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back to article Watchdog probes rules for naughty mobe fondling on flights

US regulators are going to look into the rules that stop passengers using their "interfering" electronic gizmos on aeroplanes. The Federal Aviation Administration announced that it would be setting up a government and industry group to assess how airlines decide which gadgets can be used and when. The current norm is to be told …

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Silver badge
Boffin

if

Question - if my Kindle can crash a plane, why aren't $terrorist_flavour_of_the_month using Kindles to crash a billion planes per week?

Answer - because it can't.

So these rules are pretty stupid.

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Re: if

If I'm to play devils advocate I'd say that just because it doesn't that doesn't mean there isn't a chance it could. And do you want to be on a plane that might crash? Besides get a real book then it wouldn't be a problem in the first place.

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Don't start that "get a real book" nonsense

Not, at least, until you can find me a way to fit into my pocket what would take up two hundred linear feet of shelf space if it were printed on paper.

That said, I have no problem turning off my widgets during takeoff and landing, purely for safety's sake, and I don't really see why anyone would -- if you can't do without reading for that long, you really do need to bring a paper book with you as well, or do something at any rate.

And this comes from someone who reads with one hand, and aims with the other, while he's standing in front of a urinal -- you're going to have to work pretty hard to say you're a more serious reader than I am!

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Re: if

Thing about Kindles is they're never off. Most people who have one probably don't even realise that unless the radios are turned off it periodically scan for networks and check back with Amazon to look for new updates, books etc.

I doubt that most people owning a kindle or an ipad (other tablets and e-readers are available) would know they have a flight mode. With phones people know about flight mode because phones on planes are bad so they know there is a special way to make them safe.

If there was a chance of anything bad happening then it would have happened because I'd guess most planes these days have at least one device that has been accidentally or unknowingly left on during take off.

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Pint

Re: Don't start that "get a real book" nonsense

> reads with one hand, and aims with the other, while he's standing in front of a urinal

I've waded past that urinal.

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Trollface

Re: Don't start that "get a real book" nonsense

Not, at least, until you can find me a way to fit into my pocket what would take up two hundred linear feet of shelf space if it were printed on paper.

If you read "two hundred linear feet of shelf space"'s worth of books on a single flight, then you are either the fastest speed-reader on the planet, read the largest-print books on the market, or both.

Or I suppose they could be all children's books, where the pages are inch-thick cardboard with 3 words per page on them...

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Re: if

It is rather odd that they remove 25.1ml tubes of toothpaste for security and yet electronic devices that can crash the plane are on the honor system

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Phil O'Sophical: Not me, guv; after an initial moment to ensure I'm properly lined up with the target, I'm pretty much good to go. Of course, my parts work properly, which I appreciate is not true of everyone.

Steve Knox: On a single flight? Of course not -- who could? I usually don't get through more than a few hundred pages' worth on a single flight, not least because partial anoxia isn't the best thing for concentrating on a book -- or on anything else, for that matter. I do, though, quite like having a sizable library from which to choose what I feel like reading right now, and with 32GB of Flash to play around with, even if I only just might decide to read something a month from now, or even a year from now, it's still worth putting it in my pocket, where it'll be handy no matter how long I take to get around to it.

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Bronze badge

Re: if

I've been asked to stop reading paper books and magazines on planes during take off and landing too. This is because they want you to concentrate on the safety message rather than read during these times.

As for mobile phones, they cause annoying bipping noises when next to a speaker, imagine what they do to sensitive radio receiving equipment on a plane which the pilot HAS to listen to. Just turn it off and stop moaning - there probably is a good reason and they shouldn't have to tell you what that reason is. It's their plane, their rules, feel free to fly without their plane if you must have your phone on to read the latest tweets.

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Headmaster

Re: if

" And do you want to be on a plane that might crash?"

Every plane that is, was and will be has/had the possibility of crashing. In other words, any time a plane leaves the ground, it might crash. Hell it's possible that it might crash without ever leaving the ground.

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Thumb Up

Re: if

I've been watching this for years - virtually nobody actually turns their devices OFF, they just press what they think is the power button and stick it back in the case. Almost every single device that Apple makes will wake up and check for mail every thirty minutes of so - there's no external indication that it's awake, it just turns on (without the screen) check for mail, and goes back to sleep ... even an iPad will do this.

Just watch on the next flight - the wheels hit the ground when the plane lands and they make the "you can now use your phone" announcement and people all around you are dialing and checking email. There's no way those devices actually booted that fast ... they were never actually turned off.

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Re: if

I've been asked to stop reading paper books and magazines on planes during take off and landing too. This is because they want you to concentrate on the safety message rather than read during these times.

That's a new one on me. I've been riding in jetliners since I was 13, and flying at least twice a year for the past twenty years, and I've practically got the flight attendants' safety rap memorized... yeah, OK, masks pop down, put yours on before you help anyone else, oxygen is flowing even though the bag may not inflate, seat cushion is a flotation device, life vest under your seat, pull the little lanyards or blow through the tube, aisle lights up, the closest exit may be behind me, if I'm seated in an exit row I may be called on to etc. etc. etc. Yeah, uh huh, OK, yeah, OK.

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Re: if

Fuzz says;

"If there was a chance of anything bad happening then it would have happened because I'd guess most planes these days have at least one device that has been accidentally or unknowingly left on during take off."

This is a perfectly reasonable conclusion however lets say all passengers on an A380 have their Kindle /iPad 's on during take off - that's a potential 600 transmitters all trying to communicate with home. Unless significant testing demonstrates this will not upset aircraft navigation I'd rather people did the right thing and have a 15-20 minute holiday from their electronic world.

BTW I don't see any difference between a fondle slab and a phone - they are both using the same radio comms systems.

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Re: if

"That's a new one on me. I've been riding in jetliners since I was 13, and flying at least twice a year for the past twenty years,"

That may be new to you because twice a year isn't actually flying very often. Their excuse is that new planes may be different or the equipment might change. Either way, their plane their rules. FWIW there are a couple of differences in the safety routines but you might need to fly a couple of times a week and try different planes to find them out :)

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Anonymous Coward

Having sat opposite

Having sat behind a pillock who insisted he wanted to watch music videos with his friend on a laptop during a flight from Germany to the UK, I'd ban them all.

Not content with sharing a set of ear phones he proceeded to play the content of his laptop at full blast to the whole cabin, oblivious to the fact that the German Heavy Metal Band was not a favourite with anyone else.

He had absolutely no idea that after suffering this noise for around twenty minutes several passengers started to complain. One complaint in particular was so serious that the cabin crew told him to either use his headphones or switch the thing off. The complainant stated to the cabin crew member,

'you can see he is annoying almost everyone on the flight except for the idiot friend of his sitting next to him. Please ask him to stop as he might find it as unpleasant to have what looks like his 15 inch screen

Laptop surgically removed from his anal passage as it will be when it gets put up there in the first place.'

To which the cabin crew member replied.

'I'll hold him down for you....'

He switched it off after being advised.

If you can't be without your gadget for a few hours, don't fly.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: if

"If I'm to play devils advocate I'd say that just because it doesn't that doesn't mean there isn't a chance it could."

Mythbusters said it can't :p

"And do you want to be on a plane that might crash?"

Every single plane that takes flight might conceivably crash. I take it you don't fly much :)

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"Mythbusters said it can't"

Oh, well, that's all right, then.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: if

Re: if

"And do you want to be on a plane that might crash?"

EVERY plane (car, train, bike etc.) MIGHT crash at any given time surely?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: if

So, if I turn off my iPhone and if, as you contend, it doesn't really power down then why, for the love of all that is holy doesn't it turn itself on to wake me up at my set alarm time?

Damn, another flaw with the iPhone, also, the boot time is actually pretty quick.

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Re: if

If not washing your hands after using the bathroom can spread diseases, why don't bioterrorists do that and wipe us all out? There's a huge difference between 'not safe enough to approve' and 'effective way of killing people' - when did an assassin last tamper with somebody's seatbelt, rather than their brakes?

Having said that, it's a valid point; I recall a presentation about 10 years ago by an expert in the field. He had a simple bar graph - showing the maximum radio power output of a mobile handset, next to the minimum power level aircraft are required and tested to be unaffected by. Apart from anything else, they have to withstand both electrical storms and fairly close proximity to radar systems (often including their own); a single watt of power, on a frequency the aircraft's systems don't even use (because it's set aside for mobile phone use) is trivial by comparison. Hence some countries already allowing it, without their aircraft falling out of the sky because of it!

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Sat next to someone who used her phone for the entire 2.5 hour flight yesterday to play some game or other that just seemed to make annoying tinkly noises every few seconds. She did at least put it away during landing, but I bet hadn't switched it into flight mode. Not too bothered though as pretty sure that numerous devices are left on during each and every flight (including on the flight deck) without an incident ever being provably linked to one and would expect that aircraft systems and cabling should be fairly well shielded from interference.

Was more annoyed though that she wouldn't/couldn't put her 'hand luggage' under the seat as it was too large, and had it jammed between her seat and the one in front, hidden under her coat, and wouldn't even move it to allow us to get out to go to the toilet or get something from the overhead locker, expecting us to climb over it - that would have been far more of a potential hazard than using her phone if there actually had been some sort of incident. Sadly, being RyanAir, I hadn't paid some sort of extra charge to have the flight attendants do anything except try to sell food, drinks, hire cars, lottery tickets or duty free. So, apart from asking her towards the end of the flight how long she'd had it there (and then doing nothing about it) they just ignored it.

On the subject of RyanAir (and probably the other cheap pile-on-the-extras airlines too), anyone know what the 'Oxygen reservation charge' is that the website was trying to offer me? I didn't take it and they didn't tape a bag over my head or disable the oxygen mask above my seat (to my knowledge).

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GBE

Oxygen reservation charge.

If you need theraputic oxygen (lung/heart problems), you're not allowed to bring your own -- you have to arrange beforehand for the airline to provide it for you.

http://www.ryanair.com/en/questions/how-can-i-book-oxygen

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Bronze badge
Stop

"Not too bothered though as pretty sure that numerous devices are left on during each and every flight (including on the flight deck) without an incident ever being provably linked to one and would expect that aircraft systems and cabling should be fairly well shielded from interference."

I'll just leave this here...

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2012/04/20/stray_sms_aborts_landing/

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Anonymous Coward

Breathing is an optional extra?

No mystery, really: http://www.ryanair.com/en/questions/how-can-i-book-oxygen

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Unhappy

Re: Oxygen reservation charge.

If you need medical oxygen then you'd better take care at the other end too.

If you haven't prepaid to use the steps you'll have to feckin jump.

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Re: Oxygen reservation charge.

TBH, that makes a certain amount of sense. Do you really want to be flying in a plane onto which one or more people brought in multi-liter metal canisters that can't be opened or eamined? Part of the rationale, above and beyond the added fees, is that they can certify that their oxygen tanks contain, in fact, nothing but oxygen.

And, to be fair, note that they also suggest renting -- from someone OTHER than them -- a compressor/concentrator, as an alternative to their limited canister service.

Somewhat on the subject of the original article -- and I honestly don't know this, which is why I'm tossing this out for comments -- how hardened and/or secured are the plane's systems? That is, could a tablet-sized or laptop-sized device be created that could INTENTIONALLY interfere with the plane's instrumentation or hijack the fly-by-wire avionics? I mean, if you only wanted to CRASH the aircraft, your control overrides wouldn't have to be particularly precise -- throttle and/or aileron control alone would likely be sufficient, it seems to me.

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Anonymous Coward

Really?

From the article - "If you’re thinking that what happened is that the pilot’s phone bleeped and he checked his messages rather than checking his readiness to land, you’d be about right."

So, it was a phone that interfered with the landing, in that it was a HUMAN who left his phone on, then answered a text in the cockpit no less, right next to all that sensitive avionics (which isn't shielded in any way from harmful RF interference of course)

So, yes in one way citing the article proves that cell phones could impact on the normal operation of the planes systems However it doesn't impact as much as the meat bag using it!

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Silver badge

The real reason

Is that in the "extremely unlikely event of..." they don't want people deafened with headphones and wires wrapped around their head.

When I used to fly a lot I did wonder what would happen if i put on my ear defenders and a blindfold during takeoff and landing.

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Re: The real reason

'...you know where to put the cork!'

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Re: The real reason

Considering there was someone that fell asleep en-route from Pakistan to Paris, the plane landed, everyone disembarked, the plane was (probably) then cleaned and return leg passengers got on and that person ended up back in Lahore, I can imagine not much will happen to you.

I've flown business a few times, and it's quite common for some folks to get on and instantly "assume the position" for sleep. On the good airlines, the staff just tuck them in :-)

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The elephant in the room

it's not like there's all that much difference in terms of EM emissions between flight mode and "off" on a modern phone anyway, I'd imagine.

"Off" is easier for staff to check I suppose.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: The elephant in the room

Given the emissions chucked out by the radar and radio of the plane, all those cheap flat screens in the back of the seats, plus the 400Hz electrical system in general, I suspect screening on an aircraft might be pretty good.

Inexperienced pilots are your biggest threat, and they still let Air France take off!

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Anonymous Coward

The unknown

The reality is we do not know if these electonic devices can cause enough electronic interference to create an issue. Thus it's always better to error on the side of safety and shut these devices off during take off and landing. If an individual is incapable of living without their electronic toy for 20 minutes, they have very serious personal issues that need immediate professional attention and they are probably unable to comprehend this medical issue.

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Silver badge

Re: The unknown

On that basis we don't know if the static from plastic underwear can cause interference but we don't have to pull down our pants as we board.

The real issue is that a bunch of barely trained, perfume and duty-free drink sale-persons are screaming at you to do something because of the technical equivalent of; "a bloke in a pub told a mate of mine's cousin" - and if you disagree you are arrested.

It doesn't give you a great deal of confidence in the people flying and maintaining the aircraft does it?

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Re: The unknown

"On that basis we don't know if the static from plastic underwear can cause interference but we don't have to pull down our pants as we board."

Er .. I'm pretty sure that's going to be next on the TSA's list of "How can we humiliate passengers more?"

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Anonymous Coward

Its all about money- stupid.

All along, it was the money . They could (and still do) charge average $10 per minute of calling. And thus created a scaremonegring scenario of crashed planes.

But, with the proliferation of electrinc devices, they are still taking the piss about flight safety and all that.

Just so that if anyone wanted to call urgently, there's the revenue stream. Also, they didnt foresee all these Gizmos coming on stream in such a short span of time.

The pressure's building.

Simples!

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FAIL

Most people I've seen on planes think putting iDevices in standby is powering them off.

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Anonymous Coward

those damn phones...

on every flight i've been on over the past year - that'll be about 16 flights - there has been at least one mobile

device bleeping during the flight - usually around takeoff / landing where theres good reception.... the quite distinctive default tone for SMS message of an iPhone, Nokia or blackberry...but coming from the overhead lockers...and it'll only get harder to check/verify too - new Apple laptops can do wifi etc when in suspend

mode (power nap or whatever its called). can such things crash a plane? well, they havent the full data to say they cant...so they've played the safety card.... I always thought that the problem wasnt the plane - its the mobile phone network that cannot handle having a hundred or more mobile devices jumping from cell to cell at over 300 miles an hour.

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Silver badge

Re: those damn phones...

3 possibilities really: Nobody has ever deliberately or accidentally left an electronic device turned on, planes crash all the time due to this but the cause is covered up, they have F*** all effect.

Of course they can't possibly test all possible combinations of 300 different phones being used in different ways on every model of aircraft. Until they fitted cell phone cells to the planes to charge you $5-10 to make a call - then suddenly the phones were safe on all their flights.

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Last time I flew - last month - the in-flight attendants actually said that it wasn't for interference but for the fact that if there's an emergency, having everything off would mean it would be easier for the attendants to get your attention. I figure that it just isn't an issue any more.

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Devil

I have no problem in people using their gadgets on board as long as I can't hear them. Fairy snuff, I will admit to listening to tunes while flying around after the bong for "get your kit out" has been announced.

However, during landing, quite a few times where its been a bit bumpy I've had the, erm, dubious pleasure of watching people scrabble about desperately searching for their now numerous pieces of gadget that has flown out of their hands onto the floor.

Not that I've been ever been bonked on the head by an airborne laptop or piece of <insert part of mobile phone here>, but I can understand why things need to be stowed away.

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Silver badge

It's all a bit silly really.

Of course mobiles are dangerous. This is proved by the huge volume of wrecked planes laying about all over the world which just dropped out of the air because somebody left their phone on.... We just haven't found them yet. Must be in the Oceans. Damn this 66% water planet.

Basically it's to get people to pay attention to the evacuation drill... And the offers of drinks, lottery tickets, duty free and something they jokingly call food.

Or maybe it's to prevent occupants of a row discovering they're Android, IPhone, WinPhone and BlackBerry...

And then the fight started.

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Headmaster

Wiring

All aircraft wiring is screened so theoretically no emissions should interfere with the electronic systems. I suspect the issue is that the standard to which they are screened to is several years old and may not take into account the latest electronic gadgets. Not that that should be a problem as like all flight safety systems it is overkill by several factors. But..... How do you devise a test that confirms that nothing is going to be interfered with that is 100% accurate? Far easier (and cheaper) to say switch off.

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Stop

More worried about the 'tards drive-by-texting.

Just got back from NYC and I swear every second car was being driven by a bozo on their phone. What could be THAT important that you want to drive 2-ton of steel at 70mph while not looking?

Interesting stats for you;

US deaths on commercial flights 2011 : nil

US deaths on commercial flights 2010 : nil

US road deaths in 2011 : 33,808

Number killed in 9/11 : 2,996

It's not the guy in seat 12F you have to worry about, it's the dick driving the Buick...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: More worried about the 'tards drive-by-texting.

While I agree that every other vehicle operator in the U.S. is on drugs and their phone concurrently, don't be naive in thinking the airways are free of terrorists or serious risks. The TSA removed over 2,000 guns from carry-on baggage in 2011. We also don't hear about every foiled plot as many people would simply stop flying if they knew how dangerous terrorism really is. Airline personnel and authorities deserve a lot of appreciation for the work they have done to protect the public from terrorists. There will be more tragedies however so don't get comfortable.

In the meantime every person using a cellphone while driving should be sent to prison for a minimum of two years as should all who operate motorised vehicles/equipment while under the influence.

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Silver badge

phone bans not an airline rule.

Phones were banned above 5000 feet in the AMPS days because they block out channels on lots of adjacent cells on the ground (at 5000 feet AGL your phone can see cells up to 50 miles away).

Microcells on every plane would make the ban unneccessary as the phone would dial its transmitter power down to microwatts - that and GSM doesn't work if the phone is moving faster than about 200 miles per hour (which was deliberate - it made TDMA design decisions easier and stops phones in high altitude aircraft interfering with cells on the ground - the limit was set by the fastest expected speed of high speed trains)

Phones (and other electronic gadgets, as well as non-electronics things like books and earplugs) are banned during takeoff and landing on most airlines because they want passengers paying attention in case there's an emergency. The last thing you want during a crash is to find that the twit in 44F hasn't done up his seatbelt and is now a meat missile flying up the cabin, or that his laptop is accompanying him.

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Bronze badge

Phones were banned always

--because flight regulations directed that only the pilots could authorize radio communications from the aircraft.

Of course, nobody paid any attention to that.

And another thing. Hospitals around here still have signs banning mobile phones. And have mobile phones issued to on-duty nursing and medical staff -- as on airplanes, mobile phones are harmless around medical equipment, and the old system of 4 light bulbs in each corridor is not considered adequate for modern communications.

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Paris Hilton

If I operated an airline...

... and told you to turn your phones and tablets off during take of and landing, I would expect you to turn your phones and tablets off during take off and landing. As the operator and owner of an airline, I would not expect the gov to interfere in how I run my business on my property, unless I was acting illegally. Since there are no laws regarding phones being turned off being illegal, that would still be my choice to make, and not the gov's.

Paris because, like an airplane, she always levels out with her flaps open, and regularly takes strangers for a ride in her fuselage.

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Anonymous Coward

Is everyone here fucking retarded...?

Does anyone posting know any RF basics, or are you all just bitching about not being able to play fucking Angry Birds on your flight to some European hell-hole?

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Thumb Down

In all the years we have had electronic personal devices I have never ,I repeat never seen a report of a crash or mishap happening in the air due to these devices being able to broadcast and recieve.I have not seen any definitive tests being done by authorised bodies to prove the devices of any kind interfere with aviation equipment of any kind.

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