Mobile phones pose real flight threat

It's not just a courtesy to other passengers, it could be a matter of life and death...
Written by Will Sturgeon, Contributor

It's not just a courtesy to other passengers, it could be a matter of life and death...

The Civil Aviation Authority has released research into mobile phone use on planes, warning of the serious effects that it can have on a plane's navigational equipment. The research revealed that standard mobile phone use can cause a compass to freeze or overshoot its actual magnetic bearing. Also, flight deck and navigation equipment indicators can be rendered unstable and inaccurate and transmissions can interfere with critical audio outputs. Mobile phone use has long been banned, along with many other electrical devices, but passengers have often accused airlines of being over-officious in their enforcement of the ban, even suggesting that it is unnecessary. As such many airlines have experienced passengers who are willing to break the ban in order to make a call and they will be hoping that this latest research frightens passengers into compliance with the rules. A number of anonymous posters on the Professional Pilots' Rumour Network - a popular online community for pilots and crew - expressed mixed feeling over the findings. One poster said: "Occasionally during the taxi out, we overhear the characteristic rapid chirping of a mobile phone through our headsets. More often than not, it turns out to be a crew phone, we switch it off, then continue with no ill effects. "Sometimes, however, it becomes necessary to hold clear of the runway and make a PA reminding [passengers] to switch their phones off. At the very least, something back in the cabin is emitting enough of a signal to be picked up by the cockpit intercom. I think that once in a while I have observed deviations in some of the aircraft nav kit while the interference is going on." Another poster on the site expressed concerns over the issue, suggesting that it is almost impossible to ensure all mobile phones are switched off. "If [the findings are] true then we can never eliminate the possibility of an active phone on board by simply issuing instructions that all mobiles must be switched off. "We either need a foolproof system of scanning for active phones (tricky because they can be 'quiet' for minutes at a time) or we need to 'harden' aircraft systems so this ceases to be a threat." The full CAA report can be read here.
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