No Cell Phone Airplane Signs
As somebody who has done a fair-share of flying over the last 18 months, I think I have the whole commercial air travel thing down. I know my flotation device is under my seat, I know how to properly place an air mask over my face in the event of a sudden decrease in cabin pressure and I know to never order the fish.
The one thing I don’t know is why there are still those no smoking signs above my head on every aircraft. While Bloomberg reported earlier this year that people are still getting arrested and cited for smoking in bathrooms, I don’t think it’s that necessary to have those red “X” cigarette light next to the seatbelt sign on every row after 20 years of the ban. Reminders in the bathrooms themselves are likely good enough, because nobody is stupid enough to light up in the seating area. David Cross covered this topic more succinctly for his opening bit on his new stand-up special (seen here).
I’ve been on flights before when the co-pilot has mistakenly turned off the no smoking sign instead of the no seatbelt sign. Non-smoking flights have been around long enough that people aren’t going to light up when a co-pilot makes a mistake. I’ve even been on brand-new aircraft that still have this sign. First of all, why are aircraft still being made with this switch or sign? Why does there still need to be a picture on every single damn row?
I think the better idea is to change the smoking sign into a cell phone sign. Or at least for electronics in general. The use of Wi-Fi is increasing on flights, too. After the opening telecommunications spectrum once held by those old middle seat credit card phones on more and more airlines was opened up, more people are now willing to bring their toys with them on the plane.
However, cell phones are still banned for (supposedly) interrupting in-flight communications. I’ve recently been on flights where people still get the cell phone ban confused for the take-off/landing electronics ban. It would make more sense to have a lighted sign that indicates to passengers when they can or cannot use a cell phone. It’s simple.
An article I found from 2006 said some French airlines will replaces the smoking signs to cell phones signs. However, I can’t find any more articles on the topic to see if they actually have implemented them, or it just never panned out. Odds are, when airlines took a huge economic hit a few years ago, they backed off upgrades like these. Just a pet peeve of mine, I guess.
What do you think of this idea?
I think they need to lift the ban entirely, or at least be honest about why they don’t want cell phones on during flights. This isn’t about preventing a crash; it’s about making sure people are quiet and not disruptive during flights. There isn’t any evidence that the frequencies emitted and received by cell phones interfere with the navigational equipment aboard commercial aircraft. One instrument, the ADF, which has long since been antiquated and replaced with the (still old) VOR and (newer) GPS, may be slightly affected by mobile phone signals at close range. This means holding an operating cell phone up to an ADF receiver or antenna, both of which are highly inaccessible to any passenger of the aircraft. I’d wager a guess that most pilots don’t even turn off their phones during flight, and they’re the ones closest to all of that sensitive equipment.
It’s an FAA regulation (Part 47 § 22.925) that cell phones not be used during flight operations, but as a private pilot, I can tell you that it happens all the time in spite of the regulation. From high altitudes, you’re not likely to get a signal, but I’ve seen GA pilots make successful phone calls from their mobiles while in flight (much lower altitudes).
The no smoking sign is kind of silly, but that’s the legal channel through which to ban smoking. The placards, by FAA regulation (Part § 135.127), make the ban enforceable.