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Sun, Jul 17, 2005

Keep Calling, But No One Will Answer...Yet

FAA Trumps FCC On In-Flight Cell Phone Use

The FAA says it will continue to uphold the ban on in-flight cell phone usage for commercial passengers, even if the FCC decides to lift its own ban.

"Let me be clear: Regardless of the FCC proceeding, the FAA's rules will remain," Nicholas Sabatini, FAA associate administrator for aviation safety, testified before the House aviation subcommittee Thursday.

However, Sabatini qualified his position by saying, as wireless technocrats unveiled communication devices that don't interfere with avionics, the FAA may change its collective mind.

Then there's the Department of Justice's take.

"Today's terrorists and criminals use cellphones, among other communications devices, to coordinate their illicit activities," said Laura Parsky, deputy assistant attorney general. Like Sabatini, she was quoted in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Terrorists could "coordinate by cellphone between a terrorist on an aircraft and an accomplice on the ground, among hijackers located in different sections of the cabin of the same aircraft, or even among attackers traveling on different aircraft."

None of these views takes into account the opinion of hapless passengers who don't want to be stuck sitting next to Mom going over the grocery list with Junior.

"The last thing most air passengers want is to be forced to listen to the neighbor chat on their cellphone about their ailments, dating problems, the latest reality TV show or up-to-the-minute estimated time of arrivals for the duration of the flight," said aviation subcommittee chairman, Rep. John Mica (R-FL), also quoted by the Journal-Constitution.

During Thursday's hearings, cabin crew representatives also chimed in. Crew members "fear the impact on cabin operations of increasing numbers of passengers testing the tolerance" of those around them, said AFA President Patricia Friend. Even now, as passengers are increasingly allowed to use cell phones before take-off and after landing, "incidents of air rage are on the rise," she said.

FMI: www.house.gov/transportation/aviation

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