Dangers of using a phone in flight

Hundreds of Boeing jets around the world could be deemed unsafe by the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) because the smartphones of passenger and other external frequencies are interfering with flight systems.

Anyone who has flown before knows that one of the first things they are told to do when they board is to switch off their mobile phone or turn their digital device on to airplane or flight mode.

But even flight mode could pose a flight risk, Professor Tim Wilson, department chair for electrical, computer, software and systems engineering at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, told Bloomberg.

The dangers have been limited to certain models of Boeing 737 (Next Generation) and 777 planes but, according to the FAA, there were more than 1300 jets registered in the US that have cockpit screens vulnerable to interference from wifi, mobile phones and some outside frequencies.

This is not a revelation to the FAA. Screen manufacturer Honeywell told the FAA in 2014 that 10,100 display units – or the equivalent of nearly 1700 planes (planes have six screens apiece) – were affected worldwide.

Honeywell said that 8000 of those screens have already been replaced and fewer than 400 components, or the equivalent of about 70 planes, still need to be fixed.

Honeywell also claims that some airlines may have had screens replaced by non-Honeywell contractors – although it can’t be sure – so there may still possibly be hundreds of planes flying with the unsafe systems.

According to the FAA, interference could “result in loss of airplane control at an altitude insufficient for recovery”. Honeywell spokeswoman Nina Krauss said the company had not heard of any blanking display screens caused by mobile phones while an airplane was in flight, even though FAA tests proved that screens in jets had failed.

Regardless, passengers are advised to switch off their phones entirely, if they are not needed, and to make sure that any devices in bags are also switched off, or at least in flight mode.

Do you leave your phone on when you fly?

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Written by Leon Della Bosca

Leon Della Bosca has worked in publishing and media in one form or another for around 25 years. He's a voracious reader, word spinner and art, writing, design, painting, drawing, travel and photography enthusiast. You'll often find him roaming through galleries or exploring the streets of his beloved Melbourne and surrounding suburbs, sketchpad or notebook in hand, smiling.
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