In 2011, as a regional airliner was climbing past 9,000 feet, its compasses reportedly went haywire on short notice. In a confused panic, the pilots accidentally navigated several miles off course until... an iPhone on board was finally turned off.
Although iPhones are supposed to be turned off during takeoff and landing anyway, a flight attendant had to persuade a passenger who wasn't following the rules to turn off his iPhone.
“The timing of the cellphone being turned off coincided with the moment where our heading problem was solved,” the co-pilot on that flight recently told NASA’s Aviation Safety Reporting System. Although the plane landed safely, it reinforced concerns about the role smartphones play in airline safety.
Laboratory tests have shown some devices broadcast radio waves powerful enough to interfere with airline equipment, according to NASA, aircraft manufacturer Boeing Co. (BA) and the U.K.’s Civil Aviation Authority.
Any decision with regard to expanding or restricting mobile device usage in-flight "should be based on science, not on politics or passengers’ desires to stay connected," John Cox, a former airline pilot and safety expert, tells Bloomberg.