iPhone endangers flight as debate about onboard electronics use continues

In this always connected world there's one place where we can usually escape from e-mails, notifications and people calling us: aboard an airplane. Though that's quickly changing, thanks to on-board Wi-Fi, this little story reminds us that there are still a lot of limitations on how folks can use their electronic devices while flying on a plane.

Back in 2011 while climbing to cruising altitude, a regional airliner lost its directional equipment thanks to interference from a passenger's iPhone. They managed to regain control of their instruments only after the guy seated in row nine was persuaded to turn off his phone. The plane landed safely at its destination, but it's moments like these when you really have to wonder if in-flight connectivity is such a good idea. 

Bloomberg reports on the on-going debate in the airline industry between folks that want to use their phones and tablets more freely, and people who are recommending we take a much more cautious approach.

Even though all aviation equipment is supposedly shielded from outside interference, there are some devices that can still interact with them and cause a lot of problems. Laboratory tests from NASA and Boeing clearly show that some devices, especially when they're damaged, have a real chance of interfering with the flight equipment.

The FAA has appointed a commission made up of different representatives from the aviation industry, to publish a report regarding on-board use of electronic equipment. A decision towards the possible expansion of passengers electronic usage rights is expected to be made public this July.

Many airline carriers are arguing for increasing these rights, but some independent groups are saying that caution should prevail before the FAA gives in to passengers' demands.

Source: Bloomberg |  Busy Businessman working on plane image via Shutterstock

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NastySasquatch said,
You don't think they can? I've seen footage of military helicopter gyroscopes freak out because someone turned on a microwave oven too close to it. It does not take much damage either to the very sensitive electronics on the plane or damage to a persons cell phone to cause RF interference leakage.

This is the "military helicopter"'s fault. Not the microwave.

Well your kind of right and wrong. The gyroscope needed to be tuned to ignore the frequency the microwave was broadcasting RF interference at, but the Microwave was also old and was leaking far more than it should have been.

And things dont wear and tare? They all stay in pitch perfect condition right?
Impossible that a plane might have tiny little faults in its wiring and systems? And you want to increase the risk just because you want to text a person or play a game?
And with everyone thinking like that, more people using electronics during take off, just increases the risk.

Electronics can influence eachother, radio waves are radio waves, they are the same, its just different frequencies or different forms of transport (air, copper, gold)....
A cell phone does not use a magically different kind of radio waves then a GPS or common radio does, just different frequencies.

It's been proven time and time again that cell phones don't interfere with plane electronics. The Mythbusters, the FAA, and NASA have all done studies and there is not a single bit of proof that shows trouble. And I'm sure the study they are working on now will have the same results.


Hardly anybody turns their phones off on flights, so out of the millions of flights every year, if phones were a threat, we would see issues on a regular basis.

People really stubborn to believe electronics can influence eachother, especially devices actively transmitting...
I rather just not take the risk, its just 10-20minutes.... Really that hard for so many people to be 'disconnected'?

Tbh if it really was an issue, they would ensure everyone has turned off electronic devices, rather than asking and having a quick glance when checking the seat belts

If a phone being on can interfere with plane and possible cause a crash then why it is allowed on board?

If this is a critical issue then why are we left at the mercy of someone forgetting to turn their phone off?

we can't have it both ways..either it's an issue that needs addressing or it's not.

Well the concept is that if enough people do the right thing the problem is irrelevant. It is only when you have 100+ devices that the effect becomes dangerous. People would flip out if they weren't allowed to take phones on planes and they would also flip out if their plane crashed so this is really a compromise.

Because the risk is biggest at take off and landing.
Even if it changes instruments by less then 1%, at a safe altitude this is of no concern, but being 10meters above the ground this 1% can be the difference between being on/in the ground or above it.
Its just a risk you cant exclude, electronics, especially those actively transmitting data (phones and the airplane itself for example) can influence eachother, especially if there's dozens or hundreds of devices transmitting on a high variety of frequencies. even if its proven to be not a risk for 99,99%. I personally rather still not take it.

Back in 2011 while climbing to cruising altitude, a regional airliner lost its directional equipment thanks to interference from a passenger's iPhone.

Completely fake. It is not the iPhone's fault, not the Android's fault, not the dumbphone's fault. The plane's equipment was simply not functioning correctly.

Ive gone on several plane flights and I ALWAYS leave my cell phone off (one short flight with everything on: GPS, Wifi, NFC, and Bluetooth) and NOTHING has ever happened: No delays, no things going crazy, NOTHING.

It is not completely fake. The reason there are so few issues is that this stuff is very heavily researched and regulated to prevent interferences. However once you start mixing in age and damage all of that regulation and control goes out the window. We all know that airline companies skimp on maintenance and repairs. But, how often do cell phone owners have their phones repaired as they age? Not everyone gets a new phone every year. Or every time they drop it.

mwc said,

Completely fake. It is not the iPhone's fault, not the Android's fault, not the dumbphone's fault. The plane's equipment was simply not functioning correctly.

Ive gone on several plane flights and I ALWAYS leave my cell phone off (one short flight with everything on: GPS, Wifi, NFC, and Bluetooth) and NOTHING has ever happened: No delays, no things going crazy, NOTHING.

So, they pinpointed a single passenger and claimed his phone was the reason for equipment failure? Sounds like a crock to me. The equipment in the plane was faulty to begin with. I guess those pilots better shut down their ipad manuals too. Not only are airline systems shielded, they work on totally independent frequencies. Go ahead and use your device and totally ignore the crew on a jetliner. If airlines had any decency, they would provide every person on that flight with a parachute. If you are lucky, the pilot isn't half drunk... screw 'em.

Cause airplane systems dont wear and tare?
And you can garantee every user used device in an airplane only transmits data to non-aircraft frequencies?
Can you personally garantee this a 100%?

Take a few minutes out of your day and read Boeing's official response...

They could not recreate anything or find any problems after these so-called reports. They even went to the extreme to buy these peoples' devices to see if they caused the problem. What did they find? Nothing! What could have caused these problems? Ask Southwest, and how they had huge gaping cracks in the hull and still let the planes fly. Hey, I am not some big "always connected" guy and rarely use devices like these when I travel. So, this I why I say screw 'em...

I used to fly a lot. One flight in particular, I had headphones around my neck for a regular Creative mp3 player with no radio whatsoever. I was literally grilled by the attendant. They made me take the batteries out before they left me alone. Then, I see the same attendant sending text messages during takeoff. What a joke! After that, I just ignore these people. They blame you for their own maintenance failures.

You also have to realize the modern pacemakers and other medical equipment talks wifi and microwave to base stations that sends reports to doctors. Sorry, the "believers" should either block them from flying or rip these devices from their chests.

Must be one of you neowinans or some "Self-Acclaimed Tech Geeks". I would rather shoot that m*****f****** in a** than calling that hostess....

mobiles do not really effect the planes because many times when we had international flights and forget to turn off our mobiles off we flew safely and arrived to our destinations.

I haven't flown much in recent years but last time I did I remember a stewardess saying they were reading cell phone interference in the cabin and we weren't allowed to take off until everyone made sure their phones were powered down.

It might cause interference, it might not. That's not the point.
To be totally sure the there is no risk, airlines ask you to turn them off, so I don't see what anyone's argument would be?
Don't argue with the stewardess or complain that it probably won't make a difference, you are not more important than anyone else and that's the rule.
Switch them off.
End of.

Here is how you deal with the problem. If a flight attendant request a passenger to turn of a tablet or cellphone until the plane reaches a safe altitude, then the attendant should be given the right to request that passengers ticket. That person is then added to a no flight list for a penalty of 30 days. Each time the person gets on a plane and does another violation, they get penalized double the time. Anyone who earns a year worth of penalty is banned from flying for at least 5 years.

That way once that person can't travel, or loses money because they can't travel, maybe they will grow the hell up and put the phone down. Problem is these are suppose to be adults.

For me I dont need the FCC/FAA/NASA studies for me to see the issue. This issue is simple. As like in a hospital,electronic devices can interfere with others. No matter how much shielding you use it can happen.

A plane is most vulnerable during takeoff and landing and it reaches or descends attitudes. Why increase the chance of something going wrong for a text message or email that can wait 15mins? Is it really that hard.

For the totally selective ignorant people? I care about my life, which is why I fly rarely. I realize flying is the safest way to travel. But here is a fact. If something goes wrong, the only people qualified to fly the plane are the guys in the cockpit. If they cant fix the problem, everyone on the plane is destined to die. Is it really worth that risk?

I rather grab the phone from the person. You will get it back once we are safe. I cant stop everyone, but if you are close enough to me; I will take your phone. Even if it means we both get kicked off the plane. You are going to comply with rules or I will make you wish you did.

This is why I drive everywhere.

Nicely worded
People are to stubborn that they ignore that electronics can influence eachother. Radio, magnetic, light.. Its all waves and they can all influence eachother.
You can never account for the simple things as wear and tare. And also you never know exactly what frequencies every possible passenger can transmit too. Damaged antenna's can leak into other frequencies, some you might not expect for.
Or the random hobbyist that likes to mess around with his electronics?

To many people are egocentrig pigs unfortunally. Just turn it off for the whole duration of 15-20minutes...

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