House Bill to ban on board Voice Calls is the Right Vehicle for this Non-Safety Decision

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Article: Shuster to Introduce Bill to Ban In-Flight Cell Phone Calls


(image from T&I website)

The decision to ban voice communications is not within the statutory competence of the FAA. Once the FCC and FAA have determined that the radio transmissions will not interfere with the onboard navigation and avionics systems, which they appear to have done, then there is no safety issue for the FAA to review.

Thus, it is right and appropriate for Congress to act on such issues as passenger convenience and quality of flight experience . Chairman Shuster has introduced legislation which would prohibit on board use of cell phones for voice communications

called the “Prohibiting In-Flight Voice Communications on Mobile Wireless Devices Act of 2013”. Mr. Shuster’s accompanying statement explained his rationale:

“Let’s face it, airplane cabins are by nature noisy, crowded, and confined…For the most part, passengers are looking for ways to make their flights go by as quickly and quietly as possible.  Pilots and flight attendants are focused on ensuring a safe and comfortable flight for everyone onboard.

For passengers, being able to use their phones and tablets to get online or send text messages is a useful in-flight option.  But if passengers are going to be forced to listen to the gossip in the aisle seat, it’s going to make for a very long flight. For those few hours in the air with 150 other people, it’s just common sense that we all keep our personal lives to ourselves and stay off the phone.”

The proposed language instructs the Secretary of Transportation to promulgate regulations. Presumably those rules, like when Congress banned all smoking on aircraft (49 USC§ 41706), the DoT rules will provide a sanction (civil or criminal penalty?) and have flight attendants report such violations to the FAA?

It is good that the Chairman took the initiative to legislate a ban on cell phone use and take the issue from the FAA,

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