By Alan Cabal
MIRACLES AND WONDERS Last week, USA Today reported a joint effort between Qualcomm and American Airlines' to allow passengers to make cellphone calls from aircraft in flight. According to the story, the satellite-based system employs a "Pico cell" to act as a small cellular tower.
"It worked great," gushed Monte Ford, American Airline's chief information officer. "I called the office. I called my wife. I called a friend in Paris. They all heard me great, and I could hear them loud and clear."
Before this new "Pico cell," it was nigh on impossible to make a call from a passenger aircraft in flight. Connection is impossible at altitudes over 8000 feet or speeds in excess of 230 mph.
Yet despite this, passengers Todd Beamer, Mark Bingham, Jeremy Glick and Edward Felt all managed to place calls from Flight 93 on the morning of September 11. Peter Hanson, en route to Disneyland with his wife and daughter, phoned his dad from Flight 175. Madeline Amy Sweeney, a flight attendant, made a very dramatic call from Flight 11 as it sped to the North Tower. Barbara Olson made two calls, collect, to her husband at his government office from Flight 77 as it made its way to the Pentagon.
Each call was initially reported as coming from a cellphone. Later, when skepticism reared its ugly head and the Grassy Knollers arrived, the narrative became fuzzy; it was suggested that $10-a-minute Airfones were involved. Olson was an easy candidate for Airfone (one doesn't call collect from a cell), but as the stories developed, Olson—and Felt—were said to have called from inside locked lavatories. No Airfone there.
In the very near future, numerous technological miracles and wonders will rise up out of the ashes of that terrible day, much the way the space program supposedly gave us Tang and Velcro. Satam Al-Suqami's indestructible passport, for one, is currently under the microscope in the Reverse Engineering Department at Area 51. My old passport was falling apart when I finally replaced it last year, just from spending 10 years in my pocket. His survived the destruction of the World Trade Center. I want one of those.
Likewise, professional bowlers could benefit from inquiries into whatever physical force brought about the collapse of WTC 7. And as a frequent flyer who finds long-term parking difficult and expensive, I'd like to know by what mechanism Mohammed Atta got to Portland, ME, where he was videotaped boarding a flight to Logan Airport in Boston. His rental car was found at Logan.
And last but not least, every suburban homeowner will want the miraculous PentaGrass. Whatever that lawn at the Pentagon is made out of, it sure is amazing stuff—it resists and repels fire, explosion, skid marks, aircraft debris, jet fuel, luggage and body parts. Shit from your neighbor's dog won't stand a chance!
Who would've thought there'd be a silver lining even in the debris cloud made that Tuesday morning? o