• Studies suggest that electronic devices emit radio waves that can interfere with avionics. • Radio waves from electronic devices may interrupt vital components of airplanes. • A new regulation bans the use of handheld electronic devices besides cell phones. • Passengers must turn off electronic devices or be denied their flight.
Have you ever wondered why it is so important to turn off electric devices when traveling on a plane? You may have thought about or even tried to use your phone while in-flight. The answer is simple if you think about how electronics work and emit energy.
Why You Should Turn Off Electronic Devices
Chances are, you have been cautioned by TSA agents or flight attendants to turn off your electronic devices before boarding a plane. You’ve likely been told that certain devices may interfere with sensitive electronic components of an airplane. It turns out that there is good reasoning behind this; it is not just a myth that flight attendants tell everyone before a flight.
Not only is it federally required to turn off electric devices when traveling on a plane, but it is for the safety of everyone involved. Whether you realize it or not, your favorite electronic devices actually emit radio waves that can influence the nearby atmosphere. What this equates to is interfering with sensitive electronic components in the cockpit of the plane.
The avionics of a plane require the most accurate information to navigate and keep all parts of the plane working harmoniously. According to Peter Ladkin, Professor of Computer Networks and Distributed Systems at Bielefeld University in Germany, using personal electronic devices while in flight can be compared to holding a blowtorch to household pipes. When signals are interrupted, the avionics components change readings and trigger the system to make fine adjustments unnecessarily.
Cell Phones on Planes
No one wants to send a signal that may interfere with navigation, radar, ground communication and collision avoidance technologies. While most mobile phones do not emit a strong radio wave, devices like Kindles, iPods, laptops and even handheld gaming consoles emit strong radio waves, especially in a compact area.
Although there have been no hard studies and evidence proving that large amounts of unpredicted radio waves pose a risk of equipment malfunction, theoretically, it is very possible. In fact, there is a surplus of anecdotal evidence suggesting that radio waves can cause safety issues during flight. Many passengers at least keep their cell phones on — albeit in airplane mode — while flying but always wonder in the back of their mind if following this protocol is necessary.
The Best Safety Procedures to Follow
When you are boarding your flight, it is best to not only turn off all electronic devices but also ensure that your cell phone is put on airplane mode. In this mode, Wi-Fi is disabled and cellular signals will be blocked throughout the duration of the flight. One of the benefits to putting your phone in this mode is that it helps you save much-needed battery life so that you can use it longer while on the go. It makes sense to check the regulations of the airline when you book your flight.
Although it may be frustrating at times, turning off your electronic devices and putting your phone in this mode prevents GPS signals and wireless technology from causing complex issues in the cockpit. This means that people who are on their phones or computers most of the time will have to refrain from secretly checking work or personal emails for hours at a time.
Regulations and Updates
Recently, it seems that this theory has caught the attention of the aviation industry as there has been a ban on handheld electronics in some regions as of March 2017. The United Kingdom is the first country to ban electronic devices other than cellphones to ensure safety. At least 10 airlines are following and enforcing this protocol.
These new measures have been met with both compliance and resistance. If passengers do not comply, they simply cannot board the flight. While it has been speculated for many years, science is evolving, and the study of equipment malfunction is becoming more prevalent and understood. This means that radio waves really do cause interruptions, and preventing them is the only way to ensure the safest flight possible.