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 …

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  1. NoneSuch
    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.

    1. dotdavid
      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.

      1. JEDIDIAH
        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!

        1. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

          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.

          1. bazza Silver badge
            Thumb Down

            @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.

            1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

              Re: @Henry Wertz 1

              > Boredom. The worst of all human diseases.

              It is bring the boxcutter out in you!

              1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
                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.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          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.

        3. Eddy Ito Silver badge

          "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.

          1. Fatman Silver badge

            Re: ...fly business class.

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

    2. Anonymous Coward
      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.

      1. Goat Jam
        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

        1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
          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?

          1. Bill B

            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".

        2. Anonymous Coward
          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.

  2. Jason Hindle

    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.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

  3. Anonymous Coward
    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.

    1. David Schmidt
      Thumb Up

      Re: Yes

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

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Yes

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

      2. nuked
        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.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        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).

        1. twistsol

          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.

    2. Dodgy Geezer Silver badge
      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)

  4. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

    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?

  5. Christoph Silver badge
    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."

    1. Peladon

      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.

      1. Christoph Silver badge

        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.

        1. Peladon

          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.

          1. Christoph Silver badge
            Alert

            Re: Problem solved?

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

            1. 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.

  6. Stu J
    FAIL

    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...

    1. Don Jefe
      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.

      1. Russ Tarbox
        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.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        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.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        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.

    2. Powerpointmonkey

      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?

      1. C-N
        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!

    3. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
      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.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: What a dumb fuck

        "We are talking about civilians here."

        So true! :)

  7. Nessalc

    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.

    1. Nessalc

      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.

      1. Graham Marsden

        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.

        1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

          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.

    2. MachDiamond Silver badge
      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 .......

  8. MrXavia

    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..

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    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.

    1. Alan Esworthy
      WTF?

      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.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        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.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Seriously?

        No. They do not necessarily have the authority either when the FAA is applying a rule it's bound to by virtue of the US being a signatory of Chicago 1944 or any other international convention or treaty.

        Besides, from a philosophical point of view, authority without knowledge...

    2. tom dial Silver badge

      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.

  10. Rippy
    Facepalm

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

    Well, duh.

    A B737 is around 96' long and flies typically at 250kts. That makes its crumpletime when it flies into a mountain under 227msec, which is much less than 5 minutes.

    G.

  11. easyk

    One experience

    Once I had a pilot come on the intercom before we started to taxi saying something to the effect of "whoever has the elctronic device on, turn it off. It is interfering with out navigation equipement". After the flight as I was deboarding I walked by the pilot and asked him if he was kidding. He was serious and said no his GPS was giving him the wrong heading until after he made the announcment. I still think it is bullshit but apparetly some pilots think otherwise.

    1. Tom 260

      Re: One experience

      GPS signals are comparatively weak, so it is conceivable that a badly shielded device could put out sufficient RF interference to cause calculation errors or loss of tracking.

      Is it likely that is what happened, IMO probably not, more likely the aircraft lost sight of a satellite behind a terminal building, and it was resolved once line of sight was restored following taxiing. Several times I've been out walking and my Garmin has indicated only two satellites were at a decent height above me, the others skirting the horizon (ideally you need signals from 4 satellites when the device is turned on, then it can work off 3 once it's figured out where it is).

      1. Dave Bell
        Meh

        Re: One experience

        Also, GPS doesn't directly read heading. It infers it from the rate of change of position, and sometimes you get a short-term change of position which will indicate a radical change of heading. That's why the problem you describe will throw off the heading.

        The aviation standard is the magnetic compass, and everything is based on that. Runway headings, VOR beacons, all the charts and the instructions from ATC; everything uses magnetic North as the reference. What the pilot was probably worried about was that the false heading from the GPS was a sign of a problem with the GPS position data. Whether or not the cause was an electronic device, best make sure the passengers know such things should be switched off. That's a pretty basic piece of troubleshooting.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: One experience

          Dave, GPS receivers do not give out heading information at all (save for certain purpose-made devices, involving two or three antennas).

          What you do get from a GPS receiver is course information. However, that's not inferred from neither change of position or its first derivative over time, as you suggest, but observed via Doppler shift. A cursory search through Google Scholar should give out more details.

          I realise the previous commenter quotes the pilot as mentioning his "GPS giving the wrong heading", but that's probably a mis

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: One experience

            [ accidentally pressed SEND, sorry! ]

            ...that's probably a misrecollection, or the pilot simplified things a bit (or he was a bit clueless, can happen!). Heading info is obtained from either a magnetic compass (small planes, plan 'X' if all else fails), or redundant inertial navigation systems.

      2. John Smith 19 Gold badge

        Re: One experience

        "Is it likely that is what happened, IMO probably not, more likely the aircraft lost sight of a satellite behind a terminal building, and it was resolved once line of sight was restored following taxiing. Several times I've been out walking and my Garmin has indicated only two satellites were at a decent height above me, the others skirting the horizon (ideally you need signals from 4 satellites when the device is turned on, then it can work off 3 once it's figured out where it is)."

        This sounds more plausible.

        The GPS signal is a 1Mhz wide signal at roughly 1Ghz. It's a "spread spectrum" signal specifically to prevent narrow band high power signals jamming it. They can jam some of it but not all of it. However you do need 4 satellites in view for a full fix. BTW AFAIK all ocean flights use inertial navigation gear that requires no outside radio signal. I'd guess anyone running on GPS is not a Boeing/Airbus sized operator.

      3. daddyo

        Re: One experience

        And earlier this year the FCC was forced, after a lot of testing, to deny use of the frequencies near the GPS band for a competitive cellular telephone service. It really chafed them because they had previously granted the frequencies, and the proiver is really irate, in the billions of dollars level.

    2. Spider
      Stop

      Re: One experience

      whether the pilot believes it or not, it's crap.

      I set up and use all manner of positioning systems GPS, DGPS, RTK, utilising GPS and GLONASS and getting geared up with the pale pachyderm Galileo, and if mobes ruined them most would not work, not to mention the EM fields generated by kit such as say, a hulking great radar , VHF, and satcomm systems.

      Receiving a worthwhile constellation to generate a position solution sounds far more likely an issue on the ground, with buildings and vehicles nearby top generate masking and multipathing.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: One experience

      No, that's not bullshit. There have been anecdotal cases where interference has been pinpointed to a particular device.

      I once heard of someone from the cockpit asking for the owner of a Nokia so-and-so to please turn it off. I've no idea how he did it. I suspect he might have done a Bluetooth scan with his own phone, as otherwise you would normally have no way of telling.

      1. C-N

        Re: One experience

        GPS antennae are on the outside of the aircraft. They are connected to the GPS computer and display via shielded coaxial cable. The aircraft is also made of metal. Aircraft are not delicate machines that fail catastrophically at the slightest provocation. If they were, we'd see it happen every day. More likely he heard the characteristic chirping that occurs when a GSM phone is hunting a connection, over his intercom, which is merely an annoyance, (unless you buy the official fiction). What the pilot believed isn't relevant, since he's a pilot, not an EMI test engineer, or other relevant professional.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: One experience

          "The aircraft is also made of metal."

          Significant parts of some large modern aircraft are not made of metal; for weight-saving reasons they are made of carbon fibre composite whose behaviour wrt lightning, EMC, etc is as yet only partially characterised

          Reminder: square windows were fashionable on aircraft at one time. Then reality caught up and the metallurgical behaviour of square windows was more fully understood (after some significant number of incidents, many with fatalities). De Havilland Comet, for those who weren't aware.

  12. Cubical Drone

    Sort of a double standard

    I have to wonder about stuff like this.

    There are many examples of the NTSB making a recommendation to the FAA after a crash to change its rules so that the same thing does not happen again. What happens a lot of the time is the airlines start crying that the new reg would cost too much and the FAA promptly ignores the NTSB's recommendation.

    Example below:

    http://www.aviationweek.com/Blogs.aspx?plckBlogId=Blog:388668c6-b459-4ea7-941e-a0a2206d415f&plckPostId=Blog:388668c6-b459-4ea7-941e-a0a2206d415fPost:cf498b15-907b-43c5-a971-b58f662beca7

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Sort of a double standard

      Accident investigation agencies such as the NTSB have no enforcement or regulatory powers. This is by design.

      They can make recommendations to the aircraft manufacturer, the airlines, air navigation providers, or civil aviation authorities (of which they are independent), but each one of them is free to ignore those recommendations. Does not happen often and when it does occur it's usually with good reason, as nobody wants to be held responsible for the next crash.

      1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
        Unhappy

        Re: Sort of a double standard

        "They can make recommendations to the aircraft manufacturer, the airlines, air navigation providers, or civil aviation authorities (of which they are independent), but each one of them is free to ignore those recommendations. Does not happen often and when it does occur it's usually with good reason, as nobody wants to be held responsible for the next crash."

        Well that's good to know.

        So when will smoke hoods be standard issue on aircraft since smoke inhalation in a confined space is likely to be much more dangerous than the fire itself.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    While the Senator's at it,

    Given that she's such an acknowledged technology expert, why doesn't she tell all the critical aircraft system suppliers that they don't need to follow DO178 or DO254 certification rules any more, so long as they've crossed her Party's palm with silver, what could possibly go wrong?

  14. JaitcH
    Unhappy

    "The current rules are inconvenient to travelers..."

    If passenger convenience is a criteria, when are those thieving TSA employees going to be replaced?

    1. Esskay
      Joke

      Re: "The current rules are inconvenient to travelers..."

      Don't be silly, senators don't have to deal with the TSA circus! They go straight to the head of the queue - and as everyone knows, the TSA are necessary to win the War On Tourists.

    2. Alan Esworthy
      Flame

      Re: "The current rules are inconvenient to travelers..."

      You want the Thieves and Sexual Assaulters "replaced"? How about instead we horse-whip, tar, and feather them? (My first thought was drawing and quartering, but on reflection that may be perceived to be a bit over the top.)

      1. Dodgy Geezer Silver badge
        Go

        Re: "The current rules are inconvenient to travelers..."

        (My first thought was drawing and quartering, but on reflection that may be perceived to be a bit over the top.)

        No, to my mind that sounds perfectly acceptable. Breaking on the Wheel, and the Rack are also good methods, as is impalement. And of course those who set them up should suffer the same penalty..

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: "The current rules are inconvenient to travelers..."

          "No, to my mind that sounds perfectly acceptable"

          I was hoping I would be the first one to say that!

    3. John Smith 19 Gold badge
      Unhappy

      Re: "The current rules are inconvenient to travelers..."

      "If passenger convenience is a criteria, when are those thieving TSA employees going to be replaced?"

      Apparently the smoothest running airport in the US is Regan National at Washinton DC. precisely because so many of their passengers are the assorted government big dicks VIP's and assorted entourage

      Perhaps other airports might like to take note.

      A review of the Thieves Support Association is also overdue IMHO.

  15. Grumpy Fellow
    Trollface

    Check the compliance label on the back

    If it doesn't comply with DO-160G then it should be stowed for takeoff, landing, and taxi.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    FAIL

    I dunno....

    If you have ever rested your mobile phone on or near your stereo, when it's playing "nuffing but air" - there is a whole shit load of interference.

    Especially if it's being used as a dongle.....

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      Re: I dunno....

      Tons of radio pickups in there.

      Anyone old enough to remember the CRTs knows what a mobile will do to the signal for sure.

      But then again, a mobile is designed to dump energy into the aether, and radios are designed to pick them up or at least don't assume to be next to a 900 MHz milliwatt emitter.

  17. YouStupidBoy
    Go

    Reports from pilots and aircraft crew members...

    As listed in the NASA Aviation Safety Reporting System, available to search at http://asrs.arc.nasa.gov/search/database.html - has multiple accounts where interference with the (usually navigation) systems were demonstrably caused by a passengers electronic device. Usually they just ask folks to make sure that stuff is turned off, but several accounts have accounts where the aircrew asked the passenger to turn the device back on - and the interference resumed.

    So there is a problem (although rare) that needs to be addressed, at least with some devices in some plane combinations, which maybe down to a maintainance issue with the aircraft where something wasn't shielded properly or terminated correctly when the mechanics finished fiddling about with it last time they had it in the shop.

    Personally I think that device manufacturers can afford to pay for a few test flights. If restrictions are relaxed for certain models, then sales of models that aren't approved for in flight use will drop sharply, especially among the business community. There's probably not more than a few dozen aircraft types in commuter service within the US. Just have the several devices onboard and in various power states, streaming data, hunting for signals/wifi - on each model type and note any interference that happens. If it does, one of the testers can turn the devices off or switch modes one by one until the problem goes away.

    Once devices are certified allow them on commercial flights. The caveat being that if interference is noted at any stage of the flight, everyone turns their stuff off and packs it away for the remainder of the trip, never mind whether it's got a shiny "FAA Certified" sticker on it or not. Anyone who persists in using a device when the aircrew has announced such a state of affairs will be met at the gate by security agents, their device removed and tossed into an industrial shredder. Airlines could make this a condition of carriage.

    Having said that, I hope they don't allow cell calls. Ever. Like someone above said, it's bad enough hearing someones squealing progeny for hours on end from the row behind you, but to have a whole bunch of folks starting calls with "Hello? HELLO! YES, I'M ON THE PLANE" would probably lead to a new form of in-flight entertainment, although not one the air marshals would much appreciate. Allow devices for texting, streaming/watching movies/music or zebra porn for all I care, just wear headphones so I don't have to listen to it. And turn it off in the instances when you're told to.

    1. Alan Esworthy
      Coat

      Re: Reports from pilots and aircraft crew members...

      but to have a whole bunch of folks starting calls with "Hello? HELLO! YES, I'M ON THE PLANE" would probably lead to a new form of in-flight entertainment, although not one the air marshals would much appreciate.

      Issue a Taser to every adult boarding the plane. Seeing an obnoxious phone user twitching and flopping about in the aisle like a palsied flounder would, I'm sure, be appreciated by all including the air marshals.

      (mine's the one with the conductive metal mesh lining.)

      1. Steen Hive
        Facepalm

        Re: Reports from pilots and aircraft crew members...

        Oh sure. Attack some ignorant buffoon with a piece of equipment almost guaranteed to fuck up every EMR- sensitive installation within 100m.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Reports from pilots and aircraft crew members...

          "Oh sure. Attack some ignorant buffoon with a piece of equipment almost guaranteed to fuck up every EMR- sensitive installation within 100m."

          Good point. How about a cat o'nine tails? Or a spiked flail?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Reports from pilots and aircraft crew members...

      "or zebra porn"

      Any links you would care to share?

    3. C-N
      Alert

      Re: Reports from pilots and aircraft crew members...

      Holy hell that search function on the NASA site is a piece of shit.

    4. John Smith 19 Gold badge
      Unhappy

      Re: Reports from pilots and aircraft crew members...

      "Having said that, I hope they don't allow cell calls. "

      They won't.

      It's far too easy a source of revenue.

  18. Dave Bell

    An interesting example that doesn't involve aviation

    In my experience (too much of it), hospitals are less strict than they used to be about the use of mobile phones.

    Though the last two times I was in hospital, both times it was in a hospital on the list of higher than average death rates, I could, alas, see other reasons why a situation could go rapidly out of control.

    The reason was interference with medical equipment, and there is a lot of electronics. Possibly, as hardware gets replaced, the new machines are better built and tested. But I noticed the consultants all had mobile phones, and I have the feeling they wouldn't take kindly to having to switch them off.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: An interesting example that doesn't involve aviation

      Having worked as a biomedical engineer I have been told by various sources that only two pieces of equipment have been found to be affected by mobile phones that were transmitting/receiving calls. That both machines were only affected when the phone was wire strapped on to the case of the machines. The only problem with the story being is that all the sources have a common point of employment history in their past and so it could just be that one hospital has only had two machines fail when tested in the worst case scenario.

      From my own experiences it makes me want to write a report to their managers when nurses sit and blatantly tell you that they have a special phone that is cleared to be safe.

      Just like on planes it is more likely to prevent distractions at important times. It also helps them make a shed load more money from using the in-flight comms. In hospitals using their pay systems for phones and TV when in a ward you could easily use your own mobile or portable TV .

      Precautionary and money? or Money and precautionary?

      1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
        Paris Hilton

        Re: An interesting example that doesn't involve aviation

        It is not verboten to use mobiles in the server room (or is it?)

        Why should medical devices be more vulnerable to radio signals in the usual mobile bands?

        1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

          Re: An interesting example that doesn't involve aviation

          The thumbs-down herper-derper strikes again.

          But I really want to know.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: An interesting example that doesn't involve aviation

            Have you ever been in a hospital? Seen machines whose sensors are electrically connected to people whose lives may depend on the machines? You'll probably have heard what the typical couple of watts of cellphone RF can do to ordinary audio equipment which is using sensible signal levels. Do you have any idea what 2 watts of cellphone signal can do in the vicinity of a few microwatts of some clinically interesting signal? And no, you can't readily "filter it out".

            That's what got you a downvote. Live with it. You'll survive. 2W of mobile interference in the wrong place at the wrong time and someone else may not be so lucky.

            1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
              Meh

              Re: An interesting example that doesn't involve aviation

              " Seen machines whose sensors are electrically connected to people whose lives may depend on the machines?"

              As it happens I've had to deal with some medical electronics. The raw data signals are handled with techniques quite similar to those used for high quality audio.

              The cables are normally shielded or twisted pair to eliminate "common mode" signals induced on both wires and (if possible) some kind of pre-amplifier is fitted as close as possible to the source.

              But possibly more importantly the bandwidth and baseline frequency is below mains frequency. The big threat was "mains hum" at 50 or 60Hz. Sampling rates were aimed to synch to this in order to give a "digital notch filter" effect on the data. Otherwise analogue (usually active) filters take care of the input noise.

              On that basis the 100s of Mhz, (or Ghz) signals inside modern comms and computers does not matter unless it starts screwing with the digital hardware inside the instrument, which is the case with all hardware.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: An interesting example that doesn't involve aviation

                With the greatest respect John, even with shielded cables, preamplifiers, etc, it is simply not possible to reliably filter "GSM buzz" which in the wrong circumstances *will* be induced and *will* show up on the equipment signal(s).

                The impact on the equipment hopefully won't directly kill anyone but the alarm set off by the unexpected signal will consume staff time which could be better spent elsewhere.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: An interesting example that doesn't involve aviation

            They're not necessarily more vulnerable, but they're subject to a different, specific, regulatory framework.

    2. cortland
      Boffin

      Re: An interesting example that doesn't involve aviation

      It really isn't rocket science.

      I spent some time working on automatic external defibrillator (AED) RF emissions and immunity to same. The computers that control therapy will also keep it from being inappropriately delivered – and can be overloaded enough by strong signals to stop it. In Europe, AED's may fail in the vicinity of 16.67 Hz overhead high voltage wiring used by locomotives. One US fatality some decades ago ago was tied to an ambulance radio disabling a defibrillator when the driver used his radio, but that was due to replacing the ambulance's metal roof (where the antenna was mounted) with a fiberglass one. And one may indeed induce AED failure if he leaves his cellphone on the AED while operating it. But that's stupid. Right?

      ( Also see http://www.cbsnews.com/2100-201_162-5248949.html )

      Back to aircraft: I spent some years working on aircraft systems, and was amazed how poorly shielded some aircraft wiring is. You can bet the electronic flight bags pilots are allowed to use have been thoroughly checked out, though there is as yet (AFAIK) no regulatory framework for the same with passenger electronic devices. If, by reason of having new toys, we get the rules changed, it will cost airlines and aircraft makers a LOT of money to improve that wiring*, money WE will pay. *And update the documentation.

      Will the rules be changed? People like Senator McCaskill can stop any such regulation from being adopted if they get a ….. are upset enough when their friends in industry complain. Or they're not allowed to play Angry Birds or the Stock Market during takeoff and landing.

  19. bazza Silver badge

    Oh crikey, the lunatics are running the asylum

    "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."

    That's the thing about law makers. They really do run the asylum^H^H^H^H^H^Hcountry.

    Passing a law doesn't change the rules of physics. People should accept that the aircraft designers / engineers might just know their shit. They should also stop pressuring the organisation who's sole purpose is to ensure that aircraft designers / engineers really do know their shit. If they say it's not a good idea then IT'S NOT A GOOD IDEA. Some vote grabbing politico bent on fondling her slab all the way down to the runway is not qualified to assert otherwise.

    "The current rules are inconvenient to travelers, don't make sense, and lack a scientific basis."

    If not crashing and staying alive is inconvenient and doesn't make sense then society and this lady in particular have a problem with priorities.

    "While it has never been proved that in-flight electronics could interfere with aircraft systems, there are thousands of devices out there and no one's done the testing."

    If you know what you're doing (so *not* Myth Busters then) it's easy to design a test scenario whereby a mobile phone will interfere with electronics in an undesirable way. Ever heard how a GSM mobile interferes with a set of loud speakers?

    What no one can do is *prove* that such a scenario won't accidentally get recreated in flight. Take that, and throw in the certainty that at least some of the passengers will always ignore the rules and not put their devices in flight mode and you've got an uncontrolled set of circumstances.

    No aircraft designer would be prepared to say that their design is safe unless the circumstances are known and controlled. iPads are allowed because pilots can be relied upon to obey the rules, and theirs are probably not 3G anyway. The 10,000ft limit in force at the moment is there to give the pilots time to do something if any problem does occur. It seems probably from various unexplained incidences in flight around the world that problems do occur, but the very nature of the cause makes it impossible to analyse with any certainty.

    The only real way to resolve this issue is to design an aircraft specifically for hundreds of devices not in flight mode and replace the existing entire world's fleet. That will likely add considerable weight in shielding and screening, it will certainly take a long time, and it will take a huge amount of money. I'd prefer the cheaper ticket.

    1. cortland

      Re: Oh crikey, the lunatics are running the asylum

      I LIVE here. Say asylum, if only because I'm in it.

      Twit: Mr.Gandhi,what do you think of Western Civilization?

      Gandhi: I think it would be a very good idea

      Note: The twit, a reporter, had not done her research; Gandhi read Law and was admitted to the Inner Temple in 1891. More on that at http://www.sscnet.ucla.edu/southasia/History/Gandhi/Gandhlawstud.html.

  20. Clive Harris
    Happy

    My own experience...

    This is a repeat of a message I posted a couple of years ago on the same topic, but I think it's still relevant.

    ...taking my daughter for a ride in a light aircraft and waiting for take-off clearance at a busy airport.

    Me: "Control Tower. Piper Cherokee Papa Delta Echo is ready for take-off"

    Tower: "Papa Delta Echo you are BEEPBEEPBEEP BUZZBUZZ CRACKLE WHIRR"

    Me: "Control tower, Papa Delta Echo. Say again"

    Tower (distinctly annoyed): "Papa Delta BEEPBEEP BUZZBUZZBUZZ, please expedite."

    At that point, I glanced at my daughter in the passenger seat, to see her having a vital "heart-to-heart" conversation with her boyfriend on her mobile. I shouted to her to stow the darn thing.

    Me: "Control tower, Papa Delta Echo. Sorry, getting interference. Say again".

    Tower (extremely annoyed): "Papa Delta Echo BEEP BUZZZZZZZZ ... for immediate, repeat immediate take-off."

    Me: "OK I think that's a clearance". Takes off.

  21. imanidiot Silver badge

    If the FAA is smart

    They'll either ignore this or come out with a "on your head, so be it".

    Like they are already saying, there is no way to be sure electronic devices transmitting a signal won't interfere with the electronic devices of the plane. (Not to mention we are talking about hundreds of those transmitters in close proximity operating on more or less the same frequency. Who know what kind of interference it can generate). If the politicos really want to get rid of this ban so easily the FAA can just say: Well, we are warning you now we can't guarantee safety. If it were up to us the ban stays in place. We will lift the ban under your pressure only! Any resulting accident will be placed squarely in your area.

  22. no_RS

    Abscence of proof is proof of abscence

    It seems the abscence of proof is proof of abscence argument is at work here, there are no tell tale signs of a EMC problem, it's not like seeing a hole in something and being able to say that was the fault, inteference appears in many ways and does not leave a trace than can be followed so it is very hard to say something happened because of an EMC problem hence the no proof of the problem.

    The argument that because the pilots are allowed to use ipads it is okay for everyone else to use obviously makes sense to politcians but not in engineering terms, the immunity of aircraft systems may well be fine with a small number of ipads on board but not if a large percentage of passengers had them. Compare 3 ipads for the pilots versus say a 100 for the passengers. Having 3 ipads increases the noise level by a factor of 3 but 100 ipads increases it by 100 fold which can potentially overwhelm some critical system. An alternative analogy is lie on the floor and let the pilots put 3 car tyres on your chest, you can probably still breathe okay but if they let a hundred passengers each put one car tyre on your chest you're probably dead because it is too much for you to breathe, exactly the same for aircraft electronic systems, can tolerate 3 but not a 100.

    The people demanding to use an ipad will the be first in the queue complaining that the plane got lost or had to make an emergency landing (assuming they survived)..

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    >> In the meantime, El Reg suggests the simple work-around of reading a book.

    Err ... to save weight I usually travel with just my eBook reader, which is lighter than just one reasonable sized pulped-tree book.

    How do I turn off my wrist-watch which, like most these days, is electronic?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Wristwatch

      As I wrote to folk like you last time we had this discussion of the deaf, a wristwatch is likely to be a low risk device for a variety of reasons, not least:

      1) Commercially available wristwatches do not generally contain RF transmitters. Lots of other consumer electronics do contain intentional RF transmitters. You want cabin crew to understand which category applies to every gadget?

      2) Commercially available wristwatches have minuscule batteries so even if they did have an RF transmitter it wouldn't be able to cause much disruption, either because the transmit power would be neglligible, or if the transmit power was not negligible, it would only be a short time before the batteries went flat.

      James Bond's wristwatch, or an al-Qaeda wristwatch, is a different matter.

      Next.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Wristwatch

        >> As I wrote to folk like you last time we had this discussion, a wristwatch is likely to be a low risk device ...

        Quite. So when passengers are told to turn off _all_ electronic devices, who is to judge what is low risk? Does that include my Kindle (wifi switched off)?

  24. The_H
    Pint

    I'd put a fairly sizeable sum of money on a bet that more people have been injured by in-flight catering trolleys and their contents, than by any electronic devices.

    And I don't see anybody banning the meals-on-wheels any time soon. More's the pity.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I will sue this Senator

    If I am on an airplane where electronic devices are allowed to be used while the plane is landing or taking-off, I will sue this ignorant politician who needs to pull her head out of her orifice. I'll bet she's a real expert in RFI and EMI.

  26. NomNomNom

    its a lot like the "don't use mobile phones" signs at petrol stations although now I think of it I can't recall seeing one for a while maybe they gave up.

    1. no_RS

      The reason for not using mobile phones at petrol stations has nothing to do with the RF signal at all, but if the person (idiot) using one drops it. This can actually cause a spark when the battery contacts temporarily disconnect due to the impact of the phone with the ground. It is the spark that represents the danger especially due to the flammable gasses that are typically present in a petrol station.

      1. David Pollard

        'Phone battery spark is an urban myth?

        The idea that the ban is/was because a mobile 'phone could cause a spark when dropped seems a bit improbable. a) Petrol stations tend to be full of vehicles using their starter motors and similarly sparky electrical devices. b) Wouldn't there also be a ban on using torches and similar devices?

        It seems rather more likely that the concern is about the possibility of induced voltages. Rightly there are very strict rules about the nearby use of radio when blasting is taking place. Presumably some of these regulations were carried over to petrol stations when mobile 'phones came on the scene.

        1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
          Stop

          Re: 'Phone battery spark is an urban myth?

          It is as impossible to ignite fuel with a mobile as it is to cook an egg. Yet another case of the "fear new technology" mindset. Static electricity from your pullover is a larger danger.

          Around here, mobiles were forbidden on public transports (i.e. bus lines) in the early noughties because of "interference". Some drivers had experienced sudden unexplained revving ... turns out the real reason was yoofs opening the maintenance hatch in the back of the bus and playing around with the engine. Yup, must be those devilish mobiles.

        2. Jos
          Mushroom

          Re: 'Phone battery spark is an urban myth?

          Now kind of recall something about this thing, but you can all correct me if I'm wrong.

          The issue with mobile phone use at gas stations was a bit more complicated. Don't want to sound like a male chauvinist pig here, but it was mostly women causing fires at gas stations, when the pump had the clip-lock on the handle so it would fuel up "hands-free", and people (mostly women there) would go back to the front seat to ruffle through bags, get the phone (men are not excluded here you see) and make a call, then go back to take out the nozzle after building up a healthy doze of static electricity by their movements (and clothes), and creating a nice spark on contact with nozzle, igniting the fumes coming out of the tank.

          It was one of the reasons, at least in Holland, to remove the nozzle locks, so you have to keep in contact with it at all times while refueling.

          Not the fault of the mobile phone there directly you see. You need to look at the entire chain there..

          Cheers,

          Jos

  27. NomNomNom

    Hey if anyone wants to stir up a little shit and get a little fame write up a report titled "How to crash a plane using an IPad".

    You can use any amount of speculation. You don't have to prove it, just write some conceivable chain of events, probability irrelevant, that could crash a plane. Reference some actual aviation electronics, etc and some babble about interference. Tabloids will love the story.

    You might even cause IPads to be banned from airplanes lol.

  28. Winkypop Silver badge
    Alert

    But people abuse the rules now

    I've observed plenty of ignorant types using all manner of PEDs during periods when crew are seated and strapped in for take off and landing.

    Cameras, music players, mobiles, you name it. On a recent flight and during landing, a crew member openly allowed a nearby parent to hand hold a running portable DVD player (tray table down) so that Junior could finish watching Toy Story 2, no doubt for the 300th time.

    These rules you speak of, who actually follows them?

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Absence of proof

    Just because planes haven't fallen out of the sky when someone uses their electronic devices in flight doesn't mean that RF signals can't negatively impact the instruments and controls.

    Perhaps the best solution is to ask people before they book, if they will fly if they are not allowed to use their electronic devices. If they say no, then that is great as only reasonable people will be on flights from now on.

    1. Geoff Campbell
      Boffin

      Re: Absence of proof

      Only reasonable people and unreasonable liars, you mean?

      GJC

  30. Charles Smith
    Meh

    Campaign for e-free flights

    I fly on business an awful lot. It is a great time to catch up on sleep or to read the book I've been meaning to read. The last thing I need is to be pestered with emails and calls from people who don't really need an immediate response.

    Businesses should be set up to cope with absences of their personnel. I've learned to fly with just a mobile phone (switched off before entering plane) and a Red & Black notebook, this deals with pretty much any situation. If I need a PC at the other end I borrow one and download any necessary file or remotely access my office PC. There's less risk of loss and you don't waste your time tinkering with a Laptop or Tablet. If there's something desperately urgent people can call my mobile phone and talk to me when I've landed.

    By all means have mobile phones and internet access on planes but impose a substantial extra fee to deter all but the most essential communication. For example $10 minute or part thereof as a UN tax used to help the digital 3rd world.

  31. nuked
    Holmes

    Never seen so much over-complication of a simple issue.

    Risk, and the management thereof.

    Very small risk of something very very bad occurring indeed, with a minimal cost of mitigating said risk = "Please put your phone away when the pilots enter a critical phase of take off or landing."

    Obvious to me.

  32. Arion

    This is an unmitigated disgrace. Let's give the situation a scientific basis by examining and interpreting some data.

    Probability of electronic devices causing incident: Low

    Consequence of electronic device related incident: Catastrophic

    Effect of electronic ban on passengers: minor inconvenience

    I interpret risk as a product of probability and consequence, and that low probability times catastrophic consequence evaluates to a risk greater than or equal to moderate ( I'm thinking high, but saying >= moderate to allow for scientific error/bias ).

    I think an authority responsible for millions of lives, when balancing moderate risk with minor effect, has the professional duty to err on the side of caution.

    Also echoing the earlier poster on the world of difference between allowing 3 certified devices that the pilots have direct control over, compared with 100 random devices scattered throughout an aircraft.

    It seems that making laws is something that should not be trusted to politicians.

    1. Powerpointmonkey

      So you want to ban all passenger use of electronic devices, but are OK with pilots using iPads as electronic flight manuals for the entire flight duration? If an iPad is certified as being safe to use in the cockpit, why is it suddenly unsafe when it is moved to the cabin? http://appleinsider.com/articles/12/09/11/american_airlines_pilots_begin_using_apples_ipad_during_all_phases_of_flight

      How about a logical conclusion to your argument:

      Probability of passengers sneezing during a flight, causing their false teeth to fly out and critically injure a flight attendant as they are walking past with the drinks trolley - Low

      Consequence - catastrophic

      Effect of false teeth ban on passengers - Minor Inconvenience

      Recommendation: Ban all passengers from wearing false teeth during a flight

      Personally I do not want mobile phones being used on planes - but that is due to their 'CAN YOU HEAR ME!!! I'M ON A PLANE!!!' annoyance factor, not because of any safety concerns.

      As someone who flies at least twice a week on business I just do not understand the logic behind being forced to switch off my kindle during takeoff and final approach, and none of the arguments made so far make any sense to me.

      1. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

        LOLOLOL!

        "So you want to ban all passenger use of electronic devices, but are OK with pilots using iPads as electronic flight manuals for the entire flight duration?"

        Pilot are also allowed to actually fly the plane. You are not. Complain?

  33. Wallyb132

    Passenger Casualties

    Doesn't just about all passenger casualties, like 99%, occur in the LAST 5 minutes of flight, or more to the point, the LAST second of flight?

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Who here knows what an "electronic flight bag" is?

    Who here knows what an "electronic flight bag" is?

    No? What a surprise. It's an electronic replacement for much of the paperwork (maps, plans, schedules, manuals, etc) which a pilot is required to carry. Look elsewhere for more info; various commercial EFBs have been available for a number of years. There are various categories of EFB depending on the proposed use (e.g. one for use only with static documents is considered less critical than one which does satnav-style'moving maps').

    Who here understands what the qualification and documentation process involves for the approval of an EFB?

    Hint: it's more than just taking it on the plane and telling the cabin crew "trust me, it's harmless, and I really really need my Angry Farts, and the fact that there are dozens of others on board, not quite identical, is irrelevant".

    Who here knows when the first commercial laptop (not an iThing) was qualified and approved for EFB use?

    Hint: several years ago [1]. This article is not particularly hot news.

    Who here knows the real reason EFBs are being increasingly widely adopted?

    Hint: ensuring paper documents are kept up to date in the paper flight bag is expensive, because it involves spending money on printing things (some of which may never even be used) and paying people to make sure the paper copies in use are up to date. Big business does not like spending money, especially not on paying people. EFBs allow less money to be spent on paying people, by allowing Microsoft/Apple and the IT department and other equally reputable organisations [2] to take over the job of keeping the documents up to date. Well, what could possibly go wrong there? Some of the more creative airlines have even found ways of having the aircrew pay for their own EFBs. Nice (please don't tell Ryanair).

    [1] http://www.theregister.co.uk/2007/07/17/evoke_electronic_flight_bag/

    [2] http://www.nextgov.com/defense/2012/02/air-force-special-operations-cancels-ipad-buy/50676/

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Who here knows what an "electronic flight bag" is?

      Also, as said earlier, do we know that the crew do not keep them in a shielded bag during take off and landing?

      For the "ban false teeth" idiot, you can also see / avoid flying teeth, you cant see an electronic device transmitting in an overhead locker.

      I'm also in favour of no phone signals on the subway, enough of idiots talking on the bus and personal stereo's that are louder outside the earbuds than in their ears, screaming kids and all manner of things whilst I'm trying to relax between cities / meetings.

      When UK get "Quiet" busses likie they have train carriages, i'll pay the extra money gladly

  35. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    There is no God given right...

    ...to endanger or antagonise fellow passengers with electronics. All electronics should be banned from the passenger areas. If pilots really have a legitimate use for carry-on electronics, then it should be properly electronically shielded devices issued by the airlines only and used only as authorized. I hope this Bimbo is on the first plane that crashes from her ignorant pandering.

    1. C-N
      Pirate

      Re: There is no God given right...

      There is also no God given* right for you to live a life free of annoyance.

      * FSM has not weighed in on the matter either.

  36. Boris S.

    What a joke of a story

    A Senator can make all the empty threats that she wants and it's just blowing smoke up some peoples arse to get votes. This Senator has absolutely no power to threaten or change anything unless both the House and the Senate approve a bill mandating the use of carry-on electronics by passengers in commercial aircraft. That ain't going to happen so she's just pandering to the clueless.

  37. Mad Chaz

    What makes me worried is this. According to the FAA, all I have to do to bring down a plain is leave a laptop in the bagage compartment that will then turn on automatically and start broadcasting out? Who needs missiles when you can bring down a plane with a 300$ netbook!

  38. Ian 49
    Unhappy

    First hand experience

    Part of the problem is the age of aircraft.

    Until I had a kid, I used to fly leased/club C152s and PA-28s. One one training flight for my IMC rating, we were getting very significant problems with the ADF/NDB equipment giving misleading readings. We landed to investigate, during which time my Blackberry, which I had thought I had turned off, was found turned on in my flightbag. Turn it off, problem resolved. Turn it on, problem occurred.

    The aircraft went to the maintenance company at the end of the day to have the connections to the NDB receiver checked. The wiring was fine - it was the NDB receiver itself that was being interfered with. Being an older unit, the club had updated it to a new shiny one before I had to stop flying.

    Yes it was a training aircraft, not an airliner, it's first hand evidence that it can happen.

  39. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    There is always some knobhead who wants to use their i(fanny)Pad.

    Keep tech thingies banned from flights!

  40. This post has been deleted by its author

  41. Chris007
    Happy

    Priceless comment

    "or a reduction in the number of wings"

  42. foxyshadis

    The FAA won't change anytime soon.

    How hard is it to allow stuff while taxiing and once in the air, while requiring it to all be stowed during takeoff and landing? Stowing for 5-10 minutes isn't going to kill anyone, but 10,000 feet is typically 15-20 minutes, by which time any danger has long past. The FAA is notoriously unwilling to loosen regulations, though; look how long 787 certification took.

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