Looks like mobile phone signals really can cause plane crashes

Looks like mobile phone signals really can cause plane crashes

The insistence that you have to switch your mobile off before take-off is one of the more annoying aspects of air travel – especially since it's not actually necessary, right?

Actually, it looks like there may be some truth in the argument after all, with a new report showcasing a whole range of in-flight incidents directly attributed to interference from a mobile signal.

The report, put together by the International Air Transport Association and surfaced by ABC News, puts as many as 75 incidents reported by planes between 2003 and 2009 as the direct result of interference from an electronic device, with mobile phones the number 1 culprit.

Of course that doesn't necessarily mean plane crashes, but some of the incidents reported are alarming enough all the same.

“At about 4,500 feet,” one example states, “the autopilot disengaged by itself and the associated warnings/indications came on. (Flight attendants) were immediately advised to look out for PAX (passengers) operating electronic devices...(Attendants) reported that there were 4 PAX operated electronic devices (1 handphone and 3 iPods).”

While the ABC feature wasn't able to present proof that the incidents were without any doubt the result of mobile interference, Boeing spokesperson Dave Carson nonetheless claims that all it takes is a mobile signal “in the right place and at the right time” to potentially lead to disaster.

Seems like a fair argument for just living without your phone for a few hours.

Add a comment

turnma  Jun. 11, 2011 at 12:40

Here's the thing. I can't take a bottle of water or a large tube of toothpaste onto a plane because there's a risk it could be used to bring down a plane. If a single mobile phone is really enough to bring down a plane then wouldn't you think that they'd be completely banned in the cabin?

emmajk42 / MOD  Jun. 11, 2011 at 14:04

Maybe we'll get to the stage where we're screened for any electronic devices, as none are allowed on the plane at all... (except in stowed baggage)

CTPAHHIK  Jun. 13, 2011 at 08:29

There is a high chance that phone signal can interfere with electronic equipment on board a plane. This mostly affects communication equipment (radar, radio, GPS, etc.) The fact that autopilot disengaged is 100% (plane) manufacturers fault. There is a fault somewhere in equipment, but who would admit to that?
If every single passenger turns their cell phone on it will not be enough to take down plane, but it will make pilots job more difficult. Since plane position and guidance is important during landing and take off (less time to correct an error) everyone should keep their wireless devices in airplane mode. This is not relevant when plane is on the group or @ cruising altitude.

What nobody could explain to me is why do you need to switch off audio players, book readers, GPS, devices in airplane mode. Their magnetic field is not strong enough to interfere with anything. Seriously, what can Kindle possibly do to interfere? You should have seen a look on attendants face when I asked how to turn off my watch, technically it's an electronic device.

emmajk42 / MOD  Jun. 13, 2011 at 12:40

Yeah it annoys me that I have to turn of my Sony eBook reader which doesn't even have any sort of wifi or outgoing signals...

heenan73  Jun. 13, 2011 at 13:10

So far, the evidence is a little, er, flimsy. And raises the question of why these super flying machines aren't designed to be mobile-proof.

CTPAHHIK  Jun. 14, 2011 at 08:17

Heenan, new planes are mobile-proof. A380 will not be affected by mobile interference. Most airlines cannot afford new planes and still stuck with 30 year old junk (refurbished on inside).

heenan73  Jun. 14, 2011 at 11:54

Thanks for that, it makes sense - but I've still seen no convincing evidence that it really matters; it's all very circumstantial, isn't it?

CTPAHHIK  Jun. 14, 2011 at 14:04

There is evidence that cell phones interfere, but there is no definite way to prove it. Just like your cell phone will interfere with home WiFi and home phone. Can you create interference with 100% guarantee (without putting cell phone on top of WiFi router) at home? Probably not, but it does happen. Similarly it's possible to loose plane radar reading or tower communications for split second. Will it bring plane down? No, but it will make pilots edgy and nervous people prone to more mistakes.
However, there is no explanation how can Kindle or mp3 player affect plane equipment.


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