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Flight Crews And Their Mobile Phones  
User currently offlineBrokenrecord From United States of America, joined Jul 2005, 772 posts, RR: 0
Posted (8 years 9 months 3 weeks 6 days 15 hours ago) and read 4610 times:

I'm hoping this is the proper forum, as it is aviation related.

In the United States, most flight crews (including Captains and F/O's) seem to make Sprint PCS or Verizon their carrier of choice. While I understand that these carriers may provide significant discounts on equipment and service, I think it would make much more since for them to utilize BlackBerry devices, regardless of the carrier providing the core service. Flight crews are travelling much more than anyone else, and with e-mail being the core communication system in large and small businesses alike, why don't more flight crew personnel utilize BlackBerry?

30 replies: All unread, showing first 25:
 
User currently offlineGoldenshield From United States of America, joined Jan 2001, 5970 posts, RR: 14
Reply 1, posted (8 years 9 months 3 weeks 6 days 15 hours ago) and read 4581 times:

When on the ground, they talk to crew scheduling, dispatch, maintainance, or perhaps their cheif pilot to resolve issues. Using an e-mail system for this would be very inefficient in a time sensative industry.


Two all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun.
User currently offlineBrokenrecord From United States of America, joined Jul 2005, 772 posts, RR: 0
Reply 2, posted (8 years 9 months 3 weeks 6 days 15 hours ago) and read 4572 times:

Is e-mail not used much, if at all, for discussion between an airline and their flight crews?

User currently offlineGoldenshield From United States of America, joined Jan 2001, 5970 posts, RR: 14
Reply 3, posted (8 years 9 months 3 weeks 6 days 15 hours ago) and read 4536 times:

I'm sure that a pilot could use it to notify crew scheduling of personal things coming that might get in the way of his schedule; e.g., weddings, anniversaries, etc.


Two all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun.
User currently offlineAv8rPHX From United States of America, joined Mar 2003, 713 posts, RR: 9
Reply 4, posted (8 years 9 months 3 weeks 6 days 13 hours ago) and read 4389 times:

Why should crewmembers being using their personal phones to conduct company business??

User currently offlineBrokenrecord From United States of America, joined Jul 2005, 772 posts, RR: 0
Reply 5, posted (8 years 9 months 3 weeks 6 days 13 hours ago) and read 4374 times:

That is a good question, but they've been doing it for a long time, and I just think that if they're going to use their own phones, why not get something a little more powerful?

User currently offlineLevg79 From United States of America, joined Sep 2003, 994 posts, RR: 0
Reply 6, posted (8 years 9 months 3 weeks 6 days 11 hours ago) and read 4267 times:

The answer is quiet simple. GSM phones don't work in the air, while Verizon and Sprint phones do.

Leo.



A mile of runway takes you to the world. A mile of highway takes you a mile.
User currently offlineSuperD From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 7, posted (8 years 9 months 3 weeks 6 days 11 hours ago) and read 4260 times:

Unfortunately, my Verizon service doesn't work that well above 1,500'.

User currently offlineLevg79 From United States of America, joined Sep 2003, 994 posts, RR: 0
Reply 8, posted (8 years 9 months 3 weeks 6 days 10 hours ago) and read 4181 times:

Quoting SuperD (Reply 7):
Unfortunately, my Verizon service doesn't work that well above 1,500'.

Well, that of course depends on where you're using it. There are many places where cell phones don't work even on the ground. When I flew NRT-JFK, my Verizon phone began working somewhere around Toronto with few dead zones on the way to JFK. GSM phones, on the other hand, don't work above approximately 20th floor (I might be off by a few floors though) simply because the signal is traveling horizontal. But I'm sure somebody with more technical knowledge of the cellular technology could shade more light on this matter.

Leo.



A mile of runway takes you to the world. A mile of highway takes you a mile.
User currently offlineUN_B732 From United States of America, joined Jul 2001, 4289 posts, RR: 4
Reply 9, posted (8 years 9 months 3 weeks 6 days 10 hours ago) and read 4165 times:

GSM and CDMA, at least the manner in which signals issent (coding and such are different) are the same. In addition, GSM has a hard limit of being 15 miles away from the tower, while with CDMA that figure is higher.

Height where phone works in a tower is carrier, phone, and frequency (800 or 1900, both GSM and CDMA (SPCS & Verizon use both, with SPCS on 1900, and VZW on 800/1900 in some areas)

You can't use phones in flight anyway, so which carrier works better than another is really the question.



What now?
User currently offlineLevg79 From United States of America, joined Sep 2003, 994 posts, RR: 0
Reply 10, posted (8 years 9 months 3 weeks 6 days 10 hours ago) and read 4145 times:

Quoting UN_B732 (Reply 9):
You can't use phones in flight anyway, so which carrier works better than another is really the question

Think UA93

Leo.



A mile of runway takes you to the world. A mile of highway takes you a mile.
User currently offlineDeltaGuy From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 11, posted (8 years 9 months 3 weeks 6 days 10 hours ago) and read 4139 times:

Most pilots I see have Sprint PCS....they've offered free long distance/roaming all along, whilst other carriers will rape you for doing that- and in the pilot's world, how often are you actually in your home calling area? That's all I've ever used, makes traveling that much easier. Get decent signal in the air, depending on where I'm at.

DeltaGuy


User currently offlineAa777jr From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 12, posted (8 years 9 months 3 weeks 6 days 10 hours ago) and read 4136 times:

My buddy at AA uses Cingular. As stated above, email isn't necessary when calling ATC or operations offices at their hubs. I've received several calls though from Jim while he was taxing up to the gate on his phone. It's my understanding from him that all pilots can get discounts with their respected carriers especially since he flys to Hawaii and Europe very often and enjoys using his phone as a local call. Great topic, refreshing from the usually bore.

Regards.


User currently offlineLowrider From United States of America, joined Jun 2004, 3220 posts, RR: 10
Reply 13, posted (8 years 9 months 3 weeks 6 days 9 hours ago) and read 4085 times:

Quoting Brokenrecord (Thread starter):
Why should crewmembers being using their personal phones to conduct company business??

Because it is often the most efficient way to get things done. And we will write the expense off on our taxes.

I use sprint, my only complaint is the obscene charges for using the phone in Canada.



Proud OOTSK member
User currently offlineHAWK21M From India, joined Jan 2001, 31667 posts, RR: 56
Reply 14, posted (8 years 9 months 3 weeks 6 days 4 hours ago) and read 3962 times:

Quoting Av8rPHX (Reply 4):
Why should crewmembers being using their personal phones to conduct company business

Official calls costs on personal cell phones are Reimbursed.Else Official cellphones are used.
Cell phone communication is faster.
regds
MEL



Think of the brighter side!
User currently offlineBarney Captain From United States of America, joined Nov 2001, 926 posts, RR: 13
Reply 15, posted (8 years 9 months 3 weeks 6 days 4 hours ago) and read 3941 times:

Quoting Levg79 (Reply 10):
Think UA93

Think AirPhone. Not cell phone



...from the Banana Republic....
User currently offlineBrokenrecord From United States of America, joined Jul 2005, 772 posts, RR: 0
Reply 16, posted (8 years 9 months 3 weeks 5 days 18 hours ago) and read 3803 times:

I've noted that a lot of crew members use SPCS, but using them would make no sense for a crew that does int'l runs. I am a business traveller, and I personally have both T-Mobile and Cingular. My Cingular phone is my house phone, whilst my T-Mobile phone is paid by my company (I don't even see the bill). Both services have worked excellent for me anywhere I have gone in the US (except for a certain area of Omaha), and the world.

So anyway, back to the original topic. It seems to me that e-mail is not a core communication system in the commercial aviation world. Why not? The rest of the business world relies on it. I think there could be significant benefits to utilizing e-mail more, and also combining it with BlackBerry. The major airlines almost certainly have a BlackBerry Enterprise Server linked with their Exchange or Lotus Domino server for the execs, so it would not be difficult to allow flight crews access to the system.

Information such as schedules, schedule changes, weather data, and possibly even flightplans could all be e-mailed by a dispatch office. Then, when the pilot lands and turns his BlackBerry on, he receives all the information almost instantly, and thus it saves him time from having to go back to an office to collect any updates.

The beauty of BlackBerry is that RIM makes the device for every single type of network in the world with the exception of TDMA. That means then, that if a pilot is hooked on Sprint, he can get a BlackBerry from them. He/she has NEXtel: there's an iDen BlackBerry for them. Cingular, T-Mobile: yep, there's one for them too.


User currently offlineCWAFlyer From United States of America, joined Mar 2005, 666 posts, RR: 1
Reply 17, posted (8 years 9 months 3 weeks 5 days 16 hours ago) and read 3741 times:

A Blackberry might be great if you have time to wait for someone to answer
your message. If you want to talk to some one right now, a cell phone is
going to be a lot quicker. Many of the crews that are retired military or
current Reserve or Guard get discounts from most cell phone companies too.


User currently offlineEMBQA From United States of America, joined Oct 2003, 9364 posts, RR: 11
Reply 18, posted (8 years 9 months 3 weeks 5 days 15 hours ago) and read 3677 times:

Quoting Brokenrecord (Thread starter):
Flight crews are travelling much more than anyone else, and with e-mail being the core communication system in large and small businesses alike, why don't more flight crew personnel utilize BlackBerry?

Because 'Blackberrys' are far more expensive to own and operate then a cellphone.



"It's not the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the fight in the dog"
User currently offlineBrokenrecord From United States of America, joined Jul 2005, 772 posts, RR: 0
Reply 19, posted (8 years 9 months 3 weeks 5 days 15 hours ago) and read 3658 times:

Ok, I'm gathering that some of you don't know what a BlackBerry is. A BlackBerry is a phone, as well as an e-mail device, so if they needed to, they could just dial a number.

User currently offlineKanebear From United States of America, joined May 2002, 953 posts, RR: 1
Reply 20, posted (8 years 9 months 3 weeks 5 days 7 hours ago) and read 3561 times:

Quoting Levg79 (Reply 10):
Think UA93

Leo.

UA93 wasn't at cruise altitude when those calls were made. Cellphones will work (but not very reliably) at lower altitudes and slower speeds. Try getting a call out at FL350, it doesn't happen (and yes, I HAVE tried with GSM and CDMA data cards). In my experience, you can use land based mobile networks below 10k feet although you leave coverage areas very rapidly.

GSM and CDMA both have hard distance limitations. GSM is 35km and CDMA is 57.5km. CDMA and GSM both have variations in their implementation to allow for rural long range use (China Telecom have sites that cover out to 120km!) but they are not widely deployed as of yet. Australia is about the only place I know of where CDMA 'boomer' cells are in use (where they replaced a perfectly good analogue system that didn't need replacing). Almost all networks in the US are optimized towards higher capacity, not longer distance.

On Blackberry service, it's VERY expensive. BB service easily adds another $30 monthly charge on top of regular voice. Flight crews aren't exactly overpaid so unless it's a company provided service I can't see them jumping to pay more so work can have yet ANOTHER way to contact them.

There's little need for the blackberry anyway for such use. All major carriers have email to text functionality where you can email a user via their phone number (I.E. 8005551212@t-mobile.com) or something along those lines. The user can then reply from their phone which will go back to the original email address. For simple yes/no/informational purposes, this works well.


User currently offlineCX flyboy From Hong Kong, joined Dec 1999, 6588 posts, RR: 55
Reply 21, posted (8 years 9 months 3 weeks 5 days 6 hours ago) and read 3524 times:

We never use our, or any phones while at work. We are always in contact with company ground staff, whether at flight dispatch, or on the aircraft. If we need to contact the airline inflight we can contact them through ACARS, or if it is urgent, we use the satellite phone which can link us to any one of many departments in our airline. This is what we would use in the unlikely event we divert somewhere where there are no staff to help us.

User currently offlineBrokenrecord From United States of America, joined Jul 2005, 772 posts, RR: 0
Reply 22, posted (8 years 9 months 3 weeks 5 days 5 hours ago) and read 3481 times:

Quoting Kanebear (Reply 20):
On Blackberry service, it's VERY expensive. BB service easily adds another $30 monthly charge on top of regular voice. Flight crews aren't exactly overpaid so unless it's a company provided service I can't see them jumping to pay more so work can have yet ANOTHER way to contact them.

Agreed. $30 is the minimum you will pay for BlackBerry service if you have a voice plan, and that is with T-Mobile. I'm not sure how much Sprint costs, but I am sure it is more than that. Another alternative could be a Treo 650 on Sprint (which only requires the $15 add'l Vision package as far as I know), or a T-Mobile Sidekick II which is only $20 extra, and gives the user unlimited everything (IM, internet, SMS), but at the much slower GPRS speeds, and with a much less reliable central server compared to BlackBerry, especially when coupled with a corporate BES.


User currently offlineNwajetset From United States of America, joined Nov 2004, 139 posts, RR: 3
Reply 23, posted (8 years 9 months 3 weeks 5 days 4 hours ago) and read 3457 times:

Flight crews can't afford blackberries. Especially in today's paycut environment.

E-mail is never used as a ground-to-crew form of communication. It's just not practical. As mentioned previously, ACARS, (the cockpit computer messaging system) is the most efficient way to communicate with the ground.

As for the cell phone, at NWA, it is manditory for reserve flight attendants. It is the primary way crew scheduling contacts crews for assignments. During flight, scheduling will use the ACARS system.

Weren't most flight 93 passengers using the AT and T inflight airphones? If I remember correctly, one in particular had quite the conversation with one of their operators. Cell phones in the air are hit and miss at best. If you do get lucky enough to find service, it is usually for a very short period.


User currently offlineSuperD From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 24, posted (8 years 9 months 3 weeks 4 days 23 hours ago) and read 3391 times:

Quoting Brokenrecord (Reply 16):
Information such as schedules, schedule changes, weather data, and possibly even flightplans could all be e-mailed by a dispatch office. Then, when the pilot lands and turns his BlackBerry on, he receives all the information almost instantly, and thus it saves him time from having to go back to an office to collect any updates.

Oh, this would not be popular. First, as others have said, if they need to talk to us in flight they use ACARS. When we send in an inrange report in the last hour of a flight the message that comes back includes the next assignment (if any) for each of the crew. If they decide to add a trip to our schedule at the last moment, they'll usually physically send someone to the gate to catch us as we leave. Crews are known for using all kinds of tricks to dodge those people. The last thing we want is a system that makes it easy for them to dump an extra trip on us at the end of a three day when we were looking forward to going home.

Email is used extensively at the company itself, so most management pilots do carry Blackberries. As far as the rest of us, it's inconvenient to wait for an email response. When we need to actively communicate with scheduling, it's usually when we're rushing somewhere and we need an answer as quickly as possible.

Quoting UN_B732 (Reply 9):
You can't use phones in flight anyway, so which carrier works better than another is really the question.

This isn't really relevant to an airline environment, but in lighter aircraft having a cell phone that works in flight can be very important. They can be a great tool in case of radio failure. Obviously, an airliner has about five different ways to communicate in case of comm failure, but that cell phone is gold in a smaller aircraft without the comm redundancy. I've used it before when all my radios failed on a light twin. I had my home tower programmed into my phone, so I just called them on the phone. It works a lot better than watching for lightgun signals.
"Hi, how are you today? Yes, I'm the twin circling over your tower. Just had a radio failure, and I'm looking for a full stop."
"Oh, ok. Enter the left downwind and you're cleared to land. Have a good day."


25 FlyGuyDTW : If I need to talk to the company for anything relating to work I can send a message from the flight deck or have the pilots talk to dispatch on the ra
26 ThePinnacleKid : I uses SPCS as it (A) gives me a 25% discount for being an employee with my respected carrier... (B) almost all other employees have it *free sprint t
27 Aa757first : jetBlue uses laptop computers to e-mail load reports, flight plans and have aircraft manual stored on them. So, e-mail communication is already used,
28 CWAFlyer : I'm well aware of what a Blackberry is. You asked why crews don't use them since email is the "core communicatin system". You didn't ask why they did
29 CWAFlyer : That's what ACARS is used for already.
30 Post contains images Brokenrecord : I wasn't pointing my finger at you. Don't defend if you're not being attacked.
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