I am glad to see the FCC has upheld the ban on Cell phone usage on airplanes. I feel more research is needed to determine the effect of cell phones on both the communications and navigation equipment on aircraft before allowing unconditional use on airplanes.
I have seen first hand the dangers of allowing the use of cellular phones during critical phases of flight such as takeoff and landing. As Captain of a flight departing Newark’s Liberty International Airport we where told by the control tower to taxi into position and hold on the runway. This command from the tower tells us to taxi onto the runway and wait for a takeoff clearance from the tower.
While in position for takeoff we heard another transmission from the tower that was garbled due to interference on the radio. The buzzing sound was similar to what I have heard when using a cordless home phone and a cellular car interference with the call. I turned to my copilot and asked “what did he say?”. Then I called the flight attendant and asked her to make an announcement that all cell phones and two way pagers such as blackberry devices are off. After the tower repeated that we where cleared for takeoff, we departed for our destination.
Communications is important especially while aircraft are operating in close proximity to each other such as during arrival and departure from an airport. This incident inspired me to do begin research on the use of cell phones on airplanes. I discovered there are studies showing cellular phones have interfered with the navigation and communications equipment on airplanes. I also have discovered that the type of cellular device has some significance in the amount of interference that is caused.
I feel we need more research to determine the safety of using cellular phones on aircraft. From discussions with passengers, I found many feel the only reason cellular phones are turned off in flight is for technical and business purposes required by the cellular phone companies. I hope from my incident more people realize safety is the reason we ask to turn phones and pagers off during flight.