Hasty Ruminations

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Friday, December 17, 2004

Our Govm’t In Inaction

The AP writes:

“The Federal Communications Commission on Wednesday approved technology giving airlines what could be a cheaper option to provide Internet connections. The commissioners also voted to solicit public comment about ending the ban on in-flight use of cell phones.”

Well now, why all the sudden rush? From 1988 to 2000, I flew all over the country, and to Puerto Rico and Europe on business. I averaged 2-1/2 days a week. During that time, portable laptops and small cell phones became pretty essential to us road warriors. I joined airline clubs, so that I could work – and communicate - while waiting endlessly for some airline to shred its schedule. Again.

We were told over and over again on every flight that cell phone used would, at least, cause the plane to fall from the sky, and at most cost us a hefty fine, confiscation, arrest and humiliation. When I first heard about the hijackings on 9/11, I wondered whether Atta and his friends had used $59.95 cell phones from Radio Shack to bring down the planes.

And internet access? Yeah, right. We’re only flying in the most sophisticated machine ever invented for moving passengers, six miles above the earth, at speeds the fighter pilots of WWII only dreamed about. No way can you use a COM-POO-TER, Hoss.

Hey, I’m only an engineer. I know that the airlines have the FCC and the FAA in their bed, and they have painted us with The Big Lie. And you can lie to me about technical stuff and I’ll just swallow it, right?

See, it’s a money thing. Like everything else. Now, I suspect that they are turning down the heat because folks like me have discovered the joys of getting to our destinations without them. DESPITE them! They need to lure us back.

“The FCC already had approved a high-speed Internet service provided by Boeing Co. Called ‘Connexion’ which uses satellites to get air passengers online. The service is offered by some international carriers, including some flights to and from the United States. But airline industry officials say cash-strapped domestic carriers haven't bought into the service largely because of the cost - an estimated $500,000 per jet to install the needed equipment.” Let’s be real: that number is so ludicrously high that it demands recognition for what it is – a SWAG (silly wild a** guess) which really says, “I don’t want to do it so I’ll scare you.”

Concerning cell phones, get this from the article:

“The FCC is concerned that cell phone use in an airplane might interfere with cell phone use on the ground. It will start taking public comment on the issue in early 2005, and a decision could be made within a year.” Tell me that FCC dudes who fly on FCC airplanes DON’T use cellphones in the air. This technology has been in the hands of the public for over 25 years, and NOW they think it MIGHT interfere? Oh, and let’s applaud how really, really good cellphone use on the ground is today. You know, where I work, it’s so bad in eastern Pennsylvania, western New Jersey, and most of Maryland that a little interference might be welcome.

Here comes an interesting problem: “The FAA's concern stems from whether airborne cell phone calls could interfere with a plane's navigation and electrical systems, agency spokeswoman Laura Brown said. The technology used on seatback phones causes no such interference. The FAA has commissioned a private, independent firm to study the issue. Results aren't due until 2006. Brown said any decision on cell phone use won't be made until then.”

Laura doesn’t know? Well, Laura, I have been preached to by countless flight attendents who say your agency TOLD them there is life threatening interference. Even though every airliner uses two or more microwave ovens; television sets; cargo elevators on the wide bodies; and major jet engines that generate not only thrust but also static by the boatload. Yeah, go use my taxes to pay a contractor to take a couple of years to tell you what every one of us, and every one of you, already knows.

If my cell phone was a hazard, wouldn’t your security folks TAKE IT AWAY FROM ME?

The bottom line: they are afraid that cell phone use and internet use may interfere with airline cash flow.

I am afraid that it won’t!


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