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AFA Recommends Continued Prohibition of Airborne Use of Cell Phones

Date: December 15, 2004

Authorities Urged to Allow Time to Understand and Reduce Threats to Flight and Operational Safety

WASHINGTON - To ensure the safety of commercial air travel and minimize confusion on the part of the traveling public, the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA recommended today that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) leave unchanged its existing prohibition on the airborne use of cellular telephones. The recommendation was made at an open meeting to consider a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking regarding changes to the current prohibition.

The current generation of electronic devices with wireless transmitters (e.g., cell phones and handheld and laptop computers) produces radio signals that may compromise flight safety by interfering with an aircraft's communications and navigation systems. Furthermore, widespread use of these devices in the confined space of an aircraft cabin has the potential to compromise operational safety by increasing misunderstanding and conflicts between passengers and crew.

Given the potential for such safety threats, AFA is working with domestic and international regulatory agencies and industry groups as a member of the RTCA, Inc. Special Committee 202 and the Consumer Electronics Association Portable Electronic Devices Working Group. The purpose of the groups is to research portable electronic device use on board aircraft and minimize adverse effects on safety. Recently, they published two reports, RTCA DO-294, Guidance on Allowing Transmitting Portable Electronic Devices (T-PEDs) on Aircraft, and CEA Recommended Practice-Status Indicator for and Control of Transmitters in Portable Electronic Devices (PEDs).

In the coming months, both groups will expand their efforts and develop additional recommendations. Concurrently, regulators, manufacturers and airlines will apply RTCA and CEA working group recommendations to develop and test equipment, procedures, training programs and customer outreach materials. "While this process is unfolding, attempts to weaken the long-standing FCC prohibition will only confuse the public, and any widespread misperception by travelers that cell phone use in flight is now intrinsically safe might well prove catastrophic," warned Chris Witkowski, director of the AFA Air Safety, Health and Security Department.

More than 46,000 flight attendants join together to form AFA, the world's largest flight attendant union. AFA is part of the 700,000 member strong Communications Workers of America, AFL-CIO. Visit us at www.afanet.org.

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