Capital Gazette wins special Pulitzer Prize citation for coverage of newsroom shooting that killed five

Air time


'HEY, IT'S ME. I'm in the air. Yeah, we took off about an hour ago. ... Huh? ... Can you hear me now? ... I said I'm on the plane. Yeah, you can use your cell phone now. ... What? ... Another three hours. And I'm stuck in a middle seat. There's no movie and everyone's sleeping. ... Huh? ... Can you hear me NOW? ... I said I'm stuck in a middle seat, and everyone's trying to sleep. I wish there were a movie. No, there's NO movie. ... Huh? ... NO movie. Yeah, that's right. SLEEP. ... Huh?"

Imagine that. Imagine if the Federal Communications Commission and the Federal Aviation Administration lifted the ban on the use of cell phones on airborne aircraft. Imagine being stuck next to that cell phone conversation. Now imagine a plane packed with many such cell phone yackers. And just where do they keep the parachutes?

Unfortunately, the FCC has been considering relaxing this ban. Fortunately, the thousands of comments it's been receiving - from frequent fliers to security agencies - have been pretty negative.

There are concerns about not only adding to the stress of passengers onboard but also cell phones' interfering with aviation electronics and terrorists using the devices to set off a bomb or coordinate an attack. Even the primary cell phone industry group, the Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association, recently urged the FCC to proceed with extreme caution.

And last week, the nation's No. 1 wireless provider, Cingular, had the good sense to hit the nail on the head, writing to the FAA: "We believe there is a time and a place for wireless phone conversations, and seldom does that include the confines of an airplane flight."

If airplane passengers now must remain in constant touch with the earthbound world - and all safety concerns can be addressed - perhaps allowing wireless Internet and text messaging is the middle ground here. Or at the very least put a sound-insulated cell phone booth on the plane. But, by all means, let's not open plane cabins to the often obnoxious intrusions of cell phone conversations. Flying has gotten hard enough as it is.

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