Canadian rules that prohibit passengers from making cell phone calls after the aircraft has landed and is taxiing to its gate are poised to change, but regulators remain unconvinced that in-flight usage of mobile phones is safe.

A notice of proposed amendment is currently being drafted. It will look specifically at cell phones and “lean towards” permitting voice calls during taxiing, a Transport Canada spokesman confirms.

The notice will be released in the coming months, likely this summer, allowing industry stakeholders to weigh in.

The spokesman says it is “premature” to speculate on whether the in-flight use of cell phones or Blackberry-like devices will eventually be permitted.

Flight safety remains a huge concern for Canadian regulators. “There is always a risk of potential interference” to aircraft avionics, he says.

Lack of demand is also cited by Transport Canada. “Even business travellers” have expressed little interest in cell phone use in Canada, he says.

Canada’s reluctance to significantly alter its regulations on this front is in deep contrast to Europe and the Middle East, which are clearing paths for airlines to adopt services on offer from rivals AeroMobile and OnAir.

In the USA, however, both the Federal Communications Commission and the FAA continue to maintain the ban on the airborne use of cell phones.

Instead, the USA is moving forward with trails of WiFi-based services. Colorado-based Aircell recently became the first communications operator to receive approvals from the FAA to provide air-to-ground (ATG) in-flight mobile broadband for US domestic flights. American Airlines is slated to launch Aircell’s service – branded Gogo – by mid-year; Virgin America has signed up to offer the service across its fleet of Airbus A320 family aircraft.

The WiFi path that Canada might travel remains unclear. Its pending proposed notice will likely prompt this discussion, says the Transport Canada spokesman.

Aircell, meanwhile, has previously said it expects to extend coverage to Canada, the Caribbean and Mexico within a year of introducing its ATG broadband service in the continental USA.

Source: Air Transport Intelligence news

Source: Flight International