to allow the full fight use of ipads by the pilots."

Are you remotely aware of the certification issues involved in that? I suspect not.

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Indeed

"There's also the projectile effect, with that slim fondleslab becoming a very effective missile if the plane slows suddenly. Even when taxiing, some aircraft are toddling along at 25mph but can brake sharply if necessary, something people in a rush to get their stowed luggage would do well to remember."

The idiots who unfasten their seat belts and stand up before the seat belt light is switched off are starting to annoy me. The complete ban at the start and end of the flight should stay. OTOH, with some aircraft now offering in flight WiFi and even cellular connectivity, the ban on transmitting devices looks increasingly pointless.

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Flame

Re: Indeed

The idiots who unfasten their seat belts and stand up before the seat belt light is switched off are starting to annoy me.

I wish the cabin crew were encouraged to use sticks to smack those people back down into their seats.

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Anonymous Coward

Yes

"Over 90 per cent of passenger casualties come in the first and the last five minutes of flight"

Especially the last five minutes, I would think.

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Re: Yes

It's not the fall that kills you - it's the sudden stop at the end.

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Pirate

Re: Yes

Leaving aside those passengers who die from various natural causes (and I suppose the odd murder) during the flight, I would say that 100% of all casualties are caused in the last 5 seconds or less.

(5 seconds, because I'm not too sure how long it takes a plane to disintegrate after striking the ground)

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Yes

That sudden stop would have been caused by the fall though.

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Coat

Re: Yes

"It's not the fall that kills you - it's the sudden stop at the end."

Yeah, I've always wondered about people's fear of heights. Surely it's the grounds that are the problem.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Yes

As a skydiver, I have to agree with you. The fall itself is quite relaxing if all goes according to plan 'A' (or mildly interesting if plan 'B' comes into action).

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Re: Yes

I beg to differ, The first time you jump out of a plane it proves you are ignorant, the second time is when it proves you're brave. Due to the abject terror of the first, I never made it to the second.

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Can we look forward to 'Quiet Flights' in the future?

The ones where Children and all Electronic devices are verboten?

Especially for those flights that are overnight.

I'd even pay a little more for NOT having idiots sitting next to me talking to their dearly beloved throuought the flight only to find that said beloved is meeting them at the Airport.

Personally, I think that anyone who can't get by without being 'connected' for a few hours should be sent to a rehab centre for internet addicts. IMHO, this need to be connected is an addiction pure and simple.

Now where's the Dinosaur or Grumpy old man Icon when you need it?

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WTF?

Problem solved?

"We don't know for certain that it's safe to allow this."

"OK, we'll pass a law saying it's safe and forcing you to allow it."

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Re: Problem solved?

"We don't know for certain it's safe to allow you to get behind the wheel of that car, sir. So I'm afraid we can't let you."

"We don't know for certain it's safe to allow you to use that great big Henkel carving knife on that dead bird, sir. You might cut yourself. So I'm afraid we can't let you."

"We don't know for certain it's safe to allow you to (insert just about anything here). So I'm afraid..."

Mr Heisenberg is calling from the afterlife. He'd like to discuss this whole 'certainty' thing, and wants to ask why people are busy telling the universe to cease operating. For its own good, of course.

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Re: Problem solved?

If you want to slip with a carving knife and cut your hand off that is entirely your right to do so.

If you want to endanger an aircraft with several hundred people on board that is NOT your right to do so.

Your insistence on your right to use your electronic toys at all times, your refusal to accept even a trivially short interval of doing without them, does not override those other people's right to life.

It can never ever be entirely safe. But it can be made safer by eliminating unnecessary risks.

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Re: Problem solved?

Lord Cristoph

Perhaps I should clarify. I had hoped the Heisenberg reference would avoid the need to do so, but - well, apparently 'but'.

To base the justification for any action or inaction on a lack of certainty (as was the case in the post to which I so foolishlt responded) is flawed simply because ABSO-BLOODY-LUTELY NOTHING IS CERTAIN.

Likely? Possibly.

Probable? Maybe.

_Certain_? Er........

At no time did I suggest the risks associated with the actions I cited were in any way similar or equal. I was merely attempting (in a clearly poor way) to say that saying this or that should not be allwed because of some lack of 'certainty' was logically flawed.

I will now (probably and not certainly) drink some more scotch. Then, if I get lucky, I can be floored as well.

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Alert

Re: Problem solved?

If you are not certain about something that is safety critical YOU ERR ON THE SIDE OF SAFETY.

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C-N
Alert

Re: Problem solved?

May I assume that you're posting this from the basement of a rugged shelter, and that you're wearing full PPE including a helmet? Even though; YOU CAN NEVER BE CERTAIN THAT YOU ARE PROTECTED FROM EVERY FAILURE MODE.

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What a dumb fuck

The main reason is absolutely f**k all to do with interference, it's to do with having passengers not being distracted (or distracting others) during the critical phases of flight.

Aside from the projectile effect, that's why they make you power stuff off and take off headphones for take-off and landing - it's so that if the shit hits the fan the passengers might actually be able to hear and understand the cabin crew instructions. Otherwise John Smith blasting his eardrums out listening to dance music whilst sat in the exit row would be a hazard to all and sundry around him.

Why don't you think they start the (fixed) in-flight entertainment until you've been airborne a good 10 minutes?

On her dumb head be it, the first accident where people perish unnecessarily because they couldn't go without their phones, laptops, fondleslabs, and iPods for all of 10 minutes...

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WTF?

Re: What a dumb fuck

As a plane crash survivor I can tell you for certain that there will not be any meaningful plane wide announcements coming from the cockpit or the stewards. Everyone knows something has gone terribly wrong and the screaming passengers completely overwhelm even the loudest headphones or announcement system.

When the emergency breathing apparatus descend from the ceiling EVERYONE knows something has gone wrong, headphones or not. Personally I'd rather go down listening to my music or watching a movie - at least it looks cooler when they find your charred body still rocking out. When I crashed I didn't have anything to entertain me and my smokes were in my carry on bag in the overhead compartment so I couldn't even do that.

Besides, who understands the announcements on planes anyway? ccchrrrch, going down, crrrchecccksk blagharght, technical difficulties, ccccchrrgh smoke em if youchrrreccck.

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Happy

Is it insensitive to ask more about this plane crash?

I know it's not really relevant to this news article but I am intrigued as to what you were involved in, especially as you survived.

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Re: What a dumb fuck

Your projectile argument makes no sense - why am I allowed to read a large hardback novel when I have to stow my (much smaller and lighter) Kindle?

Your distraction argument also makes no sense in this context. Why is reading a Kindle more distracting than reading a broadsheet newspaper?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: What a dumb fuck

Did you know that, for example, if a plane catches fire on the runway, and you open the doors on the side that's on fire, you're likely to kill more of the occupants than if you leave them shut? In other words, if the captain announces to e.g. evacuate on the right hand side only, they need people to hear those instructions...

Granted, not true in every instance of a plane crash, but there are some circumstances that are far more likely to occur during a seemingly "normal" take-off or landing where being able to hear the announcements clearly could mean the difference between life and death.

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Holmes

Re: What a dumb fuck

> it's to do with having passengers not being distracted (or distracting others) during the critical phases of flight.

We are talking about civilians here.

You know, the guys who are not exactly trained to get out of a tinfoil cylinder of death which is either doomed or doing a bellyglide over concrete at not unconsiderable speed.

Some of which may be under sedation, sleepy, sick, on ethanol...

Concentrate away! May the Force be with you.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: What a dumb fuck

An emergency evacuation can occur in circumstances other than a crash, such as emergency landing, runway overrun, engine fire or cabin smoke to cite but a few. In those circumstances, the evacuation might be through all doors or only a subset of them (one side, front, aft, ...) and people might not even be aware that an emergency is taking place. For certain scenarios, the drill involves a simple "evacuate [all/left/right/front/aft] doors" announcement from the cockpit, which might not even register with passengers.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: What a dumb fuck

"We are talking about civilians here."

So true! :)

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Boffin

Re: What a dumb fuck

It is very important for you to hear the safety announcement prior to disembarking. Even though you may have already heard it thousands of times, including once or twice on earlier flight segments on the very same day. Could be they've added something new!

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Interference vs. Distraction

If they're worried about distraction, why don't they say so? Regulations (I work in the industry) state that, for each device/aircraft combination, a separate flight without passengers must be conducted to verify the device does not cause harmful interference. With the incredible volume of existing devices on the market (not to mention older ones that are still in use), airlines and aircraft manufacturers don't want to take the time to conduct all the tests currently required by the FAA.

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Re: Interference vs. Distraction

I meant to specify, those regulations apply specifically to the taxi, takeoff, and landing phases of flight. That's how the airlines are fine to offer the WiFi and cellular connectivity during the rest of the trip.

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Re: Interference vs. Distraction

Ok, I don't work in the industry, but a thought that comes to mind is to load a plane with *every* damn piece of electronic equipment they can think of that someone might carry and put sensors around to detect and record all the possible frequencies which they might kick out.

Then "play back" that recording in a test plane using signal generators, starting off with it stationary and see if there's *any* result. If not, then try a low speed taxi test, then high speed taxi test etc until eventually you carry out a simulated landing approach at eg 5000 feet such that if anything goes wrong you've still got time to switch the recording off and re-establish control.

If, after all that, you still get no result, try it with other planes. If still no result, I'd think you've got safety certification.

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Stop

Re: Interference vs. Distraction

Most modern top-line devices will probably be fine, but how about some power jacked kit bought off of eBay or some seriously off-brand device. Even more disturbing is an improperly repaired or modified device. Sure, it looks just like every other unit, but lurking under the shiny exterior......

I betcha that a fondleslap on the carpeted aisle would make an excellent surfboard.

Pay attention. Grab your overloaded bag out of the bin with BOTH F'ing hands so you don't drop it on me or I'm going to take that phone and .......

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Re: Interference vs. Distraction

Tests have been run.

I remember some test with a laptop which radiated quite heavily at the processor's frequency. IIRC there were interesting hot spots in the plane's tube (like in a microwave oven) and some interference with on-board electronics, but I can't remember whether that was considered a minor problem or not.

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I agree with keeping devices away while taxiing takeoff and landing, but in flight? there is no real risk, no more than you get by packing the same equipment in a suitcase..

I bet many people don't even bother to turn off mobiles and ipads before take off, they just put them in their bag.. I bet many don't even know HOW to turn off wifi..

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Seriously?

The FAA is responsible for ensuring the safe movement of aircraft within US airspace. Even if they have no real technical justification for the ban, their judgement should stand.

What the Senator thinks of their rules is totally irrelevant - she has neither the competence nor the authority to override the FAA's judgement.

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Re: Seriously?

JustaKOS: What the Senator thinks of their rules is totally irrelevant - she has neither the competence nor the authority to override the FAA's judgement.

Are you really so abysmally ignorant that you don't know where the FAA got its regulatory authority? I'll grant you that the senator is certainly incompetent but she does by definition have the authority.

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Re: Seriously?

No, I'm not abysmally ignorant. Obviously the FAA's authority ultimately derives from the Federal Government and, for that reason, the Senator has the power to push for change to the way that the FAA operates.

My point is that she seems to believe that her position gives her personal authority to push the FAA into changing its position.

As the article points out, "the agency operates on the precautionary principle, and that is just how it should be. If that comes into conflict with 'passenger convenience' then, as a passenger, I would be inclined to accept their judgement over that of a mere politician and put up with the inconvenience.

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Re: Seriously?

Senator McCaskill may feel a bit full of herself after a come-from-behind win in November over a pretty clueless opponent. However, answering such questions as which, if any, electronic devices to allow to operate during flight far exceeds the knowledge and skills of all or almost all legislators and the executives who sign the laws they pass. These questions should be left to executive branch agencies such as the FAA and FCC who employ people who have the required knowledge and skills (but may be too risk-averse to act on them). Overly detailed laws are a problem because of the difficulty of changing them.

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