General aviation pilots should be able to use cell phones in the cockpit while they're airborne. And they should be able to do it now. That's what AOPA is telling the Federal Communications Commission.
"It's a safety issue," said Randy Kenagy, AOPA senior director of advanced technology. "Cell phones and other wireless technologies are invaluable tools for obtaining updated weather and other information in flight. And the risk of interference with aircraft avionics for the typical general aviation flight is very slight."
The FCC is considering changing its rules to allow cell phones (and other wireless devices such as pagers and Blackberries) to be used in the air.
Despite the concern in some quarters that cell phones might cause interference with aircraft radios and navigation equipment, the FAA has never prohibited their use for aircraft operating under VFR. The aviation agency always has given pilots the final authority on what portable electronic devices could be used in the flight. And AOPA talked with several major cell phone service providers and found no restrictions on using their services in GA cockpits.
And for GA pilots, the safety and convenience benefits of the wireless devices far outweigh any minimal interference risk.
"The majority of general aviation flights are flown under VFR, so there is seldom exclusive reliance on electronic navigation," said Kenagy. "Plus, the pilot isn't isolated from the passengers and has the immediate ability and responsibility to terminate the use of any device at any time if it is interfering with flight-critical electronics."
AOPA told the FCC that it strongly supports the rule change and urged the agency to take the regulatory steps to allow the immediate use of cell phones and other wireless devices in airborne aircraft.
March 28, 2005