Annoying thing 3,401 about flying: being asked to turn off your cell phone.
I know I've scoffed to myself at the notion of turning off my cell phone more than once. How could my tiny insignificant piece of hardware possibly have a catastrophic effect on such a large and complex piece of aeronautical machinery?
A recent study by the International Air Transport Association makes the argument it might be worth missing those last few text messages before departing. The IATA is a trade group representing more than 230 passenger and cargo airlines world wide and based the report on survey responses from 125 airlines between 2003 and 2009. The report documents 75 separate incidents of possible electronic interferences during the time frame of the report. However, there is no way to verify if the electronic disturbances were the directly caused by cell phones and electronic devices on the plain, a point stressed in the report.
However, the anecdotal evidence provided by sampling pilots' and crew members' narratives, found that 40% of incidents, where electronic interference was experienced, cell phones were the suspected culprit.
The incidents recorded affects flight controls including autopilot functions, autothrust and landing gear, navigation systems, and communication systems. Electronic warnings and engine indications were also experienced.
While the report does not verify that these occurrences were cause by person electronic device interference, some of the coincidences are hard to dismiss. Probably the most notable example was during a flight the altitude control readings were changing rapidly until a crew member asked passengers to turn off their electronic devices. The readings subsequently returned to normal, but after another hour started acting up again. At that a point a flight attendent made a second announcement and the readings immediately returned to normal again.
The report notes that older, low flying air craft are more easily affected by PEDs. Newer aircraft are well shielded from the influence of unwanted interference. David Carson of Boeing however did demonstrate in Boeing's testing facilities just how much PEDs can affect on board electronics. Signals from both a Blackberry and an iPhone were over the designated limit, but the iPad was crowned the worst offender.
Still it's not proof that these devices are interfering with on board electronics. With over 32,000 flights a day flying over the U.S. these make up a fraction of a fraction of a percent of flights. Still, its reason to think twice about not turning off your phone while boarding a plane.
Source: ABC News