Paris: Airbus has announced that it has received an airworthiness certification for a cell-phone system onboard its aircraft. The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) has approved Airbus' GSM on-board system, for cell phone and Blackberry device use while flying.
The approval allows Airbus to offer airline operation of the OnAir service that will enable passengers to use their BlackBerry-type devices and cell phones during flights in Europe. Passengers will be able to make and receive calls, as well as send and receive emails and text messages while flying at altitudes above 9,840 feet.
For all those concerned about the potential nuisance value of such a service, Airbus says that cabin crew can easily manage the service and will have the option of selecting a "voice-off" mode, which only allows SMS text messaging and email services, according to the company.
"This certification is Airbus' first response to the growing market demand for on-board connectivity, "said Rainer von Borstel, Airbus senior vice president, cabin & cargo customization. "It paves the way for the subsequent worldwide deployment of cell phone services and Internet based services across all Airbus aircraft types."
OnAir, a joint venture between Airbus and SITA, will act as the service provider for a range of connectivity services. Initially the service will be available on Airbus' single aisle family for short-haul flights in Western Europe.
For those of us who prefer laptop computer use, the system would offer high-speed WiFi throughout the aircraft.
US regulators recently continued a ban on cell phone use aboard planes because of potential interference with the aircraft's electronics.