For as long as the world has had portable electronic devices, the mass debate has continued: does our tech pose a threat to flight safety? With a greater number of services offering in-flight phone calls, the doubters appeared to have the upper hand. However, a new report claims our electronic gizmos could be hazardous after …
Cell blockers have been used for years
in theaters and other places. Setting up a wide range frequency suppression system should be easy peasy as well as set off an alert to aircrew that some City Boy in seat 3A is trying to download his email at 35,000 feet.
So you say that if devices can upset aircraft because of their emissions, then we should fit devices into all aircraft to cause emissions?
Is this because you deliberately want to upset the aircraft? (Where's the half-baked icon)
Meanwhile, in the glass cockpit ...
First Officer: What's it doing now?
Newly Promoted Captain: It does that sometimes.
Experienced Captain: It's doing it again.
Clock spun backwards and GPS disrupted?
I think it's more likely they were flying over the island from Lost.
Sorry, my bad!
Sometimes my astrogater thinks it's funny to mess with human's avionics. No harm, no foul. Cheers.
@Sorry, my bad!
Please switch off the Effector in your GCU, it's not funny!
An IMB reference...
Typical of the modern world, the uninformed opinion of trolley dollies is more important than that of trained engineers.
I will grow up one day!
You think that's funny?
Try listening to this song when you don't already know what it's called.
I heard it for the first time the other day & wasn't paying much attention. When Frank sang "The old masterpainter" line my ears pricked up.
Then I listened carefully and realised what he was actually saying but I could have sworn he sang something else at first.
Or maybe that's just me.
what sort of clocks do they use
if putting a laptop near one can make it run backwards?
I realise weight is an issue on aeroplanes, but even with minimal shielding they shouldn't be that susceptible to interference, (presumably wi-fi is the issue, and not just general em)
Even my sub £1 alarm clock has never missed a beat, despite being near laptops constantly. My phone doesn't even make it chirp if i put it next to it. Although less can be said of my smoke alarm which can't have a mobile within 3 feet of it without making all sorts of racket.
Probably NTP driven..
.. and it ended up syncing to a Linux laptop with its timezones messed up :-).
Joking apart - if that clock HAD been running NTP, synced with GPS, there is no way it would have run off to any noticable degree unless it was set up wrong. A properly configured NTP resource that had a chance to collect stats for a week from a GPS source is nigh impossible to mess up.
Anyway, I digress. I'm not buying that clock story unless it's confirmed by someone qualified.
Just turn it off anyway.
Since you will probably struggle to get a connection through large parts of the flight due to being out of range, why not do everybody a favour and turn it off anyway ?
Alternatively, if you must be at someones beck and call all the time then only book flights where you can use the airlines own phone. You can subsidise the flights for the rest of us by paying over the odds for the priviledge.
The problem isn't the phone...
Until I can get a free connection, I'm not going to worry about surfing the 'net on a flight. I would, however, like to listen to music on my cheap no-name MP3 player, or read a book on my Kindle, or even use my GPS during the flight just for fun. I'd even like to watch movies on my laptop.
But flight crews don't realize that the electronic interference of my Kindle is about that of an analog watch, or that the GPS is a listen-only device. If I were to point out that there is more electronic interference from their credit card reader than my MP3 player, I'd just get kicked off the plane.
I can't wait for the day that electronics can be used on aircraft with impunity, but it's going to be a long time coming...
Even your GPS or Kindle is going to radiate something. That's why any electronic device with FCC or CE approval will have been tested to determine that it's below limits. The Kindle is probably really quiet except when you change page and it wakes up its power supplies for a few hundred milliseconds of activity. I assume the wireless side doesn't operate unless specifically enabled.
What is not often appreciated is that the interference can be caused by two devices acting together. They both radiate on particular different frequencies and the two mix together somewhere and produce sum and difference frequencies. Even a rusty bolt can cause this.
I think they're being over-cautious, but because it's impossible to test every combination of gadgets against aircraft electronics that's probably not too bad an idea. Certainly during take-off and landing, which is when they do try to remove any possible problem. Once above 10,000ft the crew have got a bit more time to sort out a problem and so the restrictions are relaxed. We've all heard GSM interference on audio, in an aircraft you're probably within 10ft of signal cables and so could cause the same sort of problem.
I too would love to use any and all my electronic devices while in flight. But it is attitudes like yours that make the use of ANY electronic devices banned.
Despite your assertion that your GPS receiver or MP3 player are "listen only devices", they do in fact emit RF energy. Any electronic device with a processor is capable of producing EMI. Your "cheap no-name MP3 player" is actually among those devices most likely to cause issues due to its poor or non-existent shielding. There are plenty of documented incidents of portable electronics causing disturbances in avionics.
your kindle will probably be the worst out of the lot as it will have an inverter in there. Nasty things that cause EM spikes. The GPS probably the least as GPS are typically well shielded in order to accept the GPS signal. MP3 players are the middle as they probably have inverters too - your illumibrite watch will be the worst offender of them all.
But that's my point - of course all electronic devices emit RF energy. Even non-electronic devices emit EMF; nylon jackets or wool sweaters, for instance. But no one asks me to take off my sweater when I board a plane, just like they don't ask me to take the battery out of my (hypothetical) watch, or my (again hypothetical) clock radio in my carry-on. I could even use a battery-driven fluorescent reading light without getting in trouble. As Danny 14 mentioned, some electronics that few people think to check can be the worse offenders...
Perhaps I wasn't clear, but I'm suggesting that if the watch and reading light is allowed, most other consumer electronics should be allowed, as well; on the other hand, if the danger is so great that a basic wide-band, high-power transistor radio transmitter circuit has the possibility of bringing down a plane, then there should be a complete ban on any and all electronics - watches, reading lights, cell phones, everything.
Or, they could install some better-than-nothing EMF filters on their equipment.
A few years ago, I was happily surfing away on a plane using WiFi on my laptop, connected to the planes access point, connected to the internet (Singapore Airlines as I recall).
I don't recall slaming into a mountain.
I believe I would be right in saying that a very large majority of people who *do* slam into mountains also remember absolutely nothing about it.
who needs box-cutters
Soon planes will be brought down by suicide web-surfers.
Oh the humanity
75 flights? Over US airspace, randomly crossed as it is by a thousand flights every day? In 6 YEARS? And even then they've got no hard evidence at all, just what cabin crew thought was happening? They consider this sufficient evidence to ban their use? Jesus wept.
Part of the reason why aviation has such a good record is because they're really keen on safety, at least when it doesn't cost too much money (given the number of incidents caused by lack of proper maintenance or failure to do modifications in a timely manner).
...a clock spun backwards...
Ah, but was the plane over the Bermuda Triangle at the time? That would explain all sorts of weird stuff.
Please turn off your electronics
Whereas officially approved installed aircraft entertainment systems have provably caused at least one crash (Swiss air 111) kill 250 people. Passengers own equipment might, according to something someone heard a mate of a pilots cousin say in a pub to someone on Facebook - cause problems
The crash of the Swissair flight was decided to have been caused by the on-board entertainment system overheating and catching fire. Since it was connected to the cockpit (or main) electrical supply, and not the cabin electrical supply, turning off the cabin electrical supply when they first noticed the smoke had no effect.
"In one instance [...] a clock spun backwards and GPS readings started going off."
TBH that sounds more like a poltergeist problem than anything else.
Thirty Minutes Over Tokyo
Kudos for the Simpsons reference. "TURN IT BACK ON! TURN IT BACK ON!"
"a clock spun backwards"
Nah mate, yer flying through a spatio-temporal anomaly. Prolly aliens or the unquiet dead; yer average iDevice just bursts into flames rather than interferin with the regular flow of time.
More to the point...
why on earth does anyone NEED to use their phone on a plane? You aren't THAT important that the world can't live without contacting you for a few hours.
Morons who feel the need to start checking their crackberry the second the plane hits the ground make me laugh, get a life you saddos.
"do such reports cause enough scare to turn your phone off on a flight? If so, don't get on a plane with me."
Frankly, if you're saying you disobey the directions of airline employees whilst on an aircraft - even if your patent omniscience lets _you_ know they are obviously wrong - they I hope you are removed from it, and banned until you can understand that what you do may effect others. I don't know whether the electronics effect the flight systems to such an extent they become dangerous in all these cases - although the findings from at least one test you mention seem to indicate they can in some circumstances - but neither do you.. and that's rather the point.
A number of years in air-freight and the international courier business - plus a ICAO hazardous goods certification (lapsed) - have reinforced the (hopefully) rather obvious observation that not everything that everybody thinks are safe on aircraft actually are...perhaps a similar realization in the matter of EMI and flight systems, until proven otherwise, could help your hubris.
If you honestly can't cope in life without your phone constantly operating, then you have my pity, but not my understanding.
Not the traveller's responsibility.
If the interference a portable device can down a plane, this could be used maliciously and the airlines and air-plane manufacturers should use the standard (effective) security measures. For example, blast-proof aircraft luggage containers, bullet-proof door to cockpit and, in this case, properly shielded internal aircraft wiring.
Banning electronic equipment will be as effective as banning liquids, or forcing passengers to remove their shoes/belts.
Hundreds of flights per day? More like tens of thousands.
Oh fer Christ's sake, it's very simple:
a) there's a signifcant risk - in which case Boeing and other aircraft manufacturers can (at the behest of national aviation authorities, if need be) conduct in-lab tests using a sample set of devices to determine what, if any, interference is caused and how to deal with it, and the nature of the interference will determine the nature of the solution, or
b) there's no significant risk, in which case shut the hell up and leave me alone when I'm listening to my mp3 player/using my EEE/whatever.
In either case, relying on the opinions of a bunch of non-technically-trained in-flight staff who've already got a tough job placating a large herd of humans in an enclosed and cramped space is pretty much guaranteed to get you nowhere. What proportion of flight crew staff do you reckon could tell you what the operating frequency for 802.11b wireless signals is, much less what aircraft equipment is likely to experience problems due to the presence of said signals?
I'm all for caution in the face of unknowns, but given how many laptop-bearing people we punt around the sky on a daily basis in giant metal cigars with wings, it's way past time that someone actually undertook some definitive research to answer the bloody question. It would greatly improve the likelihood of success if this someone were an actual scientist with a background in electronics.
What makes you think it hasnt been done?
I used to work with Aircraft RF engineering specialists they were absolutely catergorically certain that there was no risk.
The ban was always about perceptions and paranoia, and as soon as a way to monetise them or there were ways to keep the cattle distracted came along, the ban was dropped as quickly as they could get slow moving avaiation authorities to do it.
It should be noted that until recently the fractured and individual country based authorities in Europe made this extremely slow.
One has to ask why on earth (or floating 40,000 feet above it) you need your phone on in the first place. If the plane you're in doesn't provide mobile network connectivity, surely you're going to be a little out of range of the nearest base station.
Or am I missing the point?
Personally, any time without being contactable on my phone is a godsend.
some of us have phones that can play music, or read books on, or watch films on. Even fap too with the girly pictures.
"Even fap too with the girly pictures."
On a plane?! I knew Europe was less uptight about these things than the US, but I didn't realize it went that far. :-)
So some flight crews thought some interference might be personal electronics but they can't prove it? Super article.
Evidence is strong.
There is now solid evidence that electronic equipment interferes with flight equipment
Honeywell displays affected by Wifi signals,
Wifi banned from flight deck
Well fuck me, that's convincing evidence!
"IATA admitted it hasn't actually verified that any of these were caused by electronic devices, instead highlighting that crew members thought they were."
Cabin crew are known for their expertise in electro-magnetic fields and the like.
Acceptable Failure Rate
What do you consider the acceptable failure rate of flights?
Just the once.
Or, wait, you didn't mean per flight, did you...
What's more likely...
- Big, complicated pieces of machinery with lots electronic equipment can sometimes malfunction. The cause is "shit happens".
- Despite huge amounts of testing, and 1000's of safe flights a year, most of which will have pasengers using personal electronic devices... there's still some "don't club albino kittens" types trying to justify a job with very sketchy statistics.
I'm with El Reg on this one... Besides, i've got an iPhone, and Steve-o cares enough about my well-being to not have me die in an iCrash, right?
I've always been massively skeptical of the claims about interference (and sorry to those that travel on the same flights as me, I always use my MP3 player during takeover/landing).
If airplane instruments are so sensitive that a MP3 player, iPad, etc., can set them off, I'm seriously shocked. How can they possibly be fit-for-purpose?
I remember when a Merkin friend was flying over with some special tech gear; he asked BA if it was alright for him to carry on his expensive, delicate gear (can't remember the details, some kind of wireless equipment that he was going to use to set up a proof-of-concept long-range wireless network with - pre-WiFi days). They replied that it was fine as long.
He pushed it and asked if he could use some of it mid-flight, and gave them specs; they said that it would be no problem. (He did and said that he found no interesting signals up there)
Alas, this was ~15 years ago, and I no longer have the email that he forwarded around. We were all pretty shocked, though.
Final bugbear: Why don't airlines put the interactive entertainment system on straight away? Passengers would be far calmer watching a film during takeoff/landing.
The system's powered up, so that's not the reason; it's normally showing the stupid "flight info" screen to some boring classical music.
/Beer: need one
"Why don't airlines put the interactive entertainment system on straight away? Passengers would be far calmer watching a film during takeoff/landing."
I can answer that one for you... The most dangerous parts of a flight (apart from the in-flight meal) are the take off and landing. Therefore the cabin staff would much rather you were alert for their instructions about which side of the plane is not burning following the accident, than dangling there tangled up in your head phones still focused on Airport 77.
But as soon as they make an announcement, the entertainment system pauses.
Re: Good reason
I bow to your greater experience of aircraft accidents!
I still think they don't want you tangled up with the headphones though.
It does seem foolish...
...to go to huge lengths and expense getting all electronic equipment on an aircraft certified as not emitting too much interference, and then allowing carry-ons made by just about any tin-pot manufacturer.
Worked on flight controls for Airbus
To be honest, the ones I worked on weren't susceptable to anything that would pass an EMC test, including some very nasty RF emission equivalent to a mobile phone inches away from the unit. As it happens, it also doesn't object to induced voltages/currents from lightening running over the skin of the aircraft, or corona discharges from the edges of the wheel doors into the avionics bay.
As far as clocks going backwards, surely they are refurring to the ¡Pad, and the well documented ¡Don't ¡Konw ¡The ¡Time feature?