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NBAA: DOT's Proposed Ban on In-flight Cell Calls Should Not Apply to Business Aviation

April 3, 2014

In response to a U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) advance notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPRM), NBAA said a proposed ban on in-flight voice communications through passenger mobile wireless devices would strip business aviation users of a key advantage when traveling onboard private, secure aircraft.

"There are considerable benefits to allowing customers the freedom to make an in-flight voice call if they deem it necessary and are willing to pay any applicable service fees," NBAA noted in comments submitted on March 26. "This is particularly the case for charter passengers who might be expected to have business or individual needs for staying in contact."

Terming the use of cellular phones in passenger cabins a potential "unfair practice to consumers," DOT issued the ANPRM in direct response to pending legislation that, if enacted, would significantly revise earlier Federal Communications Commission policies to allow passengers onboard commercial airliners to make or receive calls while in flight.

Koester noted that the crowded passenger environment onboard a FAR Part 121 commercial airliner differs greatly from that of the typically much smaller aircraft configured for business purposes. The proposed DOT ban would also apply to use of mobile devices for voice communications in the passenger cabins of these smaller aircraft.

"Our Members' aviation uses are very diverse," NBAA stated in its comments. "In each case, our Members place a premium on the value of their time and on the ability to remain connected whenever they deem it necessary," regardless of whether those flights are conducted as non-common carriage under Parts 91, 91 Subpart K, or 125, or as single-entity charters operated under Parts 121, 129 and 135.

In every one of those cases, NBAA added, "it is left to each customer’s discretion whether onboard phones will be used for conversation or will be left unused."

Koester also stressed the economic impact from the DOT’s proposed ban.

"Recognizing the advantages of cellular communications capabilities when conducting business in flight, a significant number of private operators have already installed the advanced systems necessary to allow these capabilities," at a cost of as much as $150,000 per aircraft, he said.

"Even onboard a charter aircraft, you're likely talking about occupants traveling on behalf of their employer, or with a similar shared interest and need to conduct company business while in flight," Koester concluded. "We want to ensure that this important benefit of business aviation is not taken away."

Review NBAA’s comments on the DOT’s ANPRM. (PDF)