Nor Cal Truth June 5, 2010
Many remember the stories of phone calls on 9/11 allegedly made from victims on-board the planes. Many people know suspect that they could not have been made from cell phones for different reasons. Some reasons for not using cells in-flight are technologically inspired, some are more from a physical possibilities perspective.
The Federal Communications Commission and the Federal Aviation Administration have each recommended that airlines not allow passengers to use cell phones during commercial flights. The FAA fears that the RF signal emitted by devices using the 800MHz spectrum band might interfere with the navigation systems of the plane, specifically GPS instrumentation. Yet there is no documented case of an air accident or serious malfunction caused by a cell phone’s interfering with a plane’s navigation system.
The FCC’s concern is that wireless networks on the ground might be disrupted by the cell phones flying overhead. As a plane flies over a wireless cell tower on the ground, the FCC believes, the cell site will detect all the cell phones operating inside the plane and go to work registering those devices to operate on the network. But by the time the tower registers and connects all those mobile phones passing overhead, the plane will have passed into the range of the next cell tower on its route. This uses up system resources and could hurt network performance for connected phones on the ground.
But some experts believe that this worry is outdated. “Color me highly skeptical that this is a real problem with modern systems,” says Ken Biba, CTO of Novarum, a wireless consulting and engineering group. “Modern digital phones actually use lower power, and, further, the cell towers have very directional antennas designed for covering the surface of the earth [not the air above].”
The Fix: There isn’t much you can do. Actually, the FCC and the FAA are doing us a big favor here. They’re delivering us from having to fly with people jabbering away on their cell phones from takeoff to landing.
Interesting notes on cell phones calls relating to 9/11 taken from an article written by David R. Griffin:
Approximately 15 of the reported phone calls from the four airliners were described at the time as cell phone calls. About 10 of those were from Flight 93.
Given the cell phone technology available in 2001, cell phone calls from airliners at altitudes of more than a few thousand feet, especially calls lasting more than a few seconds, were virtually – and perhaps completely – impossible. And yet many of the reported cell phone calls occurred when the planes were above 25,000 or even 40,000 feet24 and also lasted a minute or more – with Amy Sweeney’s reported call even lasting for 12 minutes.25Three problems have been pointed out: (1) The cell phone in those days had to complete a “handshake” with a cellsite on the ground, which took several seconds, so a cell phone in a high-speed plane would have had trouble staying connected to a cellsite long enough to complete a call. (2) The signals were sent out horizontally, from cellsite to cellsite, not vertically. Although there was some leakage upward, the system was not designed to activate cell phones at high altitudes.26 (3) Receiving a signal was made even more difficult by the insulation provided by the large mass of an airliner.
As we saw, people on the ground reported receiving cell phone calls from UA 93 flight attendant Sandra Bradshaw; UA 93 passengers Marion Britton, Tom Burnett, Jeremy Glick, and Elizabeth “Honor” Wainio; from UA 175 passengers Peter Hanson and Brian Sweeney; from AA 77 flight attendant Renee May; and, according to the best-known version of Ted Olson’s account, AA 77 passenger Barbara Olson. However, the FBI, in its report to the Moussaoui trial, declared that all of those calls were made from onboard phones. If that is true, how would the FBI explain why so many people reported that they had been called from cell phones?
To understand the cell phone discrepancies of 9/11, I would recommend Mr. Griffins article as a good, intricate read.