I’ll be honest, I’m probably the first one on a flight to ignore the flight attendant’s announcement that “all portable electronic devices must now be switched to the ‘off’ position.” My reason? I simply don’t believe that one phone could cause an issue, especially since mine has been on during almost every flight I’ve taken. I know I’m not the only one to break the rules, either, and it seems like we doubters are winning the debate, with a number of different services available that offer in-flight phone calls. However, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) claims that our gadgets may be posing a greater risk than we thought, outlining 75 instances where flight crews believed “electronic interference” with flight systems was caused by electronic portable devices.
The reported incidents were based on 125 airlines’ responses submitted between 2003 and 2009, noting that flight controls, autopilot, auto-thrust equipment, landing gear, and the communications kit were all allegedly affected by electronics use. Of course, not one of the seventy-five incidents were verified to be caused by electronic devices. Instead, the IATA reports that crew-members and pilots believed that electronics were the culprits in those cases.
In one instance, with two laptops being used nearby, the plane’s clock spun backwards and GPS readings began going off. In another example, altitude details were jumbled until the pilot asked passengers to turn off their gizmos. A Boeing advisor, Dave Carson, believes that the signals radiating from portable electronics can mess with sensors hidden in the passenger areas of a plane, and that those signals are far stronger than what Boeing considers acceptable during a flight.
Interestingly enough, the most dangerous device was the iPad, followed closely by the iPhone and BlackBerry smartphones. New planes with the proper sheathing shouldn’t experience many problems, but Carson claims that phones are a genuine safety hazard on older model air crafts. Whether these incidents were caused by electronics or not, 75 problems over six years isn’t exactly a staggering stat.
[via Reg Hardware]