In-flight porn delayed -- satellite not yet in place

With the number of in-flight incidents Qantas has experienced this year, being the first to offer in-flight por... err... broadband Internet onboard its A380 aircraft is perhaps the last thing on the company's mind. Qantas recently squashed suggestions that the delayed deployment of its in-flight Internet service on its brand new Airbus A380 was due to fears users might call up porn sites, but instead said that it faced technical problems.

That seems reasonable; after all, porn can be filtered out using proxies, and the initial service was not to be a full Internet service anyway, but only an e-mail and chat service. According to the implementer of the service OnAir, the satellites for a fully-fledged Internet service aren't yet in place over the Pacific anyway, which is the route the initial Qantas A380 will take from Melbourne to Los Angeles.

But all this talk of in-flight Internet has me wondering if we really need a fully-featured service onboard. I'd be happy only with e-mail and chat capabilities. If I want any more entertainment than that, I just watch a movie or catch up on some reading. But then again, it would be nice to fire up FARK.com at some point during a 13 hour flight, or bring up a news or sports site. And how many people would actually dare fire up a porn site in plain view of others around them? It would take a ballsy individual to do that. And is surfing for porn any more of a concern than a passenger watching porn that they've brought onboard with their laptop? Perhaps a bigger concern is users surfing for bomb making and hijacking techniques; or even bringing up seat diagrams and plane schematics in a bid to freak out nearby passengers who are snooping on their screen.

Speaking of laptops though, another issue reared its ugly head again this week: the use of electronic devices onboard aeroplanes. The upset of flight 72's cruise altitude near Perth has no known cause yet (and won't for some time), but suggestions that one of the flight computers malfunctioned have caused one news outlet to run with the rather sensational headline "Did laptop cause Qantas plane plunge". The ATSB wisely said it will investigate whether any passengers were using electronic devices at the time of the mishap. Author Patrick Smith in his book 'Ask the Pilot' claims there is little evidence to suggest that laptops interfere with an aeroplane's controls, but that interference from phones and electronic devices might be too subtle for anyone to realise yet. Could this be the harbinger of the banning of the use of laptops onboard planes?

If it comes down to a smooth uneventful flight over an in-flight Internet facility, I know which one I'd choose, cos I just can't go a few hours without reading FARK.

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Elias Plastiras
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