Mobile Phones Don't Crash Aeroplanes

No one wants their plane to crash, and no one wants to cause a scene during a flight. So, diligent passengers that we are, we turn off our gadgets when we're told to. But no one's dying if you don't.

If you were on a flight a few years ago, the pre-flight spiel likely included some bit about turning off portable electronic devices because they could potentially cause electromagnetic interference with the aircraft's navigation. Electromagnetic interference?! That sounds terrifying! And so we complied, switching off mobile phones and pausing iPods while we envied those that had decided to bring books on board.

But the thing about the electromagnetic interference is that it's a lie.

The Federal Communications Commission and the Federal Aviation Administration banned in-flight mobile phone use in the early '90s, despite not having any evidence that gadgets had ever caused an accident. Hey, it seemed feasible that they could. In 2006, the FAA decided to conduct a study to see if mobile phones actually did interfere with aircraft computer systems, and because they couldn't find conclusive evidence that they didn't mess things up, they fell back on their nearly two decade-old supposition that they might.

So, sure, mobile phones might cause interference. But a megashark might jump out of the water and bite your plane in half, too.

Of course, the FAA has since approved in-flight Wi-Fi service, which is now standard on many airlines, and in the meantime we've stayed shutting off our mobile phones before takeoff. But that doesn't mean the rest of the world has. As The Daily points out, the Inflight Passenger Communications Coalition counts 139 nations that currently approve in-flight mobile service. Over seven million in-flight calls have been completed to date. All those planes have kept on navigating just fine.

Now, the desirability of having everyone yakking away on the airplane, which some like to consider a tranquil, technology-free sanctuary, is another matter. The Daily points to a recent MSNBC poll in which 85 per cent of respondents said "people should just shut up and fly". So there's that.

None of this is new, of course. We've known for years that mobile phones didn't pose a threat to planes - it's just nice to remind oneself that the rest of the world is doing it without issue. So while it's still true that no one wants to - and no one should - cause a scene on a plane, it's nice to know that you don't have to worry about bringing everything crashing down if you accidentally forget to turn off your phone before takeoff.



    Once shared a flight with an Aeronautical Engineer who said the only thing that MIGHT happen is if your 1. on a call 2. in the cockpit and 3. you put the phone hard against some of the equipment it could kinda go a green colour.

    Always thought that if it was THAT important they would have to check each passenger.

      Mythbusters did an episode on this myth. While no way near true scientific, they could not get their mobile phones to affect the systems.

      Interview with airplane engineers says because the cabling and wiring in the planes are so well insulated against any electromagnetic interference.

    "Better safe than sorry". Which is why I get so many chain emails telling me bottled water contains dangerous men who want to steal your jewelery with ether on a rag.

    Besides, when you hit the power button on most modern devices, it doesn't even come close to turning off. Yet most people assume it's turned off.

    Now that we can leave phones on, I can make cheap in-flight calls, right? That's how mobile phones work, right? Why are you laughing?

    haha, "a megashark might jump out of the water and bite your plane in half". Best line ever from Giz. I have that image in my head and it's freaking awesome!

      Why have it in your head only when you can watch it on YouTube ?

        HA! Starring Debbie Gibson! That was the funniest bit!

    but people talk soooooo loud on a mobile compared to normal, great fun on a plane, where you can't walk away from the dipsticks.

    I heard once that the main reason mobile phone calls from aircraft were not allowed was that it presented a bit of a headache to the phone companies who are trying to work out your call details for a call made in a vehicle that traverses a 30km phone tower range in 2 minutes or so.

      At 900 km/h a plane would cover 30km in 7.5 seconds and given the fact they fly around 35,000 feet, I think that phone guys really don't like that.

    If interference was serious issue for air safety;
    - we'd be taking batteries out of phones before boarding.
    - they wouldn't be allowed as carry-on.

    we don't, it's not.

    How many people do you think would listen to the pre-flight safety briefing if we were all allowed to listen to our Mp3's players?? Most likely none of us, and then when something goes wrong, someone will sue because they werent advised of the safety procedures, because face it someone will.

    This way we are forced to listen, thus if something does happen that one person wont sue.

    This reminded me of last week in the airport. i jumped of the plane and immediately called for a lift. A lady guiding the passengers came up to me screaming; "IS THAT A PHONE?? WHAT THE HELL'S WRONG WITH YOU?!? CAN'T YOU SEE THERE ARE PLANES AROUND?".

    I laughed hung up and said ok, its alright. I think she was expecting them to all explode at any second.

    I always thought they wanted you to turn off all electronic devices so you would have to watch the safety video. Scare tactics.

    I have a family friend who is an international pilot with Australian airline, [company name redacted]. If you think the guys in the cockpit turn their phones off each and every time they fly them think again.

    For some crews, it's almost a game to see how many mobile carrier roaming welcome messages they can accrue between two airports. It can vary due to any deviations in course they have to make and (interesting) prevailing weather conditions, especially cloud density.

    More thoughts on gadgets on airplanes, quite the controversial topic I see.

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