Wednesday, October 17, 2007

learn airplane mode

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There's a story (sure there are many others out there) of a passenger getting into some trouble with the flight attendant (FA) because of his I-phone use.

Smartphones (like the I-phone) that package many different devices together need to provide the user the ability to turn off certain functions and still use other functions. The I-phone can turn-off the transmitting functions while still providing music/video or other things that are stored within it. It's called "airplane mode" but it's not a standard across these smart devices so how is the airline or the user going to know about it's operation?

I was involved in the RTCA study of transmitting personal electronic devices (T-PEDS) on aircraft. Mobile phones can be a problem for other systems on-board. With the various types of aircraft combined with the many many different types of T-PEDS it becomes a very difficult task to show everything is safe.

Many different organizations including NASA did numerous tests on aircraft with Wi-Fi and that technology appears to be very safe. Wi-Fi and mobile/cellular systems use different frequencies and have some other important differences too. So for the person that commented about all the laptops with Wi-Fi on-board as justification for using mobile/cellular phones, I say, no that is not a valid argument.

Wi-Fi on-board has been offered by Boeing Connexion in the past. The program was dropped by Boeing, but not for safety issues. It was usage and profit issues I believe. Wi-Fi service is coming again and if the Wi-Fi gets turned off along with the mobile/cellular transmission, the I-phone users using "airplane mode" will not be able to enjoy the Wi-Fi service.

Also, the CEA organization tried to standardize this "airplane mode" feature. I don't know how well it was received by industry.

One other point - everyone knows that mobile/cell phones are left on during flights. I'm convinced some people don't even know how to turn their phones off.

Too bad the FA on that flight had not read this info from Apple.

Here is what I posted in the past about I-phone - Wi-Fi and airlines.

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