Ask The Expert

Q: Is it really dangerous to use cellphones on airplanes while in flight?


A: Probably not. The idea of something bad actually happening if you talk on your cell while flying is rather outdated. With support from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), in 1991, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) banned the use of cellphones by passengers because there were concerns it interfered with networks on the ground and with airplanes’ communications and navigation systems.

The ban has stood, despite a proposal in 2004 to relax or eliminate the rule that was ultimately rejected by the FCC. However, cellphone experts contend the threat is largely exaggerated. “Some older phones, those that are at least three or four years old, could have interfered with radio transmissions,” explains Ed Duke, manager of the AT&T store in New Rochelle. “But the technology in the newer phones would not cause any kind of interference.”

During flight, the newer phones can go into “airplane mode,” which allows use of all the capabilities of the phone except making or receiving calls. “You wouldn’t even be able to make phone calls when you’re at a high altitude, anyway,” Duke says. “The cellphone towers are not that high; you would have no reception.” Maybe the real question should be, “How can I get better service when I’m making my annual trip
to Miami?”
// Jonathan Quartuccio