The idea that in-flight use of electronic devices for things like reading a book poses a threat to the safety of airline passengers is baseless and outdated.
All the latest aircrafts are computerised. The electronic devices used on board are at the discretion of the Captain. All information relating to electronic devices onboard are made available in the in flight magazine, Sawubona. If passengers are unsure of what electronic devices to use they can ask the crew attendent in their isle to ask the captain as to which electronic devices are permitted. 20 minutes after take off and 20 minutes before landing are points when no electronic devices may be used so not as to cause interference with the plane.It is known world wide that most of airline accidents occur during the 30 minutes after take off and the 30 minutes before landing and increased electronic activity would only cause a greater chance of that happening.
Then there are outliers – a mobile phone that’s been dropped and abused, or a battery that puts out more than it is supposed to, and avionics that are more susceptible to interference because gaskets have failed.
And boom, that’s where you get interference.
We spoke to Simon Dingle is a technologist, journalist, writer for Finweek Magazine and head of product strategy and design at 22seven to clear up the confusion.
Here’s what he had to say:
There is nothing on an aeroplane that can be interfered with by mobile phones. Simply put, cellular telephones use a completely different frequency for their communications than what are used by the airline industry and there are no other electronics and certainly no mechanics on a plane that can be interfered with either.
It’s simple really – if a cellphone could crash a plane you would not be allowed to take them onboard.
There was an industry initiative some years ago by cellular companies in the USA to get passengers to turn off their phones while flying because it was thought that phones rapidly switching towers as they flew over would cause problems with networks. This turned out not to be a valid concern, but it added to the pressure placed on regulators to ban phones in flight and further complicated the public’s understanding of what was really going on.
There are other good reasons why you should turn some things off during take off and landing, however. These are the most dangerous parts of the flight where things are most likely to go wrong. If anything does happen, the airline needs all passengers to be attentive to announcements and it isn’t a good idea to have people listening to music, for example.
From a purely scientific point of view, there is no reason to ban cellphones on planes. They categorically do not interfere with any of the electronics onboard nor compromise air traffic communications.
Cellphones are just another excuse for authorities to nanny us and stimulate a sense of security – like taking away old ladies’ knitting needles at security check points. There’s no good reason for it.
Unfortunately the public is also susceptible to pseudo-scientific misconceptions about how things work. I encourage people not to take my word for it, but to do the research themselves. Remember that a study or piece of research is only valid if it has been undertaken using scientific methods, reviewed by other scientists and published in a legitimate scientific journal. Anything else is just people’s opinions based on anecdotal evidence and should not be trusted.
You’ll find “studies” for anything in the world, including the existence of aliens – but you shouldn’t trust them unless they meet the criteria I’ve mentioned.
So, with airlines like Mango beginning to offer WiFi on board, how much longer can we expect to wait before we can enjoy a complete unbanning of electronic device use on planes?
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