Fix the airplane cellphone problem before it is one

Ed wrote about the breaking news yesterday regarding the FAA potentially allowing the use of cell phones on airline flights in the near future, but this dire situation require a bit more serious approach. Also, I’d like to proffer a possible compromise which can avoid the inevitable bloodshed and full-blown zombie apocalypse this could lead to.

There are a variety of reasons why this is a horrible idea, some of them found in rational, technical analysis. One fine example of this comes from Sascha Segan at PC Magazine.

Phones on airplanes won’t be connecting to the usual cellphone networks, which aren’t designed to operate at 35,000 feet. Rather, calls would be batched and bounced down to the ground through a satellite or specialized air-to-ground cellular system. This would also let the airlines charge much more per minute than standard carrier rates.

Right now, Emirates Airlines uses OnAir’s GSM/satellite system to enable in-flight calling; “charges are in line with international roaming rates,” the carrier says, which means they aren’t cheap. GoGo, which powers most of the in-flight Internet systems in the U.S., recently rolled out a talk-and-text feature, which it said it could enable if airline customers requested it.

These are fine reasons, and nobody wants to find their bill skyrocketing or deal with jammed, restricted access networks in this new wireless environment. Of course, it’s still not the really important reason. You see, I have a wife to care for along with a variety of other responsibilities, and I really can’t afford to wind up in jail. And if you allow people to start using cell phones on planes, I’m fairly sure that I’m going to kill somebody. I fly more than I want to and the flights are getting worse and worse in terms of leg space, service and pretty much everything else. The one saving grace is that most everyone else – even if traveling with a companion in the next seat – is pretty much as miserable as me. For the most part we all sit there sullenly, reading our analog books (in my case) or digital device. Napping is fine if you can manage it… I’ll even forgive you if you snore. But if I have to sit through four hours with some chipper little co-ed chirping “Oh ma’ god!!!!!’ and going on endlessly about the pointless minutia of her life into her phone, I’ll be hard pressed to not attempt an experiment to see if she can be shoved through the double plated window.

But there is a possible solution. If cell phones are deemed “safe” to use in flight, let people use them… for everything but calls. The kids these days are wild about texting. Hey… text away! You can communicate just as well that way. Check your e-mail on your phone. (Not everyone wants to bust out their laptop or tablet on a plane. I carry my laptop in my bag, but the seats are too cramped to use it for my tastes.) Play Angry Fruit Bat or Words With Psychos or whatever you hipsters are doing on your phones these days. I’m fine with it. Just no phone calls, please.

I really don’t want to have to do a stretch for murder in the crowbar motel.

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