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Cellphones Communications Transportation

Air Traffic Controller Lands Stricken Plane By SMS 177

There's a new reason to hope that the no-cell-chatter bill now under consideration in the US doesn't bring with it a Faraday-cage mandate, and that reason is landing safely. Reader ma11achy writes with an excerpt from a scary story (with an SMS-based happy ending) from the Irish Times: "Five people on a flight from Kerry to Jersey received mobile phone text instructions from a quick-thinking air traffic controller when he guided them in to a safe landing at Cork, after the plane lost all onboard electrical power, communications and weather radar soon after take-off from Kerry airport."
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Air Traffic Controller Lands Stricken Plane By SMS

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  • by Guano_Jim ( 157555 ) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @08:35AM (#24544687)

    from TFA:

    He then lost audio telephone contact but the air traffic controller switched to texting and told the pilot that he had a primary radar signal on the aircraft and that Cork would allow them to land there. He then used texts to guide the 30-year-old plane in.

    What would make a phone lose audio but not SMS ability?

  • With my plan... (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 10, 2008 @08:44AM (#24544733)

    (1) Verizon would have charged me for the phone number for the tower - perhaps $2.

    (2) Then they would have charged me for each in-bound and out-bound text message - perhaps another $2 in all.

    (3) Some texts would likely have been deferred, making it unlikely to be useful for critical, near-real time communications.

    (4) And, of course all this would be on top of my $80 per month, 450-minute "Crackberry" plan. (Not including miscellaneous "recovery fees" that they seem to slip onto every bill, every month)

  • Re:What? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 10, 2008 @08:45AM (#24544737)

    1 - People have an annoying habit of yelling into their cellphones for no good reason.

    2 - Maybe you don't hear complaints about people on cell phones in restaurants because you're too busy yelling into your cellphone.

    3 - Passengers are packed pretty tightly into those airplanes.

  • by 1u3hr ( 530656 ) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @09:01AM (#24544795)
    Timothy (The "editor") wrote "There's a new reason to hope that the no-cell-chatter bill now under consideration in the US doesn't bring with it a Faraday-cage mandate, and that reason is landing safely."

    How about reading TFA: "the twin-engined Piper plane ... with four passengers". It wasn't a fucking jumbo jet. That kind of plane is never going to be affected by any "no cell chatter" rules, much less have any "Faraday cage" built into it. And I think an airliner would have multiple multiple communications backups.

    Reminds me of the wackos who say cell phones should be allowed in cinemas "in case of terrorist attack".

    The only reason Timothy linked this with the cell phone ban on passenger planes is that it is guaranteed to start up a multi-page thread arguing that subject again, reardless of its irrelevance. Too bad he couldn't think of a way to get gun rights or evolution into the story too.

  • Re:What? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 10, 2008 @09:03AM (#24544801)

    I don't see what the big deal is. People talking on a cell phone is hardly any different than two people talking to each other on the plane.

    As others have already pointed out: it is, my friend, oh well, it is.

    Except you only get (have) to hear one side of the conversation.

    Which is even worse. I find it much more easy to ignore a completely understandable talk between two people. With just half of the communication present, some nerve tickles all the time and tries to make sense of all this gibberish.

    If you don't want to hear it, then get ear plugs, plug in your iPod, or just not listen.

    Thank you, but I get seriously irritated when not hearing what goes on around me. I dislike ear plugs and I dislike the wet atmosphere they generate inside my ears; earphones, on the other hand, induce very discomforting pain (the anatomically more suitable earphones are so sound-proof that I can't use them in public; see above).

    I mean, seriously, you don't hear people complaining about cell phones at restaurants, yet it is the same concept.

    In my country, this is mainly because nobody uses the cell phone while in a restaurant. If they have to, they go outside. Very polite.

    When did flying become a "quiet zone"?

    Why should it become a terroristic attack on my ears and--maybe more importantly--on my intellect? Flying is uncomfortable enough as it is, no need for additional yelling.

  • by Tx ( 96709 ) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @09:11AM (#24544827) Journal

    The Mythbusters, while highly entertaining, would not win any prizes for designing good experiments. They are entertainers, not scientists, and you could poke huge holes in quite a high percentage of their endeavours, so I wouldn't cite them as a meaningful reference.

  • by elrous0 ( 869638 ) * on Sunday August 10, 2008 @09:17AM (#24544855)
    Since rhe airline industry and TSA have, to date, provided not a single study or even shread of evidence thar cells pose any threat, I'd give the Mythbusters the edge on this one.
  • Sega is awesome! (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Artuir ( 1226648 ) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @10:28AM (#24545333)

    I always knew the Sega Master System was an awesome console but this article finally gives it the recognition it deserves! Now if you'll excuse me I'm going to get back to playing Wonder Boy III.

  • by norova ( 1199601 ) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @11:09AM (#24545681)

    An SMS is sent in a single frame of GSM data. Audio needs 50 frames per second.

    And again I'm reminded of why I'm so sick that we pay so much for SMS services.

  • by whizbang77045 ( 1342005 ) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @11:16AM (#24545747)

    First off, when an aircraft is in an emergency, you can do a lot of things that would otherwise be banned. You save your fanny first, then worry about regulations later.

    Second, the reasons given for the cell phone ban appear to be largely misinformed. I know of two: potential interferrence with aircraft equipment, and interferrence with ground cell phone towers.

    To demonstrate that cell phones categorically do not interfere with aircraft equipment, in the US, the FAA would require that each cell phone design demonstrate that it does not cause interferrence. Change the design, or have a different design? New demonstration required. Cell phones passing the test would more than likely need some sort of identifying mark showing that they were approved for aircraft use.

    Don't like this idea? Perhaps you'd like to fly with someone who can interfere with the aircraft instruments. I can imagine the headlines: "FAA fails to insure airline safety. Cell phone determined to be cause of crash claiming 150 lives!"

    As much as I dislike the airlines getting a free ride on their phones being the only ones usable on the aircraft, those phones have been verified not to interfere with other equipment on the aircraft.

    The other problem is that ground based cell phones were designed for ground usage. They punch into whatever cell phone towers happen to be in range. As long as the cell phone itself isn't at a higher elevation, it only reaches a limited number of towers. Put it in an airplane, and it reaches a much larger number of towers. Which tower should be handling the call? Who knows?

    This might not be too bad for one or two cell phones, but open it up to all cell phones, and significant interference could result.

    It is possible to design a cell phone for airborne use. All it takes is money.

    One can, of course, legislate this problem, and declare whatever the legislators think will please the electorate the most. But that, of course, does not change the laws of physics.

  • Re:What? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by matria ( 157464 ) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @11:30AM (#24545841)

    Give it up, friend. People who are determined to do whatever they please whenever they please and have a "screw the rest of the world" attitude will always attack anyone who dares question their right to do so.

Make it myself? But I'm a physical organic chemist!