1 Jan 2013

Easing flight regulations

Flight Signs
So you settle down into your short-haul flight. Make yourself comfortable by the aisle seat. Do the necessary formalities - strapping the seat-belt, adjusting the seat inclination to straighten up and follow the air-hostesses ballet regarding safety instructions on the flight (not failing to admire how cute they look when they do that).

Then it plays on. The engines start their hum. The pilot starts his "am thankful for you choosing my flight speech". The familiar monologues. Your co-passenger is a grumpy businessman. And you start getting bored already. So you take out your smartphone. As a conscientious passenger, you put it in "Flight Mode" and swipe your fingers till Angry Birds boots up. And lucky you .. you are winning.. are just about to cross that very difficult game level when someone rushes panic-stricken besides you.

You look up to see the airhostess glancing down at you as if she had discovered a hijacker onboard. Her looks are no longer cutish but serious & alarming. Carefully trained in the art of persuading passengers she plays it out with perfection - "Sir ! I must request you. Please switch off your mobile phone".
"But its in Flight Mode" - you babble out, hurt and surprised. "Sir ! its against regulations" - she reaffirms firmly ignoring your explanation that in "Flight Mode" the base-band radio is off. By now co-passengers on the flight are craning their necks around their seats to have a glimpse of the culprit who has put the sweet lady to talk tough. Not standing a chance, you just switch off the device.

Ah now I must admit - if you felt this mobile taunting passenger was me .. you are mistaken. Am a pretty "follow the rules" passenger. This is an observation that has been made umpteen number of times on flights and often has set me wondering - is it really an issue ? Does mobile phone / device functioning have any issues with safety of flights. And the more I have read into it - the answer is no - its just a precaution by FAA, FCC and such regulatory bodies.

The technical insights here - Plane phone interference - Myth or Reality

The joke is that while FCC still advocates non-usage of electronic devices by passengers (citing interference problems), they recently allowed pilots to use iPads in the cockpits ;-)

Thankfully due to public outcry, currently the governing bodies are looking at ways to allow consumer interest to predate archaic disciplinary rules. Of course with necessary caution. There is always the scenario of a rouge passenger carrying a modified device to sabotage communications / flight operations. But that is not the case with just electronics but with everything. Its needs to be treated in the security context.

In the early days of mobile phone usage, there was a hue an cry and mass-mailers about mobile phone interference causing malignancy in the brain cells and heart failure and what not. But nothing of that sort has been proven as yet. And we happily use our mobile phones daily. Many passengers carry ebooks and laptops on flight & if its not scientifically proven to have any problem - it should be allowed. So one day - the passenger I referred to will be able to finish off the Angry Birds level without feeling guilty or being subjected to stares from co-passengers.

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