With the 3G capabilities of the iPad, MiFis, network cards, and PC Internet dongles, we have had a number of people ask us about using 3G Internet to get weather over cell networks while flying. Does it work? Maybe, it really depends on where you are flying, how high you are flying, and what networks may be available in the area you are at. So, are you supposed to use your cell phone while airborne? No, a really strong and very clear NO, from the FCC on that one. Read the following, along with this FCC website that is anything but settle on the use of cell phones in aircraft.
Title 47: TelecommunicationOkay, but an iPad or a PC with a MiFi or wireless card is not a cell phone right? I mean, you can't hold it up to your ear and call anybody. It can't be that bad, can it? What was that part about balloons? It's not like I'm going to shoot the ILS in my hot air balloon.
PART 22—PUBLIC MOBILE SERVICES
Subpart H—Cellular Radiotelephone Service
§ 22.925 Prohibition on airborne operation of cellular telephones
Cellular telephones installed in or carried aboard airplanes, balloons or any other type of aircraft must not be operated while such aircraft are airborne (not touching the ground). When any aircraft leaves the ground, all cellular telephones on board that aircraft must be turned off. The following notice must be posted on or near each cellular telephone installed in any aircraft: "The use of cellular telephones while this aircraft is airborne is prohibited by FCC rules, and the violation of this rule could result in suspension of service and/or a fine. The use of cellular telephones while this aircraft is on the ground is subject to FAA regulations."
True, you may not be flying an ILS approach in a hot air balloon, but a 3G connected device does use the same cellular network as any cell phone. The real question is: Do cell phones (or other 3G connected devices) really interfere with instrumentation? Or is "NO" simply the FAA, FCC, and airlines rule ploy to make you turn your devices off so everyone stays calm in the back of the airliner?
Let's step away from the regulations for a moment and see what the results were of the MythBusters' test on cell phones and aircraft systems.
|Myth Statement||The ban on cell phones on aircraft is designed to force passengers to use the expensive in-flight phones.|
|Notes||It was found that cell-phone signals, specifically those in the 800-900 MHz range, did interfere with unshielded cockpit instrumentation. Because older aircraft with unshielded wiring can be affected, because of the possible problems that may arise by having many airborne cell phones "seeing" multiple cell phone towers, and because of all the electronic systems in a modern airplane that would have to undergo lengthy and expensive certification, the MythBusters speculated that the FCC (via enforcement through the FAA) prohibits the use of cell phones while airborne in order to remain on the safe side, rather than the air companies asking for the ban in order to increase their revenue from in-flight phones. Such a prohibition is being lifted in Europe.|
|Source||MythBusters: Cell Phones on a Plane|
Ok, so the FCC says no on the cell phone use. Our favorite shade tree research show (MythBusters) says that cell phones interfere if given the right (or wrong, depending how you look at it) conditions. What do you think? What does your FSDO think? Give them a call (preferably while you're not in flight) and find out. For us, unless it is an emergency, we will be turning off our 3G connected devices and cell phones before takeoff and looking to ATC, HIWAS, XM, and flight watch for in flight information.
Have a safe flight!