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Airplane Phone Restrictions: Safety or Manners?

'Many passengers would prefer that voice calls not be made on airplanes'
By Elizabeth Armstrong Moore,  Newser Staff
Posted May 7, 2017 12:58 PM CDT
Are Cell Phone Rules on Planes to Protect Safety or Sanity?
Clifford Town Marshall Charlie DeWeese talks on his phone as the Columbus Fire Department's Emergency Services unit leaves the scene of a plane crash near 20950 E. County Road 200N in Hartsville, Ind., Wednesday, April 12, 2017. The pilot was pronounced dead at the scene.   (Mike Wolanin /The Republic via AP)

(Newser) – Overhearing some loudmouth's phone conversation is bad enough on the street or at a restaurant, but nobody wants to be sitting next to that person for the duration of a flight. And that may be the real reason the FCC continues to ban voice calls on phones, even though the decades-old rule was written with safety as the primary concern, reports Time. In fact, as cell phone technology advances, the threat of cellular signals interfering with the plane doesn't really exist anymore. No phone has ever brought down a plane, and the European Aviation Safety Agency concluded after a 2014 review that electronic devices pose no safety risk.

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Even the FCC has changed its official stance in recent years, noting that technology that can be installed on planes to prevent whatever interference may exist "has already been deployed successfully in many other countries around the world without incident." Even so, new FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has called a proposal to allow the use of cell phones at high altitude "ill-conceived" and took it off the table altogether, reports the Washington Post, referring not to safety issues but the "value" of "a moment of quiet at 30,000 feet." But while "there is no magic gauge in the cockpit that shows that there is a phone with its cellular connection or WiFi not turned off," an aviation safety specialist tells Time, no one would have any doubt if you're gabbing away to Aunt Rita. (That FCC proposal would have allowed airlines to write their own rules on in-flight gabbing.)

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