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Mobile Phone Interference?  
User currently offlineKay From France, joined Mar 2002, 1884 posts, RR: 3
Posted (2 years 3 months 1 week 4 days 4 hours ago) and read 3539 times:

My girlfriend mentioned that an Air Iberia captain, while taxiing a few years ago, mentioned in the cabin agressively that he is not able to use the meteorological radar because one passanger is using their phone and asks that person to turn it off immediately. The cabin F/As looked for the person and found her apparently, she didn't cooperate, and there was quite an exchange until the matter was resolved.

This surprised me very much. I understand the risks of mobile phone interference, but that seemed way out there, but this is first hand experience and am pretty sure that it must have happened.
Is that plausible? What is the final word on mobile phone interference?

Thanks!

20 replies: All unread, jump to last
 
User currently offlineDLPMMM From United States of America, joined Apr 2005, 3589 posts, RR: 10
Reply 1, posted (2 years 3 months 1 week 4 days 3 hours ago) and read 3456 times:

I have heard that Blackberries in particular can cause interference problems...but I don't have a source.

User currently offlineLeej From United Kingdom, joined Apr 2001, 292 posts, RR: 0
Reply 2, posted (2 years 3 months 1 week 4 days 3 hours ago) and read 3396 times:

No Blackberry source? Try Apple ! 

User currently offlinelke2fly From United States of America, joined May 2011, 70 posts, RR: 0
Reply 3, posted (2 years 3 months 1 week 3 days 12 hours ago) and read 3209 times:

Hey there, I read an article last month but I don't recall the aviation magazine, and it mention that the pilots were hearing cell phone conversion over there headsets from passengers using the cells. Apparently this caused interference between the pilots and ATC therefore restricting electronic device being on during flights. Maybe we should have that TV program called Myth Buster do a segment on it.

User currently offlinegingersnap From United Kingdom, joined Aug 2010, 893 posts, RR: 5
Reply 4, posted (2 years 3 months 1 week 3 days ago) and read 3141 times:

I don't see why it's so difficult for some people to just turn their phones off for a flight. They should just confiscate them during boarding  


Flown on: A306 A319/20/21 A332 B732/3/4/5/7/8 B742/4 B752 B762/3 B772/W C152 E195 F70/100 MD-82 Q400
User currently offline757luver From United States of America, joined Jan 2010, 143 posts, RR: 0
Reply 5, posted (2 years 3 months 1 week 2 days 14 hours ago) and read 3078 times:

Quoting lke2fly (Reply 3):
Apparently this caused interference between the pilots and ATC therefore restricting electronic device being on during flights. Maybe we should have that TV program called Myth Buster do a segment on it.

Mythbusters have actually already done a segment on this, though at the moment cant recall what all they found out. It was a few years ago and I've slept a lot since then. I thought cell phones wouldn't work at cruise altitude?



Long live the 757!
User currently offlinetdscanuck From Canada, joined Jan 2006, 12709 posts, RR: 80
Reply 6, posted (2 years 3 months 1 week 2 days 12 hours ago) and read 3059 times:

Quoting 757luver (Reply 5):
I thought cell phones wouldn't work at cruise altitude?

They usually can't get a signal at cruise altitude; this actually makes it worse since they jack their power up in a vain attempt to find a cell tower.

Tom.


User currently offlinejetblueguy22 From United States of America, joined Nov 2007, 2762 posts, RR: 4
Reply 7, posted (2 years 3 months 1 week 2 days 10 hours ago) and read 3037 times:
AIRLINERS.NET CREW
HEAD MODERATOR

Quoting 757luver (Reply 5):
Mythbusters have actually already done a segment on this, though at the moment cant recall what all they found out.

From what I recall they found no interference. They did have to do it on the ground though. Whether or not that makes a difference I have no idea.
Blue



You push down on that yoke, the houses get bigger, you pull back on the yoke, the houses get bigger- Ken Foltz
User currently offlineSPREE34 From United States of America, joined Jun 2004, 2241 posts, RR: 9
Reply 8, posted (2 years 3 months 1 week 2 days 10 hours ago) and read 3024 times:

Quoting lke2fly (Reply 3):
Maybe we should have that TV program called Myth Buster do a segment on it.

They did. I saw it. It was crap. The technical expertice shown was pathetic.



I don't understand everything I don't know about this.
User currently offlinemandala499 From Indonesia, joined Aug 2001, 6768 posts, RR: 76
Reply 9, posted (2 years 3 months 1 week 2 days 7 hours ago) and read 3002 times:

Quoting tdscanuck (Reply 6):
They usually can't get a signal at cruise altitude; this actually makes it worse since they jack their power up in a vain attempt to find a cell tower.

Best ways to minimize mobile phone interference:
1. prevent cellular communications device from ever getting on board!   
2. Install a Picocell on board, preferably the ones with a jammer, this one will get phones onboard to latch on to the picocell and at low power instead of screaming at full power looking for a real BTS on the ground. Once you're airborne, connect it to the satcom, and allow data and sms connection and get money for it !    People are less forgetful and more wiling to switch off the cellular transmissions from a mobile phone if they know they can switch it on later in the flight, and for landing, same thing, they're more willing to check and switch off the cellular transmissions from mobile phones before approach if they were allowed to have connections in cruise.



When losing situational awareness, pray Cumulus Granitus isn't nearby !
User currently offlineKay From France, joined Mar 2002, 1884 posts, RR: 3
Reply 10, posted (2 years 3 months 1 week 1 day 6 hours ago) and read 2838 times:

But what mobile phone interference with the meteorological radar (which I believe is in the nose cone)? This is what the captain specified.

Thanks!


User currently offlineStarlionblue From Greenland, joined Feb 2004, 17001 posts, RR: 67
Reply 11, posted (2 years 3 months 1 week 1 day 6 hours ago) and read 2831 times:

Quoting Kay (Reply 10):

But what mobile phone interference with the meteorological radar (which I believe is in the nose cone)? This is what the captain specified.

Flight crew will say a lot of things to the pax that are fudging the truth. Much better to tell a while lie than have a confused (or worse, panicked) load of pax in the back.



"There are no stupid questions, but there are a lot of inquisitive idiots."
User currently offlinerfields5421 From United States of America, joined Jul 2007, 7607 posts, RR: 32
Reply 12, posted (2 years 3 months 1 week 1 day 2 hours ago) and read 2802 times:

The problem is not cell phones per se.

The problem is out of spec cell phones.

Unlike aviation electronics, consumer cell phones, tablets, GPS receivers, game pads, etc - are not tested individually to ensure they are in spec and not emitting electromagnetic radiation on unauthorized frequencies.

The CEO of the company I used to work for was an early Blackberry user. The crew of our corporate jets (CL-604 & G-200) noted unusual problems with the ADF receiver on approach several times. On a trip to Australia in one of the Challengers, one of the pilots determined the ADF receiver was affected every time the CEO would power up the Blackberry. He like to do that when the plane was a few miles from landing - to see if he had any e-mail about the folks meeting him upon arrival.

The crew told him not to do it again, but he was CEO. On approach to Majuro (PKMJ / MAJ) in low overcast conditions he turned it on again. That airport had only NDB approaches at that time and the ADF receiver deflected immediately. The company chief pilot executed a go around/ missed approach, climbed to 10K, went to the cabin and demanded the Blackberry.

He was very emphatic that had the FO not been watching the ADF at the time the Blackberry was turned on, the crew would have lined up for a landing over the lagoon, not the runway.

He would not let the CEO have the Blackberry until after engine shutdown, and would not start engines unless he had the Blackberry in his hand for the rest of the flight.

After getting back to the home office in the US, the issue was discussed with Blackberry - RIM sent him a new one, and tested the 'problem' device. It was found to have an issue which generated a radio signal on a frequency which it should not, and too powerful a signal. This only occured if the device was unable to contact a cell receiver and started secondary searching.

During my later years with the company, I've seen iPhones, IBM/Lenovo Laptops, Dell Laptops and android phones all fail the company Aviation Department required flight tests - requiring the CEO and division presidents to be issued new electronic devices while the company sent the offending device back to the manufacturer.

I recently heard from one of my old co-workers that an iPad was found to be out of spec about four months ago.

It looked to me that something like 2 to 3 % of the electronic devices were enough out of spec to be problems, though I suspect the percentage is actually lower.

But it only takes one device out of spec.

Note - any device with a speaker or speaker circuit does emit EMI, it is not only transmittable devices. Check the paperwork - if the device has an FCC compliance statement - it emits EMI.

Note 2 - any manufacture of phones, etc - can get their devices certified for use on airplanes if they want. Just that each individual phone/ device will have to be tested - adding a LOT to the cost.


User currently offlineCitationJet From United States of America, joined Mar 2003, 2425 posts, RR: 3
Reply 13, posted (2 years 3 months 1 week 1 day 1 hour ago) and read 2776 times:

Quoting gingersnap (Reply 4):
I don't see why it's so difficult for some people to just turn their phones off for a flight. They should just confiscate them during boarding

Sometimes the Captain himself is the offender.

In May 2010, a Captain of an Airbus A321 Jetstar flight with 167 passengers, was landing at Singapore. At 2,000 ft AGL the Captain’s cell phone started receiving incoming text messages. The First Officer (FO) was the pilot flying the approach. The FO noticed that the Captain was preoccupied with his cell phone, and was not responding to his verbal cues on setting missed approach altitudes. At 720 ft AGL the chime for Landing Gear Configuration activated. At 650 ft AGL the gear down was selected. At 500 ft AGL the EGPWS alarm sounded, signifying that the landing gear was not secured in the down position; it was still in transition. The First Officer initiated a go-around at 392 ft AGL.

http://www.atsb.gov.au/media/3599204/ao2010035.pdf



Boeing Flown: 701,702,703;717;720;721,722;731,732,733,734,735,737,738,739;741,742,743,744,747SP;752,753;762,763;772,773.
User currently offlinemandala499 From Indonesia, joined Aug 2001, 6768 posts, RR: 76
Reply 14, posted (2 years 3 months 1 week 1 day ago) and read 2765 times:

Quoting rfields5421 (Reply 12):
one of the pilots determined the ADF receiver was affected every time the CEO would power up the Blackberry. He like to do that when the plane was a few miles from landing - to see if he had any e-mail about the folks meeting him upon arrival.

The CEO should have gotten an airborne wireless access point connected to an airborne satcom suite...
That way the blackberry can be off during the critical phases of flight... coz he can get his email during cruise!   

Mandala499



When losing situational awareness, pray Cumulus Granitus isn't nearby !
User currently offlinerfields5421 From United States of America, joined Jul 2007, 7607 posts, RR: 32
Reply 15, posted (2 years 3 months 1 week 1 day ago) and read 2764 times:

Quoting mandala499 (Reply 14):
The CEO should have gotten an airborne wireless access point connected to an airborne satcom suite...

Eventually we did get that technology installed in the company aircraft.

This incident occurred back about 2003, but the quality control of mobile devices has definitely not improved. There are still a lot of out of spec devices in peoples hands, including new ones every day.


User currently offlinemandala499 From Indonesia, joined Aug 2001, 6768 posts, RR: 76
Reply 16, posted (2 years 3 months 1 week 22 hours ago) and read 2728 times:

Quoting rfields5421 (Reply 15):
Eventually we did get that technology installed in the company aircraft.

Did that solve the problem with the CEO now willing to switch his blackberry off during critical phases of flight? Or is the need to do so is no longer needed (in the case of that particular bizjet)?



When losing situational awareness, pray Cumulus Granitus isn't nearby !
User currently offlinerfields5421 From United States of America, joined Jul 2007, 7607 posts, RR: 32
Reply 17, posted (2 years 3 months 1 week 19 hours ago) and read 2683 times:

The replacment Blackberry did not cause any issues with the aircraft.

From then on before a senior level executive (one able to task the aircraft) got any new electronic device, the company flight department demanded that device be 'flight tested' during one of their ILS approach training flights.

We (IT Dept) had to test cell phones, laptops, etc. Once the aviation dept cleared the device we could issue it to the executive. We also had to test the aviation dept employees equipment.

Other normal employees who got to fly on the corporate jet were specifically warned against using their equipment without permission - the penalty being a permanent ban from free rides on the corporate jets. The company has three major bases - Kentucky, Dallas, LA area - so using the corporate jet empty seats rather than commercial for business trips was a major advantage and a lot - 250-300+ per year - lower level employees got to ride.

I've taken several trips when the division president needed to be in Kentucky for a day meeting. I've flown up to work with my IT team and been home for dinner probably a dozen times while I was with the company. Most trips I got to ride in the jump seat.

The company did move their planes to all have aircraft wireless access points and satcom - especially for the G-550 - which the CEO now uses to cross oceans without intermediate stops.


User currently offlineKay From France, joined Mar 2002, 1884 posts, RR: 3
Reply 18, posted (2 years 2 months 4 weeks 4 hours ago) and read 2352 times:

Quoting Starlionblue (Reply 11):
Quoting Kay (Reply 10):

But what about mobile phone interference with the meteorological radar (which I believe is in the nose cone)? This is what the captain specified.

Flight crew will say a lot of things to the pax that are fudging the truth. Much better to tell a while lie than have a confused (or worse, panicked) load of pax in the back.

Is that therefore the most likely outcome for this? The captain specified that he can't use the meteorlogical radar screen (and i recall something about him saying that it is critical in the take off phase of flight), because of mobile phone interference. Consensus is we call most likely bs on that one?

Thanks for all the input thus far!!!! particularly about the testing and replacement of devices.

Kay


User currently offlinerfields5421 From United States of America, joined Jul 2007, 7607 posts, RR: 32
Reply 19, posted (2 years 2 months 4 weeks 1 hour ago) and read 2305 times:

Quoting Kay (Reply 18):
Consensus is we call most likely bs on that one?

No it is not BS

1. Most likely it was caused by an out of spec device/ cell phone. One transmitting RF on bands it should not be transmitting and a higher power then the spec. That can happen due to bad QA, it can happen if a device is damaged - say dropped and shaking a connection that was poorly done at the factory. (It happens - otherwise we would have no mobile phone failures, no bad computer components, etc.)

2. In most cases I've seen documented - the interference is not with the actual function of the component - i.e. the radar - but with the display of the component data on cockpit screens. It is very possible that a cell phone in the cabin could cause the radar display to behave erratically while not really impacting the radar in the nose.

If this was an older MD-80 type aircraft which Iberia had up until 2008 it is more likely to have occurred. Those older aircraft are less shielded against such interference.

Phone and other electronic device interference most often comes from out of spec devices, which is a tiny percentage, but still a significant number.


User currently offlinenomadd22 From United States of America, joined Feb 2008, 1832 posts, RR: 0
Reply 20, posted (2 years 2 months 4 weeks ago) and read 2282 times:

People need to realize that something being safe 999,999 times out of a million would cause half a dozen airline crashes a decade. There's a reson they seem to go overboard in cases like these.


Andy Goetsch
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