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Gavin

Mobile phones and aircraft.

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What really is the issue here? Do mobiles cause a risk to aircraft systems? Or is it just a ( very welcome) cunning plot to give us some space away from people shouting on their 'yell phones'?

 

I'm genuinely interested in finding out the real reasons. Please don't turn this post into a war. If you disagree with what someone says, please do so in a civilised way. The reason I'm asking this is that I don't know and would like to know.

 

Thanks for any answers.

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The FAA [Federal Aviation Administration] has a ban on cellphones in flight for fear of disrupting aircraft's communications and navigations systems.

 

The FCC [Federal Communications Commission] has a ban on cellphones in flight for fear of disrupting cellphone towers on the ground.

 

Electromagnetic interference also seems to be a big argument, and that's the part where it extends from cellphones to absolutely no electronics during ascent and descent. Non-connectivity devices still give off electromagnetic radiation, and although it's a smaller amount, supposedly it can still impact the aircraft. A lot of people don't seem to mind, for the exact reason you stated, to keep people off of those dreaded "yell phones!"

 

There's a "conspiracy" it's part of a plan to force people to use the phones in the aircraft when available, which cost money to use. Andy Plews, who is a spokesperson for United Airlines said, "it's not a big safety issue, we want people to use the air-phones."

 

Hopefully this information helps you, and others too!

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The FAA is actually just about to end the ban on non-cellular electronic use during takeoff and landing. Should happen within the next few months or so. There really isn't a single documented case of electronics interfering with an aircraft - just anecdotes from pilots who saw something weird during an approach or something and decided to blame it on passenger electronics.

 

The FAA has approved iPads and laptops etc for use by the crew in the cockpit - if it's ok for them to be right up there next to the displays and stuff then I'm guessing it's probably ok for the guy in 10A to have one too. If you think about it too a plane flying over a populated area is being constantly bombarded with EMF - radio stations, cell signals etc. It would have been apparent a long time ago if these signals could actually interfere.

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Electromagnetic interference is a real thing, as anyone who has left their phone next to their computer speakers will know. The question is whether it can actually harm the plane's systems (e.g. by causing a false indication on the nav radios). The nav equipment can be very sensitive, which is for example why many airports have special CAT III holding points that are further from the runway to prevent (metal) planes from interfering with the localiser signal during CAT III approaches.

 

The question is whether mobile phones (or other devices) on board the aircraft can cause interference (given how the equipment is shielded) and whether that interference is harmful. Investigating this for the huge range of electronic consumer equipment and for all avionics devices (and what if those boxes are 10 years old and the shielding is worn down, etc.) would be expensive and time consuming. Instead the FAA has just gone for the cheaper 'better safe than sorry' option and banned everything, although the likelyhood of harmful interference is low.

 

Recently there have been a bunch of high profile cases of Famous and Important People throwing (IMO) hissy fits over not being allowed to use their cell phones, which has caused US congress to pressure the FAA into investigating the issue in more detail.

 

Although the FAA has (AFAIK) not released any recommendations yet, given the low chance that interference poses a risk to aircraft (especially since just about every flight the past 10 years probably had someone on board who didn't switch their phone off, accidentally or on purpose), the rules will probably be relaxed.

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Electromagnetic interference also seems to be a big argument, and that's the part where it extends from cellphones to absolutely no electronics during ascent and descent. Non-connectivity devices still give off electromagnetic radiation, and although it's a smaller amount, supposedly it can still impact the aircraft.

 

The FAA is actually just about to end the ban on non-cellular electronic use during takeoff and landing.

 

Instead the FAA has just gone for the cheaper 'better safe than sorry' option and banned everything, although the likelyhood of harmful interference is low.

 

So, as of today, all those Youtube videos with the GoPro in the airliner cockpit are technically violating FAA rules? I guess a GoPro qualifies as "electronics"...

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Only thing I know for sure - Using a TI-83 by an old King ADF set will make it go nuts.

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Although the FAA has (AFAIK) not released any recommendations yet, given the low chance that interference poses a risk to aircraft (especially since just about every flight the past 10 years probably had someone on board who didn't switch their phone off, accidentally or on purpose), the rules will probably be relaxed.

Exactly, and I know I am guilty of this. I have boarded planes many times and forgotten to turn off my cell phone. So it sat in my pocket the whole flight turned on. And I am willing to bet that more than 50% of the cell phones onboard were not off either.

 

Either way, this age we are in (the age of entitlement) means that more and more people feel it is their "right" to do as they please when they please, and to heck with what someone else's rules say. The FAA, or the FCC, or Southwest Airlines, or Air Canada, or who ever, can make all the rules they want about cell phones or whatever, but the fact remains that there will still be the "entitled" folks who get their noses out of joint and will do whatever they want, and continue to whine and moan about how the restrictions are "not fair".

 

And that goes on to the fact that even if the FAA allows the use of cell phones in flight, the airline themselves are still able to make rules of their own to the contrary. For example, the Canadian Air Regulations forbids smoking in an aircraft during takeoff or landing, in a lavatory, or when directed by the PIC. So that's not to say you can't smoke on an airplane, but we all know we can't because the PIC has been told to not let people smoke by the airline management (and for workplace health and safety reasons as well)and thus we see "no smoking" signs all around the aircraft. Same would go for cell phones. The FAA would probably come up with something like "mobile communication devices may be used at any time on an aircraft, except when directed by the PIC to not use them". The rules we follow on aircraft are a combination of those made because the law dictates it, and those made by the airline for the comfort and convenience of the crew and their customers.

 

And I have actually been in the right seat in a private charter, and the pilot used his cell phone to call ahead for something at the airport...

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No one seems to have thought about (or at least haven't mentioned) the real reason why cell phone use while in flight must be banned...

 

By design, cell phones seek out the strongest signal from one of several cell towers within range (typically a 10 mile radius), and lock onto it. As one zooms along at ground level at the blistering speed of ~70 mph, the cell phone will automatically be transferred to the next "strongest and closest" tower.

 

Now imagine that you are really zooming along at FL410 with a ground speed of 500 mph or thereabouts. How well do you think the cell phone system will work under those conditions? Just a single cell phone under those circumstances will cause interference* with multiple cell sites and create utter chaos for other customers.

 

* See: http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/AheadoftheCurve/story?id=6833039&page=2

Since 1991, the FCC has banned the use of cell phones on airplanes because of potential interference with ground networks.

 

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Thanks Jeremy, Ryan, John-Alan and Bill.  Bill that's interesting, had never really thought about that.  Is it just an opinion that a cell phone moving at aircraft speeds across different cells might cause problems, or is it a fact?  Not disputing you, just seeking clarification.

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So, as of today, all those Youtube videos with the GoPro in the airliner cockpit are technically violating FAA rules? I guess a GoPro qualifies as "electronics"...

I'm not an aviation lawyer, but probably yes. It should be noted though that the FAA only has jurisdiction over flights taking place in US registered (or operated) aircraft and/or flights in US airspace. Any flights outside of US airspace / not on a US company may be subject to different rules. Another option is that the airline has determined that the camera won't cause interference with the navigation or communication system per 14 CFR 121.306 (b ) (5). Interestingly per 121.306 interference with any other aircraft system is just dandy, and portable voice recorders and electric shavers are always allowed. Guess it really shows this rule was set in the 60s.

Thanks Jeremy, Ryan, John-Alan and Bill. Bill that's interesting, had never really thought about that. Is it just an opinion that a cell phone moving at aircraft speeds across different cells might cause problems, or is it a fact? Not disputing you, just seeking clarification.

Well if there's anyone that can make that determination it would be the FCC. It doesn't seem that far fetched that a mobile phone system could get confused by a phone* broadcasting to several towers at once or switching which tower is closest every few seconds.

 

*Or rather: thousands of phones. Just because it can handle one, doesn't mean the system can handle many.

 

There is some anecdotal evidence form 9/11 (spoilered just in case it's a sensitive topic).

 

I only remember a bit as this comes from a video rebutting a 9/11 conspiracy, but apparently several calls were made from and to some of the hijacked flights. Although the calls were continually being dropped because the network couldn't handle switching towers fast enough, the network itself did not break down. This might be different if you have thousands of people trying to phone at the same time though.

 

 

One way to get around this is to install a 'pico-cell' (roughly, a miniature cellphone tower) on board the aircraft. That way your phone will always bounce through that and not interfere with the ground based network. This is in use with a couple of the Gulf State carriers if I'm not mistaken.

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1.5 billion passengers travel by air each year. How many actually switch the phone off or put it in flight mode? If something was going to happen it would have happened by now.

 

I myself have been guilty of arriving at my destination only to find ten or more txt messages saying welcome to Vodafone Germany, Turkey, Kuwait, Qatar etc from when I was cruising over those countries genuinely unaware my phone was not properly shutdown. I also cannot count the number of times I have jumpseated and the flight crew have made phone calls to dispatch or even family.

 

Personally I get annoyed by people having cameras, IPads, phones in there hands during take off because I don't want to see a whole bunch of handheld items flying round the cabin when the flight crew have to select max autobrake & full reverse during a rejected take off.

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My son in-law who pilots the CRJ200 for a US carrier has told me on numerous occasions that he hears the electromagnetic interference through their headsets in the cockpit when passengers have certain cell phones on, other than that it has never caused any other issues. 

I'm sure a large amount of people never turn off their phone when instructed to do so by the flight crew. Me being one of them sometimes.

 

 

Best, Jeff

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AeroMobile manufactures a system that allows passengers to use their cell phones on long haul flights. The system is installed in the airplane and when you use it your are charged big time roaming fees.

 

Virgin Atlantic has this system installed which makes sense because Virgin is an airline and a mobile phone company, so naturally they would want their customers to use their phones on their aircraft. A few others have installed it as well.

 

Texting is the most common activity on these flights so you don't really have people using the phone.

 

Here is some info on that system:

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AeroMobile

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Reality is the passengers already have an expectation that their is a need to use digital mobile devices on flights to be connected to the office, This is true anywhere else in the world if you are on an airline or not. When you book a business class trip from where I live in Wellington, New Zealand to London, England the cost of that ticket is around $10,000. with that kind of money the airlines have more then enough budget to have the business traveller connected.

 

We grew up watching Star Trek from the 1960's and the communicators worked everywhere, on the starship, on the planet surface, in the shuttle pod.....Today we already have that communicator and we have an expectation that it should work everywhere. If in 2013 the airlines can't figure it out then they are way out of touch.

 

The system is already installed on Emirates, Etihad, SAS, Transaero and Virgin Atlantic. For the rest of the airlines they are left behind.

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....with that kind of money the airlines have more then enough budget to have the business traveller connected.....

I'm not saying it shouldn't be allowed at all, I was just raising the point that during takeoff and landing it is still potentially quite dangerous to have passengers using PEDs.

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I'm not saying it shouldn't be allowed at all, I was just raising the point that during takeoff and landing it is still potentially quite dangerous to have passengers using PEDs.

My post wasn't directed at you just adding to this thread....the way that AeroMobile works is you can't use it during the takeoff and landing, you can use it once you get high enough above the earth that you won't connect to ground systems any more, and that is when AeroMobile becomes available...at that point the airline has a monopoly as you are charged big time roaming fees to use the system.

 

For the business traveller they really only use the system for text messaging to be able to continue to be connected to the office on long haul flights, and that doesn't cost as much, or annoy people around you by talking on your phone. Reality is Digital Phones are used for most other things these days other then talking so you are not really disrupting people like 10 years ago when people used to use phones in public.

 

People just want to text these days and on flights more then ever.

 

Cheers Mate

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My post wasn't directed at you just adding to this thread....

 

No problem, a misunderstanding on my behalf.

 

Thanks for the info on the operation of the system, quite a clever business idea when you think abut it.

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With many jet transports cruising five to eight miles above the ground and the conductive aluminum skin of most of those aircraft I'm surprised the cell towers and cell phones could even detect each other. I'm thinking any signals that do find their way into or out of the cabin would have to go through the small area of the windows, which would add to the distance to the tower because for all but window seat passengers the signals would have to link to towers at significant horizontal distance from the plane.

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Thanks Jeremy, Ryan, John-Alan and Bill. Bill that's interesting, had never really thought about that. Is it just an opinion that a cell phone moving at aircraft speeds across different cells might cause problems, or is it a fact? Not disputing you, just seeking clarification.

It is not just a theory, it is a fact. For the very same reason, I could not use any 2m or 440 MHz amateur repeaters while airborne.

 

Even at a low power of 2 watts, there is a very real probablility that I'd wind up triggering multiple repeaters even from as low as 4,000' AGL Because of that, only simplex (i.e., direct) frequencies are allowed.

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1watt nextels are horrible on board. If I fly and forget to turn mine off I really can hear it in my headset.

 

Most of the problems stem from electrical shielding. And navigation receivers are very sensitive. Sprint is about to use the 800mhz spectrum for LTE devices which is even closer than the 1900mhz to the frequencies the aircraft equipment uses.

 

 

Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk 2

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