Sunday, July 17, 2005

Should wireless extend into the sky ?

There has been a lot of debate on whether cell phones and other wireless devices should be allowed to be used by passengers during flights. Here are some of the points for those against it :

- pasengers are fed-up with seatmates using cell phones disrupting their peaceful flight journet by discussing their ailments and dating problems.
- use of cell phones sometimes could distract the flight attendants, thereby risking the safety of the aircraft.
- something technical and proper - the electromagnetic emissions could interfere with the aircraft's avionics and flight control systems.
- terrorists could use wireless devices to detonate improvised bombs etc within the flight.

There has been a case reported in 2001, wherein a cell phone left in the cargo hold, triggered a false alarm that led to an emergency landing. This is not the worst case, but there could be many more impending.

The 2 agencies in the US that need to take a decision on whether to restrict the use of wireless devices aboard or not, are the FCC and the FAA. If the agencies end the federal bans, then it would be at the airlines' discretion to decide whether to permit wireless devices or not. United Airlines, for example, has said it will not allow. Southwest says it would consider. Some airlines suggest to allow passengers access to internet and email - well probably they say that without knowing the depth of the Internet :)

So, the debate is still open. I'm still dubious whether a concrete decision satisfying both the busiest, who need 24x7 access to their business world and catch up with their email, and the commoners who say that the last thing they want to hear on a peaceful journey is their seatmate's personal problems, and the CIA who do not want to risk having a suicide-bomber operate a PDA to detonate a bomb on board the flight.



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