The lawmakers' letter highlighted concerns that a proposed Federal
Communications Commission rule that would allow the use of mobile
broadband technology on flights raised critical safety and security
The letter was sent to the heads of the Department of
Transportation, the Department of Homeland Security, the Department
of Justice and the FCC, and urged a comprehensive review of policy
across jurisdictional lines.
"Passengers making voice calls during flight could impact the
ability of crew members - flight attendants and pilots - to perform
their jobs, keep passengers safe and the cabin environment calm,"
said the letter from 77 members of the House of Representatives.
The lawmakers' action came at a time when instances of "aisle rage"
have been rising on often cramped, crowded flights. On Sept 1 an
argument over leg room and a reclined seat forced a Delta Air Lines
flight to make an unscheduled landing, the third such incident in
about a week.
Unfettered cellphone calls in a confined space are seen as another
potential spark for passenger anger, and one that FCC Chairman Tom
Wheeler has acknowledged.
"I get it. I donít want the person in the seat next to me yapping at
35,000 feet any more than anyone else," Wheeler said last year when
announcing a review of FCC policy on connecting to wireless services
Instigating the lawmakers' letter were Representatives David
McKinley, Republican of West Virginia, and Dan Lipinski, Democrat of
Flight attendants, long critical of the concept of in-flight
cellphone calls, applauded the move.
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"In far too many operational scenarios, mobile broadband use could
be far worse than a mere nuisance: it could have catastrophic
effects on aviation safety and security," said Sara Nelson,
international president of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA.
The union represents nearly 60,000 flight attendants across 19
The FCC has been reviewing its policy since December. It could face
opposition from the DOT, which has said it might specifically ban
cellphone calls if the broadband policy is relaxed.
Besides issues within the passenger cabin, concerns continue that
wireless technology can cause radio interference, could be used to
tamper with flight controls, or could be "used to hide or trigger
on-board explosives," the lawmakers said.
(Reporting by Ros Krasny; editing by Andrew Hay)
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