Monday, December 12, 2011

Do electronics really interfere with airplanes?

With recent news surrounding the online petition to ban the FAA's sky law prohibiting the use of electronics during take-off and more entertaining gossip regarding Alec Baldwin's recent run in with American Airlines, the truth of electronics on an airplane have been called into question.  Namely, does your cellphone or ipad or laptop really put you at risk when being used on a flight?  Lucky for us, NBC's Today Show fielded the question willingly.  What they found might surprise you.

According to the Today report, when asking if the signal of your cellphone or electronic devise interferes with the navigational system of an airplane, the short answer is no.  Simply put, the navigational system is not in question, but rather, the radio is the thing being interfered with.  Today revealed that the electronic displays of a phone, not the GPS or cellular signal is what interferes with plane radios during a flight.  Since the radio is used for specific instructions, especially during take off and landing, this could be a potentially dangerous thing.  However, one cell phone is not going to bring an airplane spiraling and dropping out of the sky.  In fact, there has been no proven evidence that a plane crash has resulted from the use of electronic device, according to Today.  We would think it highly unlikely that technology as conflicted with an everyday item as an ipod or blackberry would be used in something that soars several thousand feet above the surface of the Earth.

What does this mean?  Well, the FAA looks at it in terms of hypothetical.  While a single electronic device, placed in the right area, will interfere with the radio to a mild level, how much interference would a plane full of these devices do?  Given that a passenger might have one to five devices with them on any given flight, the FAA's rules are in place to prevent the overloading of a minimal interference.  Today reported that while not proven, the FAA believes one airplane crash was caused by a pilot's cell phone interfering with the radio from the cockpit.  Again, this was never proven, but if it was true, wouldn't it make sense to prevent the use of such a device when there are theoretically hundreds of these little techs available in the cabin.  Of course, if they allowed the use of electronics during the crucial parts of a flight (the ascent and descent) people would be rifling away with rabid fingers to keep themselves busy or prevent boredom, or maybe like Alec Baldwin, they will be engaged in a vicious verbal campaign that needs a victor.

If it is known that an issue does occur between the radio system and electronic devices, then how does one lobby against the FAA rule banning the use of electronics while below the 10,000 feet height?  As we learned last week, the online petition to remove this ban has been going strong.  The players behind the movement, recognize that the correlation between the myths and the math are far between anything consistent to keep them from stowing their electronics.  At least according to Today, this is only partly accurate.  For now, rules are rules and whether Alec Baldwin like it or not, we have to power down our devices.

If you'd like to see the video, it's available here:  Can our electronics interfere with flights?

Tyler Baker; One Stop Motors Writer


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