Posting in Technology
There's still no evidence that our electronic gadgets will interfere with airplane function. So why the ban during take off and landing?
Millions of us will fly somewhere this holiday week. And we will be told to turn off all electronic gadgets. Or at least those gadgets with an “on/off switch,” as so many flight crew clarify for us.
Some of us comply. I fly so frequently that I often forget to do it. If it’s such a threat to airline safety why don't flight agents and crew require each passenger to prove that our various gadgets are indeed off? I mean they go to great lengths check our small items under the seat in front of us. And at security checks our lack of shoes and that terrifying 4 ounces of Vaseline hand cream?
In fact the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has been against cell phone use, well, since cell phones existed. They officially banned them in 1991 for possible interference. But before that they were banned because they didn’t fit in the overhead luggage compartment.
From a blog post on the New York Times:
According to the F.A.A., 712 million passengers flew within the United States in 2010. Let’s assume that just 1 percent of those passengers — about two people per Boeing 737, a conservative number — left a cellphone, e-reader or laptop turned on during takeoff or landing. That would mean seven million people on 11 million flights endangered the lives of their fellow passengers.
Yet nothing happened. No planes stopped midair and plummeted due to signal interference. No planes enroute for Chicago wound up in Nova Scotia.
There is still no evidence that such electronics will interfere with the airplane’s systems. So why the rule? And why is it not enforced beyond a brief, yet somewhat strict, oral request from the crew?
Well, simply put, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (F.A.A.) always likes to err on the side of caution. In 2006 the FAA request the Radio Technical Commission for Aeronautics to test the effects of cellphones, Wi-fi and other devices on planes. They found no evidence to support the idea that such devices cannot interfere with the function of airplanes, and they found no evidence that they can affect flight safety. So there we have it. The problem.
But the idea that Kindles and iPads in “airplane mode” cannot be used during take off or landing doesn’t follow the logic of signal interference. There is no signal in airplane mode! In fact, pacemakers, hearing aids or even voice recorders are not on the FAA “turn off” list. Interesting.
From the New York Times:
Michael Altschul, senior vice president and legal counsel for CTIA, the wireless industry association, said a study that it conducted more than a decade ago found no interference from mobile devices.
“The fact is, the radio frequencies that are assigned for aviation use are separate from commercial use,” Mr. Altschul said. “Plus, the wiring and instruments for aircraft are shielded to protect them from interference from commercial wireless devices.”
Another curiosity: Why is it just for take off and landing?
Well apparently it’s less risky using electronics—the only exception is mobile phones—at levels above 3,000 meters. But not because of any technological reason, rather it gives more time for flight crew to deal with any possible problem with interference than they’d have during take off or landing.
Interestingly, the FAA allows for flight crews to use tablet computers, and has has allowed crews to use electronic flight bags since the 1990s to replace the huge paper aircraft manuals. And guess what? These planes all have Wi-fi.
It remains to be seen if the evidence will ever present itself. In the meantime here are a few solid facts we do know, as consolidated in Scientific American:
Radio-frequency emissions from cell phones, laptops and other electronics can occur at the same frequencies used by aircraft communication, navigation and surveillance radio receivers. These emissions could cause fluctuations in navigation readouts, problems with other flight displays, and interference with air traffic communications. [Note: This goes against what Michael Altschul notes above, proving the issue may be debatable?]
The FCC and FAA work in tandem to ban cell phones on airplanes. Even if a cell phone were to meet the FAA’s safety requirements, an airline would need an exemption from the FCC rule for that cell phone to be used inflight. Likewise, if the FCC rescinds its ban, the FAA would require an airline to show that the use of a specific model of phone won’t interfere with the navigation and communications systems of the specific type of aircraft on which it would be used.
RTCA, Inc., a Washington, D.C.-based federal advisory group, concluded that the FAA should keep its inflight restrictions in place after the group studied electromagnetic interference from cell phones and Wi-Fi transmitters in laptops from 2003 to 2006. At the same time, RTCA also published detailed processes that carriers and electronics makers can follow to certify such devices for inflight use if desired.
So on that last point, for those who would like to use cell phones on flights maybe we need to put more of the pressure on our carriers. Personally I relish the unplugging on flights. All I care about is to know what is a danger and what is not. I cannot be the only one forgetting to turn my gadgets off.
Dec 26, 2011
OK this is a very cynical idea but correct me if I am wrong...don't most really bad things happen when either taking off or landing? Or at least it is often the case? That being so, would it not behoove the airline legal types to NOT have a bunch voice recordings from passengers telling loved ones about the one engine they saw fall off and another one on fire right before everyone died? Or that the emergency door would not open or etc etc just before the plane blew up into a billion little pieces etc etc. "This is you Pilot speaking, for the safety of the stockholders err I meant the passengers, he he he, please keep anything capable of transmitting or recording in kind of messages to the outside world OFF during take off and landing periods. ... we are already saddled by too many flight recorders and black boxes so we sure dont want any individual witnesses screaming about defects and mistakes along with pain and agony in their dying minutes ....that kinds thing only confuses accident review boards and jurys! So ya'all PLEASE keep em OFF!
It may have been a concern in the early days of personal electronics digitial data manipulation and wi fi methods etc etc but today things are just so perfectly integrated, so utterly reliable working seamlessly together with all devices, providers etc etc that it is just ludicrous to worry about even life and death need for reliabilty in aircraft and hospitals etc. Now should things ever begin to go haywire in these areas then by all means YES we should take precautions like these very seriously! But hey we would ALL know something was wrong with our technology if things began to develop various glitchs with no cure offered in the immediate future or if it got to the point where our devices begin advising updates all the time to correct what they used to call "bugs" etc. But so long as things are working so very smoothly on all fronts in our electronic gadget world then I just feel all warm and fuzzy knowing that nothing could possibly go wrong! I mean, right??
Aircraft radio communication is analog AM radio. The system was developed in the '40s and hasn't changed much. Easy to interfere with.
... they would have been banned the possibility to carry them in passenger cabins. Imagine a group of suicide terrorists turning simultaneously on during take off their "massive destruction portable arms" (I mean, their cell phones) which they had no problem at all to pass through the security controls. So, no, I donât think electronic equipment poses a real risk on flight systems, as if it was it would have been exploited already. In that case, it should be airline's responsibility to âhardenâ the aircraft against possible interferences, rather than impose ridiculous (and hard to control) restrictions. As of someoneâs conversation disturbing other passengers (in a future where people is allowed to use their phones on planes - by paying important fees, of course
I am a person of the opinion that I don't like being told what to do without a reason. This is one of the biggest reasons I detest Pro-Life debates and am not very religious. This information about planes does not bother me solely because of the fact we have to turn off our cellular devices. I can live without a cell phone, or an I-Pad, for a few hours. In fact it would give me time to catch up on some reading I've been meaning to do. What bothers me is apparently there is no solid evidence that the flight is actually affected by the cell phone's interference. It has been stated multiple times in the comments that there is no real evidence, and the article came off to me more as a "The airlines just want to hate cell phones." If it interferes with actual electronics, a study should easily be released and done about it. Someone can come out and say "Hey, yeah, we compared Plane A and Plane B for signals and communications, Plane B using cell phones interfered with the signal to the point it was dangerous." Admittedly the test itself would be dangerous, but it doesn't seem like it would affect the planes all that much. That is just my opinion, however. I do not use airplanes very frequently, so I can not say I hate the idea.
During takeoff and landing the flight crew is also strapped in. This is when most planes have accidents - at 150+mph. They can't be looking for the passenger who pulled their iPad back out of storage at the last moment. If people don't turn electronics OFF, people will be inclined to sneak their devices back out of storage during takeoff and landing. In the event of an accident, such un-stowed devices become potential projectiles inside the cabin. I too have forgotten to turn a device fully off, but I am also not inclined to take potential projectiles out of storage during takeoff or landing. As for the person claiming a cell phone battery can't ignite kerosene? Pure ignorance. As an outdoorsman I always carry a bit of steel wool and a couple regular batteries. Shorting those batteries through the steel wool is a great way to light an emergency fire even if all you have is damp tinder. The Lithium Ion batteries in a cell phone have about the same VOLTAGE, but pack a LOT more POWER than regular batteries - who hasn't heard about the battery issues with the Boeing 787?
No properly designed and vetted study or experiment has ever evidenced interference with aircraft systems from legal hand-carried electronics. No anecdotal reports of interference have had measurable consequences nor been replicated experimentally. Banning electronics is a chicken-little knee-jerk reaction akin to some other unwarranted "safety" concerns. Such limits arise from irrational requirements to guard against "suspected" perils that have not even been proven to exist. But it's difficult and often impossible to disprove that which isn't even real. Let's discard this non-problem and focus our efforts on real, serious needs.
or rather I should say a lack of it is why I think this is the main reason that cell phones are banned. Can you imagine 200+ people in the cabin talking away on their cell phones at once and very loudly at that?
When you go on board a plane next time, look at the FAA certificate posted above the door. You will likely see you are flying in a machine that was built 20 or 30 years ago. It's a bunch of analog electronics flying in a digital age. And at tens of millions of dollars a pop, the airlines aren't about to fix their fleet anytime soon. Landing and Takeoff are the most dangerous flight regimes, so it makes sense to have them off then. But realize that you can't ever really turn an iPad or iPhone off -- it's still on even when it tells you it's off (otherwise it would never see you press the button to turn it back on). For devices like these with no real switch between the battery and the brain, there's no reason to have to turn them off, just put them in airplane mode and put them in Sleep for takeoff and landing. Finally, the reason you know that non-cell-phones are a non-issue is once an airline starts collecting revenue to rent you WiFi, it's amazing how fast the interference issue goes away for them.
You seem to be wrong on all accounts. First of all, you can't bring your liquids and nail gel because it actually happened. I was caught up in it the day they discovered someone with liquid explosives. You have to take your shoes off because of Richard Reid. True, these are all what you call "knee-jerk" reactions. But they did happen. I'm surprised they let us keep our underwear on after the underwear bomber. The only things that had saved a crowded airplane from being knocked out of the sky: incompetence and being caught. I don't know about you but I like being just a little bit safer. As for cell phones and electronics, do some web research. There have been instances. You are one of those who like to put everyone else in danger just for YOUR convenience. Oh, and where do you get your data from as to whether or not electronics affect what goes on in the cockpit? Just because the pilot doesn't announce "we are about to crash because of electrical interference", doesn't mean the pilots are not dealiing with something in the cockpit. Fortunately, most pilots can still take the plane off the ground even with some of this. At altitude, you can play with your electronics as long as you are not transmitting. As for your statics, why not quote your sources?
The title of this post is "the real reason you can't use the iPad on planes". Where in the text does it provide this reason? This seems like a rehash of tons of postings about electronics on planes, in general, and doesn't provide a "real reason".
Jet fuel is basically kerosene, not particularly volatile and not easy to ignite. Gasoline is much more likely to cause problems with sparks, which are very unlikely to occur from a cell phone anyway. I have never seen a report of a fire caused by cell phone igniting a fire. Navigation is another consideration, but I would be willing to bet that there is not a well structured study that shows a problem with interference, or any historical evidence that shows a problem with an aircraft. My iPhone and iPad will interfere with my handheld GPS unit if kept within a foot of it, but have no effect at 16 inches. (Interestingly enough the GPS unit in the iPad works well and is more sensitive than the Garmin 76Cx.) As far as cell phone use in hospitals, I work daily in an operating room surrounded by very sensitive monitoring equipment and frequently see cell phones n use. Medical staff members use our cell phones and pagers to communicate all the time without any discernible interference. If RF interference was a real problem electrocautery (actually RF cautery) and harmonic scalpels would be a serious problem, they aren't significant. I wouldn't want to spend several hours in an aircraft next to some idiot discussing his business or social life at high volume on a phone. That being said, I applaud the ban on cell phone use on aircraft and would like to see it continued, but safety has no bearing on my feelings. YMMV, but I doubt it
The reason for banning cell phones on planes is line of sight. A few cell phones in the air could saturate a lot of towers all at the same time. It is the cell carriers that requested cell phones be banned for flights... as for take offs and landings... Pilots wear headsets and have multiple speakers in the cockpit. If you get some phones close to speakers they create a lot of irritating interference and could cause the pilot to miss information from the ATC at the most critical time (avoiding other planes during take offs and landings). There has also been a ton of research on electronic noise. All electronic medical equipment is very strictly regulated for electronic noise. No electronic device can emit too much noise and all of it has to be shielded as much as possible. I read a ton of papers on it when I worked for Hp/Agilent... Fascinating stuff... But that is the reason you have to turn off cell phones in hospitals. They don't want someone dying in the OR because some schmuck just had to feel overly important and take a call in the middle of a hospital. I'm ok with no cell phones on planes and no devices on for take offs and landings... We don't need them at those times and an ounce of prevention is well worth it.
I was once told that the reason you are asked to turn off all electrical devices serves a second purpose. The most likely point of a flight for an accident to occur is during take-off and/or landing. During an accident, there is the possibility of fuel being spread around and coming in contact with passengers. Jet fuel is highly flammable. The less electrical devices that are powered up, the less chance of an electrical device sparking a devastating fire during an incident.
I've been told that cell phones are banned in part because of provider concerns about the ability of cell towers to determine which tower should "own" a call. At lower altitudes at least the phone is within approximately equal distance of multiple towers, so the logic goes. Anyone have any solid information about this?
Wouldnt want to use up or slow down wifi bandwidth during takeoff and landing in-case needed if wifi becomes vulnerable
- - Radio-frequency emissions from cell phones, laptops and other electronics can occur at the same frequencies used by aircraft communication, navigation and surveillance radio receivers. These emissions could cause fluctuations in navigation readouts, problems with other flight displays, and interference with air traffic communications. [Note: This goes against what Michael Altschul notes above, proving the issue may be debatable? - - The most well known incident in the mobile communication industry came from testing early Bluetooth integration in a parked plane. They never determined how or why, but they were able to repeatedly shut off a fuel pump sensor when turning off a Bluetooth headset. The fuel pump it self never turned off. Being a ground test it was no problem, but in flight it would have triggered alarms in the cockpit.
These date back to the days when high-powered walkie-talkies caused badly designed gear to misbehave. The same thing happened in the early days of electronic fuel pumps (that and keying a high power TX while filling a car could easily draw sparks), leading to blanket bans on all RF gear, which are much easier to enforce than "equipment of XYZ PEP power must not be operated within ABC feet of this position"
I must totally agree with the ban on cell usage simply because of (some of) the people that feel the 'need' to use them. For some, unknown, reason a cell user tends to elevate their voice intensity and volume during the call (even though they may be otherwise soft spoken). If nothing else the ban provides for a more tollerable experience from an already stressed environment of air travel.
Here in Atlanta when I get with about 30 feet of the VA Hospital my Net10 cell phone is rendered unusable. Evidently the techies are using some kind of device to block the frequency my cell phone uses. Other patients can be right next to me and their cell phone works. So whatever is going on is only for certain frequencies.
They also don't like you reading magazines or books during takeoff/landing. It's got a lot less to do with interference/sparks and a lot more to making sure that passengers are aware of their surroundings and able to get out quickly if things go wrong. (Incidentally, when a seat is left reclining during takeoff/landing the danger is to the person in the row BEHIND, not to the person in the reclining seat. It gives that passenger less room for forward movenment and vastly increasses the liklihood of head injuries.)
all electronics, weather transmitting or not, are (supposed to be) off during take-off and landing simply so passengers are paying attention. These are the most dangerous parts of most flights, and it is easier for the flight crew if you are not distracted, and if you can actually hear them. During the flight can you imagine if everyone was allowed to use phones. flight is actually quite loud (as anyone with noise cancelling headphones can tell you, or anyone who has tried to speak to another person more than 3 seats away) so you would have to talk loud. On some flights it probably would not be an issue, but on others you could have 2/3rds of the flight trying to "do business" or talk on the phone for any other reason, and then talk over the background noise, and each-other. why we can't use cellular data, is probably just because it is easier to ban all "such things" so that the don't have to verify the rules for every new technology and device. That and a bit of safety, we may be completely incapable or proving any data to suggest consumer electronic devices can affect airplane systems, but but now that it is a concern, it would be hard to PROVE that there there is no possible link under all conditions.
In the event of a crash that spills fuel, I'm assuming that metal scraping down the runway is going to cause more sparks and a hire risk of fire more than a few cell phones being powered on. While it's not immpossible, it's highly improbable that a phone/tablet would ignight the fuel because the vapor is what actually burns. If your device was submerged all the way, your odds are even lower.
A 3.6 Vdc cell phone battery doesn't have enough energy to ignite Hydrogen, let alone aviation fuel. In the process industry it is called intrinsic safety. This is the same specious reasoning that continues to propagate the lie that a cell phone can blow up a gas station. It can't.
The ban on using mobile phones above 5000 feet AGL is specfically an interference issue - to ground equipment, not aircraft. It's a FCC restriction, not a FAA one. The point of cellular systems is that frequencies are reused within fairly small geographical spacing and an airborne transmitter can (and quite easily does) block out a given channel across quite a wide swathe of cells while it has its power turned up fairly high to keep the circuit working (All cellular systems rely on being able to dial down transmit power on the handset and base so that received signal levels are more-or-oess equal regardless of distance from the bas antenna) It's not so bad with GSM/CDMA systems and by installing microcells on the aircraft themselves such phones can be induced to turn their power down to sub-mW level, which reduces ground (and onboard) interference even more than having airborne phones polling for bases at full power. None of this reduces the annoyance factor of people yakking loudly onbard for hours on end, so a lot of airlines restrict things to data/text use only.
Ridiculous and demonstrates a lack of critical thinking. This problem is pretty easy to solve by a "contesting tower backoff" algorithm. The software component that registers both simultaneous captures from different towers can simply decide which is the select tower, and send a teardown command to the selected losing tower. Sigh.
As an airline pilot I can attest to radio interference from cell phones. Often I hear static on the communications radios right after we land and everyone onboard starts turning their phones on. Cell phones often are transmitting at high power when they are initially finding towers. As for the other electronics that have no transmitters it boils down to the shear number of devices that would need to be tested on every different model of aircraft. Any device that uses electricity has the potential to cause electromagnetic interference wether it has a transmitter or not. Aviation will always be a place where we must take a very conservative stance with these issues.
There's no need to answer with snark or rudeness. mdwalls started his/her comment with a disclaimer: "Totally Unsubstantiated, But ..." He/She simply wanted to learn, to make sure, to confirm or disregard. And along you come, attempting to diminish him/her and make him/her feel dumb. This type of answer only serves to crush curiosity, and in the end there will be no one to blame for "lack of critical thinking" but yourself. We will have shamed people out of asking and learning. I'd say the way you phrased you comment is "Ridiculous and demonstrates a lack of critical thinking". EDIT: Wow, I just realized how old this article is...
Could increased interference upon landing be due to the plane being a lot closer to ground-based electronic equipment?