UPDATE 2: Senate calls for FAA study of mobile telemetry

Amended to note that the House version of FAA Reauthorization legislation apparently contains a provision for a study of cell phones on passenger aircraft. The Senate version, however, apparently does not. The Senate is calling for a study of aeronautical mobile telemetry (click here for a slightly better idea of what that means).


It appears that a fire has been lit under the derrieres of Congress members, with both chambers finally making headway on FAA reauthorization legislation, and dropping a controversial provision that would impose a federal ban on the in-flight use of mobile phones (and VoIP).

After the House transportation committee cleared FAA reauthorization legislation earlier in the week, (the bill now goes to the House floor), the full Senate last night passed its version of the bill.

The House bill apparently has a section 433, entitled “Use of Cell Phones On Passenger Aircraft”, which appears to be a study about in-flight mobile connectivity, according to lobbying group the In-flight Passenger Communications Coalition, but I’ll be darned if I’ve been able to find it. See a copy of the bill on the House transportation committee’s web site.

The IPCC says it is still scanning the text of the Senate bill plus amendments (apparently 57 amendments were processed on 17 February as the bill was raced to passage) and it has not yet found a provision that deals with in-flight mobile connectivity. As of this morning, nor have I.

What the Senate is proposing is a study of aeronautical mobile telemetry, which contrary to my prior report, appears to be unrelated to any sort of cabin connectivity (see text below). I will update RWG as more details surface, and stakeholders weigh in on the matter (and certainly when a final consensus is reached between the two chambers).

Meanwhile, if you are an expert in aeronautical mobile telemetry for flight testing, and would like to discuss why the Senate’s provision is important, please feel free to contact me at mary_b_kirby@yahoo.com. All emails are confidential.

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6 Responses to UPDATE 2: Senate calls for FAA study of mobile telemetry

  1. Robert E. Coli February 18, 2011 at 5:44 pm #

    The phrase “aeronautical mobile telemetry” doesn’t say much, does it? I’m kinda thinking it might be more of a data-logging thing rather than a cell-phone study. For example, instant and continuous downloading of black-box data might make some sense, so that the flight recorders do not have to be retrieved from the bottom of the ocean. If “mobile telemetry” is being used to talk about cellphones it may be an inappropriate use of the language..

    The science or process of making remote measurements and sending the data by radio.
    (from The Collaborative International Dictionary of English v.0.48)

    (PS: the “Senate agreed…” link above appears to be a dud link)

  2. Mary Kirby February 18, 2011 at 7:02 pm #

    Hi Robert,
    Like a large portion of the Senate bill, the wording appears to be open for interpretation! I connected with Carl Biersack today and he says in reference to a study: “The IPCC, as with all of the stakeholders in this technologically complex intersection of the aviation and telecommunication marketplaces, will be a participant in whatever process the FAA will set up. We fully expect the FAA to reach out to those firms which currently have the knowledge-base, and include them in ensuring the most inclusive process as possible. Remember there are many misconceptions that have to be addressed – we heard all those erroneous anecdotal ‘experiences’ from Congressional testimony several years ago. The FAA has strong relationships with all the air carriers currently offering inflight connectivity and I assume all will, in some form, receive an inquiry from the FAA. I assume all will cooperate by sharing their non-proprietary connectivity information and performance data.” So there does seem to be a lot of assuming going on at this stage. I’ll have more later!!

  3. Mary Kirby February 18, 2011 at 7:40 pm #

    That said, I’m now sufficiently skeptical! It seems like a grand opportunity for mobile connectivity providers (regardless of how it is defined) but whether it leads specifically to understanding mobile connectivity for passengers (or crew) is another question. See: http://www.mitre.org/news/digest/aviation/07_05/a_telemetry.html

  4. DAG February 18, 2011 at 8:34 pm #

    What the hell are we doing wasting our money on aviation – or aviation connectivity for that matter? High-speed RAIL would create tons of jobs. It’s what we need to rebuild America. Why throw money to the same ole shit? New airports. New radars. All that BS. Clear the sky a little bit and put people on trains.

  5. Mary Kirby February 19, 2011 at 9:46 am #

    Robert, it appears you’re right and I, alas, was wrong. I’ve updated the blog with new info. Apparently the House version of FAA reauth contains a cell phone study, but the Senate bill does not…at least it doesn’t appear to at this time (I’m still combing through both). The AMT study is related to spectrum for aircraft testing. To DAG, I’m sure there is a railway girl out there somewhere trying to navigate the latest legislative efforts (in rather maddening FAA reauthorization legislation) concerning high-speed rail. :0)

  6. Jacko February 22, 2011 at 10:29 am #

    The only people I’ve heard say they want to allow cell phone use on aircraft are those people trying to sell the systems. I’ve yet to hear one frequent traveler say they think it’s a good idea.

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