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Subject: [IP] Cell Phones Airplanes and all that]

  • From: David Farber <>
  • To:
  • Date: Tue, 07 Mar 2006 09:02:12 -0500

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Cell Phones Airplanes and all that
Date: Tue, 07 Mar 2006 00:15:07 -0800
From: Bob Frankston <>

I'm writing this as I am flying by Salina KS at 36770 feet at 469.2 mph.

This is a fascinating topic because so many of us fly and the combination of
technologies and fears and perception make it a microcosm of societal issues
in dealing with technology.

The flight attendant is fascinated by the technology and the wireless
connection to GPS under the shade. Before the flight I spoke to the pilot
who mentioned one incident on light aircraft where a cell phone confused the
nav system but he emphasized it was a small plane. Of course there's the
general fear of radio stuff and an inability for many people to distinguish
between all the devices and radios.

My first flight was on ATC hold in Boston because someone accidentally cut
the power cable to the radar in Chicago but we got to take off because we
were transporting kidney that had time value (that's why I was able to make
the connection). On that flight I had put the GPS in the window while on the
ground and the ground crew saw the flashing blue light. So I took the units
to the pilots who had no problem with the GPS. I didn't mention the radio
link but they probably would've had no problem with it - if so I would've
mentioned UA was planning to deploy Wi-Fi themselves. The pilots generally
like the technology.

By the time I got to Chicago the radar problem had been fixed. I commented
to the pilot on the second flight that all planes knew their position - why
didn't they just communicate it back to the tower. He said that in fact they
are moving in that direction and making more use of GPS. The traffic
controllers are upset about it because it threatens their jobs but it's

As a humorous aside the second plane had problems with the electrical system
which the solved by rebooting it - powering it off and on.

As to the comment about banning headsets so people would hear the
announcements, that seems at odds with the blurb on my seat offering to sell
me a Bose noise cancelling headset.

John Markoff's story reminded me of flying to a conference with Dan Bricklin
and David Reed. We each had DG/Ones (about 1985?) in a row. We did have a
brief thought about how it might affect the aircraft but didn't worry too
much about it. We did think about networking them together.

Too bad so many people are afraid when they could be having fun with the

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