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back to article HALF of air passengers leave phones on ... yet STILL no DEATH PLUNGE

Almost half of UK flyers admit not bothering to switch their phones to flight mode (or off) while in the air, despite the dire warnings. While most just forget, the rest think they know better. The numbers come from holiday booking outfit sunshine.co.uk, who asked almost 2,000 UK flyers about their mobile phone use and found …

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Blanky

> 27 per cent said they couldn't cope without a switched-on phone and nine per cent said...

It does appear that a significant proportion of the (presumably adult) sample regard their phones as a sort of good-luck charm, or talisman - in the same way that insecure children will cling on to their favourite object / toy / blanket to comfort themselves.

I guess in the past, this role would have been fulfilled by a St. Christopher medal, prayer beads or some other quasi-religious artefact. And now those same, impressionable and insecure types just worship at the altar of Nokia, Samsung and Apple instead..

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Blanky

>I guess in the past, this role would have been fulfilled by a St. Christopher medal, prayer beads or some other quasi-religious artefact.

The most obvious pre-mobile comforter for the weak willed, impressionable and insecure types would have been a cigarette.

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Pint

Re: Blanky

And gin.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Blanky

This reminds me of a truly horrendous event when I had to visit the US with a boss who needed extensive sedation with alcohol before flying. Having misjudged the dosage, he became aggressive in security. He then had to endure the humiliation of only being allowed on the plane if I agreed to "look after him". This was basically a career no-win situation.

About the only thing on which I agree with the Saudi government is banning alcohol from airports.

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Anonymous Coward

Mobile security blanket ..

> It does appear that a significant proportion of the (presumably adult) sample regard their phones as a sort of good-luck charm, or talisman - in the same way that insecure children will cling on to their favourite object / toy / blanket to comfort themselves ..

There does seem to be a gendeer specific difference, as I see mostly women walking along the street clutching their mobile device in hand. The male of the species don't exhibit such behavor.

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Re: Mobile security blanket ..

This is because men are more likely to have pockets suitable for a phone. Many women's clothes are made without pockets or with pockets wrongly placed/too small for a phone.

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This post has been deleted by its author

Connecting from 10km up.

That is not so much of a problem, as anyone in Kent will testify when they get French networks. The biggest problem that aircraft cellphone usage causes is that of "hand-off" between base stations on the ground. When you are flying at 500mph and all base stations below you give off a similar signal strength, the phone will hop around the network really fast. You don't normally travel that fast on the ground so it isn't as much of an issue, but if a planeful of people all start yacking at the same time, the network is likely to throw a bit of a wobbler.

Until someone hijacks an aircraft with a cellphone and then they will be on the no-fly list, along with soft French cheese (as I found out recently).

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Bronze badge

Re: Connecting from 10km up.

You may get French networks in Kent, but I am quite sure those networks are not directed into the sky. 10Km up for a directed signal is one hell of a fresnel zone!

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Re: Connecting from 10km up.

I will grant you that that up wasn't the direction that what was planned, but the cell sites do pick up phones in aircraft with no issue. The problem is that it isn't just one cell, its 10 or 12 and that's where the problem lies.

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Devil

Re: Connecting from 10km up.

Soft French Cheese, at last a sensible security precaution

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Alert

Re: Connecting from 10km up.

"Soft French Cheese, at last a sensible security precaution"

Damn you.... I want to upvote you for making me laugh but I want to downvote you for your cheesist agenda!

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Re: Connecting from 10km up.

Actually in more rural areas it's very common for cell sites to use pretty much just whip antennas (pretty close to omnidirectional), so it's entirely conceivable to make a connection.

FWIW I've seen it work from 30,000 feet.

TTYL

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Mushroom

Never any danger

This apparent danger has always been cobblers. If it was a serious risk then the airlines are putting their passengers' lives at risk by not confiscating all such devices on boarding. They don't let us on with guns, pneumatic drills or welding gear for obvious reasons but for these deadly electronic devices they're happy to stick with the honour system.

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Pint

Re: Never any danger

Bingo. Have an upvote and a pint.

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Re: Never any danger

True, if it were placing us in immediate danger, do you think they would politely ask us to turn them off?

That said, radio signals have been proven to interfere with some electronic equipment - would you really want to risk it at 30,000 feet?

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Happy

Re: Never any danger

Learn about EMC and testing and EN standards.

Safety critical equipment is heavily tested for `radiated immunity' as they term it.

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Re: Never any danger

Or put another way stick a cage round it!

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Headmaster

"Or put another way stick a cage round it!"

In case you're not joking: the body of an aeroplane *is* a Faraday cage.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: "Or put another way stick a cage round it!"

"In case you're not joking: the body of an aeroplane *is* a Faraday cage."

OK, 2 points here. First of all, so what? The problems here are radio sources INSIDE the plane, so having the body be a faraday cage wouldn't do a damn thing. The instruments need to have (and presumably do have) cages directly around the instruments themselves.

And secondly, the body is NOT a Faraday cage anyway, as is clearly shown by the fact that YOU CAN MAKE PHONE CALLS THROUGH IT. Moron.

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Holmes

Re: "Or put another way stick a cage round it!"

Even these modern jets made mostly of composites?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Never any danger

More of a problem at a few hundred feet. In my view there have been several aicraft accidents in recent years where the aircraft did not make the runway, and where there was no evidence of a micro-burst pushing the aircraft downwards. The problem these days that is that are far too many smart arses out there who think they know more than highly qualified aviation people and with an anarchic attitude they risk causing others harm.

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Re: Never any danger

That said, radio signals have been proven to interfere with some electronic equipment - would you really want to risk it at 30,000 feet?

GSM phones can interfere with electronics, anyone who's held their phone next to a hifi system or even computer speakers will have experience that. However, it's highly unlikely to happen, given all the testing required for flight systems. If it did happen, I'd be less worried at 30,000ft than 3,000ft because the flight crew will have that much more time to do something about it. That's the reason I always assumed the 10,000ft rule, same as for seatbelts etc. Once high enough, there's a bit more chance to react.

As for flight safety, I'd say there's a huge risk to allowing mobiles to work in an aircraft, if you've got some brain-dead idiot yakking into his phone for the whole of a flight then there could be a riot when he finally irritates all those sitting nearby to the point that they snap.

"You may use your mobile on this flight, but as a courtesy to other passengers, please step outside to use it".

I always put my phone into flight mode, it saves the battery so it'll be working ten hours later when I get off the flight. If I'm planning to sleep then I might even turn it off.

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Re: Never any danger

It did always strike me as rather odd that such a clear and present danger to the aircraft was on the honour system.

Perhaps airlines in Texas should announce, please keep the safety catch on your assault rifle while the seatbelt sign is illuminated

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Unhappy

Re: "Or put another way stick a cage round it!"

This is the problem. Complete idiots who can't even see common sense much less have advanced education in electronics or amateur radio think they know more than the CAA or other aviation bodies and aircraft manufacturers.

I'm quite angry that there are no prosecutions for ignoring the clear instructions. On every EasyJet flight I hear them announce VERY CLEARLY no less than THREE separate times "all electronics must be switched off during take off and landing".

Yet every time I request the passenger sitting to my right or in front of me to turn off their phone I get attitude - or a stalker who is determined to lecture me in manners.

Ignorant, selfish, arrogant. That is the modern passenger. And I'm angry about it.

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Coat

Re: Never any danger

It is fairly impossible to find an air accident caused by a cell phone, still I switch my off, as you newer know what kind of new electronics are added by Boeing and Airbus in new models. Then again cell phones among passengers have been very helpful in highjacking events, if you think hard.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: "Or put another way stick a cage round it!"

Or those old jets with lots of glazed holes.

I once designed a Faraday cage that really worked for an experiment. It is more difficult than you might think.

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Murply's Law

"Safety critical equipment is heavily tested for `radiated immunity' as they term it."

But do they test for every conceivable form of radio transmission? You know, making sure they don't miss that one perfect combination of device, frequency, and power that carries down the fly-by-wire system and makes a flight surface slide just enough to cause loss of control but not show up on the black boxes?

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Coat

Not just radio signal safety

I've had it explained to me that the reason they ask us to switch off the phones especially during take off and landing is these are the times that the plane is most likely to crash - and therefore, the full undivided attention of everyone on the plane is required in case of an emergency exit.

The fact that there will always be some moron who thinks it is more important to call their mum rather than listen to the cabin crew and get-the-hell-off-the-plane is precisely why they need rules like this.

Secondly, there are electronic components that are impacted by radio signals, and a "my plane didn't crash and I left my phone on" isn't a valid argument for the removal of those rules. Lack of an expected outcome is not elimination of causation .

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Meh

Re: Not just radio signal safety

Years ago I was in a small 12 passenger plane crash in Alaska. It was really more of a terrible landing, but the nose gear broke off, lots of sparks, very loud and incredibly violent.

I can assure you everyone's attention was extremely focused on the plane crash at hand. I doubt anyone would stay focused on Candy Crush after just falling out of the sky. You just want to get out as fast as possible.

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Thumb Up

Re: Not just radio signal safety

@Don Jefe

Good point, and glad you're ok.

- but never underestimate the capacity for stupidity from one or two individuals in a large group.

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WTF?

Re: Not just radio signal safety

"I've had it explained to me that the reason they ask us to switch off the phones especially during take off and landing is these are the times that the plane is most likely to crash - and therefore, the full undivided attention of everyone on the plane is required in case of an emergency exit."

If that is true, why are we allowed to use phones on 'flight mode' at all? And why are people allowed to read books and magazines when the plane is taking off or landing, or converse with others? Surely these are also things that could prevent people from giving the cabin crew their undivided attention?

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xyz
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Re: Not just radio signal safety

...it's for the muppet who thinks his ringtone of "Pull up, pull up" is really cool.

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Re: Not just radio signal safety

>the full undivided attention of everyone on the plane is

>required in case of an emergency exit.

So why is it that they are keen to get people to take the earphones out, but they never ever wake up someone who is fast asleep and ask them to pay attention during the landing?

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Re: Not just radio signal safety

I'm sorry but what are you talking about?

1. If they were THAT interested in passenger "undivided" attention they'd also comment about reading magazines and books and whatever else. Or are you suggesting that there are different levels of attention and it's OK to ignore if you're reading a book?

2. We are post 9/11. You have to jump through hoops to get on a plane now. One guys tries to blow up a plane with a shoe, we ALL have to remove shoes with heels through security before getting on a plane. But no serious checks with phones? I work at Gatwick and as a pilot once said to me, if there was any chance, whatsoever, that a phone could bring down a plane, he'd not be a pilot.

There has never been any evidence to show how these magic and mysterious signals can have any negative impact on flight systems. Because, obviously, if there was any evidence, along with the security checks due to terrorism and safety - we'd have very different rules and you'd either not be able to fly with your phone, or they'd have a hand-in system where you collect after landing.

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Re: Not just radio signal safety

"There has never been any evidence to show how these magic and mysterious signals can have any negative impact on flight systems"

That's a completely irrelevant point. If an airline asks you to switch off your phone citing safety, whatever their motives, you damn well do it. If they ask you to switch off your phone and don't provide a reason, you damn well do it anyway. Count yourself lucky you don't flout the rules and use your phone on Chinese planes, as you could end up being arrested on landing:

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2012/10/18/china_phone_use_banned_man_arrested/

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Re: Not just radio signal safety

@Anonymous Coward 101

Have you flown? They ALWAYS wake people up before landing. As for books and magazines, they can't talk back - so their distraction level is a magnitude lower than a phone.

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Re: Not just radio signal safety

There was a news program/documentary the other day, hosted by a retired airline captain. And he said this whole thing is just a liability issue. He said there were no technical reasons why we couldn't use phones aboard. The point is the aircraft are certified by the FAA (?) in a certain configuration. Every use outside the parameters induces a liability risk on the individual airline.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Not just radio signal safety

12 passenger plane != 300 passenger plane. Just look at what happened in the Asiana flight case in San Francisco recently. Passengers left WITH THEIR HAND LUGGAGE despite safety briefings saying YOU SHOULD LEAVE IT BEHIND! And look what happened to the plane, the front half burnt out., how many passengers could've been killed if it had gone up in flames faster? So, yes, you WILL find idiots on planes doing idiotic things EVEN WHILE A PLANE CRASHES (like videoing the landing - as was the case with the LOT 767 in Warsaw).

Add to that the fact that any airline flying into US airspace is beholden to FAA regulations. The FAA has some regulations on paper that technically have not been applicable for a decade at least, yet airlines with very modern airliners who do not suffer from things like interference still have to comply with FAA regs if they want to continue to fly to the US. Thankfully, FAA has finally cottoned on and has drafted a report on usage of mobile devices below 10,000 ft, which makes several positive recommendations. Whether US airlines specifically will adopt the loosening of the rules is another question altogether.

CAA in the UK has cleared the use of phones on the ground (during taxi after landing), so anyone LANDING in the UK will be ok provided the airline has adopted the CAA regulation in question (BA is currently the only one - they pushed the CAA on that one).

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Facepalm

Re: Not just radio signal safety

@Bear Features, they generally do.

The announcement for the safety briefing usually says "please give this briefing your undivided attention", not "please give this briefing your undivided attention unless you read a newspaper or a magazine".

The implication is that you PUT DOWN whatever you're reading/watching/listening to and listen to the briefing. But people are people and wipe their arses on that request because they believe they're smarter than some 'airhead airhostess going through the motions'. Until their plane crashes and burns that is, and they have a nervous collapse and wibble in their seat until said 'airhead airhostess' drags them to the exit and punts them down the slide (yes it's happened before).

Just FYI - Flight crew primary directive is NOT to ask if you'd like tea or coffee. Their primary directive is your safety as set down by their aviation authority and the airline you're flying with.

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Re: Not just radio signal safety

@ Should b Working

I fly once or twice a week, and regularly sleep right through the Humberside-Schiphol hop And quite often the Schiphol - Hong Kong or -beijing long haul. I have never been woken up before landing, so long as my seat back is upright and my tray table stowed.

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Re: Not just radio signal safety

"The announcement for the safety briefing usually says "please give this briefing your undivided attention", not "please give this briefing your undivided attention unless you read a newspaper or a magazine"."

Yes... but the point was that they don't prevent you reading during take-off or landing. Besides, watching the safety briefing is hardly likely to prevent people having a nervous collapse or wibble in their seat after a plane crash, up to 12 hours after watching the safety briefing. For instance, putting a life-jacket on will take some concentration - having seen someone do that once is hardly likely to help you figure it out, let alone in a high stress/smoky env. Equally when trying to find the nearest usable exit, your eyes will take precedence and you'll go for the one in front of you, regardless of if there's a closer one behind you.

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Re: Not just radio signal safety

don't you mean cabin crew not flight crew?

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WTF?

Re: Not just radio signal safety

The announcement at the airline where I work asks people to turn their phones completely off from when the doors close until the plane is in the air. This is so that people pay attention to the potentially life saving information of the safety announcement and in case of an emergency during one of the critical stages of flight. Many people don't listen to any of the announcements, as evidenced by the same questions being asked again and again but if they could just stop playing Angry Birds and typing just one more text then it may save their life in case of a fire or an emergency evacuation of some kind.

I put it to one of the pilots recently that it wasn't a big deal and he replied that they get lots of ghost readings and some could well be attributed to phones and as he is the one flying the thing I was not going to call bull shit. Can people really not go 10 minutes or so without playing with their phones?

Some people just don't like to be told what to do ever. They know best and they are the customer so therefore they can do what they like. Until the plane returns to the stand and they are escorted off by the police. Suddenly everyone else decides that it wasn't such an important game of Candy Crush after all.

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Re: Not just radio signal safety

The announcement ask you to 'stop reading and suspend any conversations for the few shorts moments while the safety demonstration takes place'.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Not just radio signal safety

@SP I do see your point, but for myself my hand luggage usually contains my passport, my wallet and my phone none of which I would be inclined to abandon lightly if I were still conscious. Passport most especially. Even after a crash turning up a a border with no passport would likely unleash several metric shit tonnes of trouble.

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Re: Not just radio signal safety

Not a problem mate - Years ago, I had my camera bag (with my ticket & passport in it) nicked shortly before boarding a ferry from Spain to the UK. I explained the situation to the ferry company and Spanish authorities, and they let me on. UK passport control was similarly understanding, with some basic verification). With modern passenger lists, I'd be confident of stepping up and saying - "I'm <tfewster>, and you know I boarded the plane that just crash-landed - so there's no problem, is there?"

But yeah, phone & wallet (in that order these days) are an inseparable part of me

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Re: Not just radio signal safety

Agreed.

I went through a phase of flying a few times a month for work. Every airline I flew with always wandered round asking people with headphones on to take them out and people with books etrc to put them down during the safety spiel.

Yes you can ignore them but in my experience of many airlines they all at least do ask you (personally) once to listen/put the kindle down/take the headphones out. They can't force you, but do at least try.

They always ask me, and when I once (when tired/grumpy) pointed out I flew this exact route on this exact airline 5 times this month so far a stewardess (very politely) said "if we allow you to ignore us it just encourages others who may not have heard all this to do so". Which made sense to me even in my bleary-eyed, missing cottage pie, state.

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Re: Not just radio signal safety

For some people, important hard-to-replace things may be carried out of instinct, such as (as noted) passports and other forms of ID as well as medical supplies (prescription pills, insulin, etc.) and other things that may be difficult to resupply if lost and/or may be needed immediately upon landing.

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Re: Not just radio signal safety

@SP - the Asiana crash in SFO knocked open the overhead bins - carry-on luggage came raining down on everyone. I'd wager that if someone recognized their own rolly in the rubble, it'd be a service to everyone else to pick it up and carry it out, clearing the aisle a bit.

Also, the "professional crew" at the controls couldn't cope with a visual approach and landing, on a bright sunny day.

I fly into ABQ (Albuquerque, New Mexico) a good bit. The airport is quite high - around 7,000 ft (~2,100 m), so you hit the magic 10,000 ft point a lot sooner on takeoff and can start using your "devices" (and on approach you can use them a lot longer). They apparently only care about altitude from sea level, not height above the ground. It sort of feels like as soon as the wheels are up you're good to go. Curious...

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