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Sat, Jul 15, 2006

ANN's Daily Aero-Tips (07.15.06): Cell Phones OFF

Aero-Tips!

A good pilot is always learning -- how many times have you heard this old standard throughout your flying career? There is no truer statement in all of flying (well, with the possible exception of "there are no old, bold pilots.")

Aero-News has called upon the expertise of Thomas P. Turner, master CFI and all-around-good-guy, to bring our readers -- and us -- daily tips to improve our skills as aviators. Some of them, you may have heard before... but for each of us, there will also be something we might never have considered before, or something that didn't "stick" the way it should have the first time we memorized it for the practical test.

Look for our daily Aero-Tips segments, coming each day to you through the Aero-News Network.

Aero-Tips 07.15.06

"Don't use cell phones in flight." I know you've heard it before. Justification usually comes in the form of Federal Communications Commissions (FCC) rules about cell phone use, and how cell phones at altitude could access widely spaced cell towers causing signal saturation or disruption, or some such.

That may all be true, but I'm here to tell you that regardless of some FCC ruling or the risk of blanking out cell signals, there are very real hazards in using a cell phone in flight.

Note: I've read that today's generation cell phones by design won't work from a high angle above cell towers, and won't synch with towers if traveling more than about 100 mph precisely to eliminate supposed multiple-tower problems. I ask readers with specific information about this to post a Discussion items note letting us know…for curiosity's sake.

Hazards of In-Flight Cell Use
  1. Distraction. If you shouldn't be driving while talking on the phone, think about the temptation to conduct business by cell phone while flying an airplane…or if a forgotten phone begins to ring while you're conducting an engine-out, partial panel night instrument approach to minimums.
  2. Communications interruption. Sure, I did it. I accidentally left my cell phone on in my jacket pocket, way in the back seats of a six-place airplane while providing flight instruction. I now know for a fact that a cell phone attempting to synch up with towers puts out a signal that can create heavy static on some comm frequencies, and even appeared to intermittently jam the GPS receiver. Now that's something you don't want to have happen as you're trying to approach and land.

FAR 91.21 tells us in flight we can use "any…portable electronic device that the operator of the aircraft has determined will not cause interference with the navigation or communication system of the aircraft…." Trouble is, you won't know for certain until you fly.

Aero-tip of the day: Put a step on your Before Takeoff checklist that reads:

CREW/PASSENGER CELL PHONES, PAGERS AND OTHER PERSONAL COMMUNICATIONS DEVICES-OFF.

Brief your passengers to turn these items off in their coats and baggage before you load them onto the airplane.

FMI: Aero-Tips

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