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Cell Phone Usage During Flight On Airplanes  
User currently offlineMrCazzy From United States of America, joined Oct 2011, 35 posts, RR: 0
Posted (1 year 10 months 4 weeks 8 hours ago) and read 3194 times:

Hey everybody,

Noticed the thread about cell phone usage on the ground and the reason behind the cell phone use. I have heard that cell phones while in the air disrupt the avionics in flight. I have also heard the opposite, could you help me clear this up for me?
Thanks

18 replies: All unread, jump to last
 
User currently offlinetdscanuck From Canada, joined Jan 2006, 12709 posts, RR: 80
Reply 1, posted (1 year 10 months 4 weeks 6 hours ago) and read 3107 times:

Quoting MrCazzy (Thread starter):
I have heard that cell phones while in the air disrupt the avionics in flight.

They can. It's not that they always do, but nobody has yet figured out a way to ensure that they won't without just turning them off. There are numerous documented cases of it happening, there are many more suspected cases (also documented), and as far as I know there are no cases where the interference actually caused an incident. It's that last point that causes all of the "It's all baloney, cell phones can't interfere with aircraft!" lines, but they're factually incorrect.

Quoting MrCazzy (Thread starter):
I have also heard the opposite, could you help me clear this up for me?

It's true that no incident that I'm aware of has had cell phone interference as a contributing cause. The issue is that cell phone EMI, by itself, is well documented and hard to deal with and there are foreseeable (although very rare) circumstances where it could cause an incident.

Tom.


User currently offlineDariusBieber From United States of America, joined Oct 2009, 209 posts, RR: 0
Reply 2, posted (1 year 10 months 4 weeks 6 hours ago) and read 3064 times:

I believe MythBusters had an episode about it but the results were inconclusive. (Please correct me if I'm wrong)

But heck, even if your phone is allowed to be in use during flight, you won't get service above 30,000 feet, especially not when you're going 500+ miles per hour. I know, I've tried. Back in 2010, I flew ATL-DUS with my iPhone on, and got no service until we were below 5000 feet on approach. I had one bar of service over Canada and sent one text message, but after 30 seconds the service was gone.



Darius Bieber
User currently onlineViscount724 From Switzerland, joined Oct 2006, 25838 posts, RR: 22
Reply 3, posted (1 year 10 months 4 weeks 1 hour ago) and read 2904 times:

Quoting DariusBieber (Reply 2):
Back in 2010, I flew ATL-DUS with my iPhone on, and got no service until we were below 5000 feet on approach.

Why didn't you turn it off? It's normally part of the safety briefing prior to departure.

[Edited 2012-12-29 16:14:36]

User currently offlineStarlionblue From Greenland, joined Feb 2004, 17108 posts, RR: 66
Reply 4, posted (1 year 10 months 3 weeks 6 days 23 hours ago) and read 2878 times:

Quoting DariusBieber (Reply 2):

I believe MythBusters had an episode about it but the results were inconclusive. (Please correct me if I'm wrong)

While I love Mythbusters, their segments are more an illustration of critical thinking than actual scientific investigations.

Quoting DariusBieber (Reply 2):
Back in 2010, I flew ATL-DUS with my iPhone on, and got no service until we were below 5000 feet on approach.

Quite typical. However the fact that you don't get service doesn't mean the phone can't interfere. In fact it might make things worse as the phone will go to max power in order to try and secure a signal.



"There are no stupid questions, but there are a lot of inquisitive idiots."
User currently offlineMrCazzy From United States of America, joined Oct 2011, 35 posts, RR: 0
Reply 5, posted (1 year 10 months 3 weeks 6 days 22 hours ago) and read 2870 times:

I brought this point up with my brother, he said it actually does not cause any interference with the airplane itself, but had more to do with clogging up the cell towers, how the signal bounces from tower to tower or something like that

User currently onlinejetblueguy22 From United States of America, joined Nov 2007, 2818 posts, RR: 4
Reply 6, posted (1 year 10 months 3 weeks 6 days 21 hours ago) and read 2847 times:
AIRLINERS.NET CREW
HEAD MODERATOR

Quoting MrCazzy (Reply 5):

I don't think the cell tower would be a problem. The GoGo wifi system if I remember correctly runs off a cell tower type of system. Not to mention if the towers have that much trouble accepting new service and handing the phones off it may be time for an upgrade. There are some airlines that do provide inflight cell phone service such as EK. Though it is pricey and not allowed in the US. Hopefully it will stay that way. I don't want to hear some loud mouth businessman on a conference call at 35,000 feet.
Blue



All of the opinions stated above are mine and do not represent Airliners.net or my employer unless otherwise stated.
User currently offlineStarlionblue From Greenland, joined Feb 2004, 17108 posts, RR: 66
Reply 7, posted (1 year 10 months 3 weeks 6 days 21 hours ago) and read 2842 times:

Quoting MrCazzy (Reply 5):
I brought this point up with my brother, he said it actually does not cause any interference with the airplane itself, but had more to do with clogging up the cell towers, how the signal bounces from tower to tower or something like that

That would be easy to fix for the operator. The problem is as mentioned possible interference with the avionics.



"There are no stupid questions, but there are a lot of inquisitive idiots."
User currently offlinetdscanuck From Canada, joined Jan 2006, 12709 posts, RR: 80
Reply 8, posted (1 year 10 months 3 weeks 6 days 21 hours ago) and read 2833 times:

Quoting MrCazzy (Reply 5):

I brought this point up with my brother, he said it actually does not cause any interference with the airplane itself, but had more to do with clogging up the cell towers, how the signal bounces from tower to tower or something like that

That was an issue on many cell tower technologies in the past...phones were switching cells far more often than the system was designed for. However, as GoGo has demonstrated, that can be mitigated and, even then, it's not an issue the FAA cares about since it has no impact on aircraft operation.

Tom.


User currently offlineFabo From Slovakia, joined Aug 2005, 1219 posts, RR: 1
Reply 9, posted (1 year 10 months 3 weeks 6 days 8 hours ago) and read 2717 times:

Quoting jetblueguy22 (Reply 6):
There are some airlines that do provide inflight cell phone service such as EK. Though it is pricey and not allowed in the US.

I can not 100% tell it is true in every single case, but these airplanes carry their own "cell towers" around.



The light at the end of tunnel turn out to be a lighted sing saying NO EXIT
User currently offlineAAR90 From United States of America, joined Jan 2000, 3481 posts, RR: 46
Reply 10, posted (1 year 10 months 3 weeks 5 days 8 hours ago) and read 2586 times:

Quoting MrCazzy (Reply 5):
Quote:
I brought this point up with my brother, he said it actually does not cause any interference with the airplane itself, but had more to do with clogging up the cell towers, how the signal bounces from tower to tower or something like that

Remind your brother that it cost AA more than $5 MILLION to modify MD80 and A300 aircraft to become the first USA airline to allow cell phone use in a USA registered aircraft... but only AFTER the flight had landed. SOME brands of cell phones caused radio and intercom interference on SOME (but not all) MD80s while SOME brands of cell phones caused false lavatory fire indications (including extinguisher activations) on some A300s.

That is one of the very few documented issues from known scientific testing that have made it into a public news release. In civilian commercial aviation, one must PROVE something will NOT cause a safety hazard before gov't authorities will grant permission of its use. Which is why some international airlines allow unlimited cell phone use on their planes, but... NOT in USA airspace.

It has taken AA more than two years (and untold $$$) just to get iPad use in cockpit for all phases of flight. Even with ALL transmit/receive capability disabled (required when entering cockpit before flight), it has been two years and we are just now getting FAA approvals (but only for iPad 1, 2, or 3... iPad Mini not tested). And before all the complaints begin, we have a lengthy checklist of restrictions on its use.

No USA airline is willing to spend the $$$ to do testing to obtain FAA approval of cell phone use during flight. That is why the FAA does not allow it. There have been rumors the FAA might do some testing on their own (since no airline is willing to spend their $$$ for such tests), but I wouldn't hold my breath for that to happen anytime soon.



*NO CARRIER* -- A Naval Aviator's worst nightmare!
User currently offlineMir From United States of America, joined Jan 2004, 21792 posts, RR: 55
Reply 11, posted (1 year 10 months 3 weeks 5 days 7 hours ago) and read 2575 times:

Quoting MrCazzy (Thread starter):
I have heard that cell phones while in the air disrupt the avionics in flight. I have also heard the opposite, could you help me clear this up for me?

Cellphone interference is very real. I've gotten headset interference (not a good thing at a busy airport where ATC is spitting out rapid-fire instructions) loads of times, and then there are the issues that AAR90 brought up.

I don't believe a self-contained electronic device poses much of a threat, but anything that transmits information (cellphones, wi-fi enabled devices, etc.) definitely does unless it's in an airplane mode.

Quoting Viscount724 (Reply 3):
Why didn't you turn it off? It's normally part of the safety briefing prior to departure.

Very easy to forget to do so. I've done it lots of times.

-Mir



7 billion, one nation, imagination...it's a beautiful day
User currently offlineymincrement From Turkey, joined Jul 2012, 26 posts, RR: 0
Reply 12, posted (1 year 10 months 3 weeks 5 days 6 hours ago) and read 2559 times:

İs it safe to use cellphone while landing or take offs? When many people take their cellphones to plane mode they use it as camera?

User currently offlinetdscanuck From Canada, joined Jan 2006, 12709 posts, RR: 80
Reply 13, posted (1 year 10 months 3 weeks 5 days 6 hours ago) and read 2555 times:

Quoting ymincrement (Reply 12):
İs it safe to use cellphone while landing or take offs?

If the transmit function is disabled (i.e. you're in airplane mode) it's much much safer. The risk of interference isn't zero but it goes way down because the device is radiating far less power.

Tom.


User currently offlineHAWK21M From India, joined Jan 2001, 31702 posts, RR: 56
Reply 14, posted (1 year 10 months 3 weeks 3 days 15 hours ago) and read 2407 times:

There is no conclusive evidence to prove it does exist......interference.....however if there is a rule in place insisting phones should be switched off in flight,then its important to adhere to it.


Think of the brighter side!
User currently offlinetdscanuck From Canada, joined Jan 2006, 12709 posts, RR: 80
Reply 15, posted (1 year 10 months 3 weeks 2 days 21 hours ago) and read 2282 times:

Quoting HAWK21M (Reply 14):
There is no conclusive evidence to prove it does exist......interference.....

Yes, there is. It's been fully documented in certified test environments with data captured.

There is no conclusive evidence that it's ever caused an accident, but that's a whole different issue (and one that the regulators don't find very compelling).

Tom.


User currently offlineSharles From Latvia, joined Aug 2012, 2 posts, RR: 0
Reply 16, posted (1 year 10 months 3 weeks 2 days 15 hours ago) and read 2231 times:

There is one other issue that should be taken note of.
Even if you certify that a phone or any other electronic device does not cause interference in any of its designed operating modes, you do not know that it won't be damaged by a fall, liquid immersion, etc., and start operating in a way it wasn't intended to. So you either have to build in a self-test, which costs money and possibly cannot guarantee anything anyway - so I doubt anybody does this - or you have to certify that no kind of damage that leaves the device operational can cause it to misbehave - which, I presume, is very hard to do and so I doubt that anybody does this either.
And forget about flight mode. A lot of phones have Cyanogenmod, for example. Some builds of Cyanogenmod, when switched into flight mode, do not actually disable the radio. So you do not actually know that flight mode works - hence, telling you to turn off your phone completely is actually required.


User currently offlinebond007 From United States of America, joined Mar 2005, 5434 posts, RR: 8
Reply 17, posted (1 year 10 months 3 weeks 2 days 7 hours ago) and read 2163 times:

Quoting tdscanuck (Reply 8):
That was an issue on many cell tower technologies in the past...phones were switching cells far more often than the system was designed for. However, as GoGo has demonstrated, that can be mitigated and, even then, it's not an issue the FAA cares about since it has no impact on aircraft operation.

Correct, but regardless, the FCC also prohibits the use of cellphones on aircraft during flight. Any changes in regulations would need to involve the FAA and the FCC.

Quoting jetblueguy22 (Reply 6):
The GoGo wifi system if I remember correctly runs off a cell tower type of system. Not to mention if the towers have that much trouble accepting new service and handing the phones off it may be time for an upgrade.

Well, the issue is that the cell tower infrastructure was designed for cellphones on the ground, not travelling at 500mph in that air. AFAIK, GoGo towers actually have dedicated antennas that are directed a different orientation, and a dedicated system to handle in-flight data. The air to ground signal is also a single dedicated link for this purpose - very different from 200 folks on the aircraft all trying to access individual networks and towers.

But sure .... can be done technically.


Jimbo



I'd rather be on the ground wishing I was in the air, than in the air wishing I was on the ground!
User currently offlinemandala499 From Indonesia, joined Aug 2001, 6951 posts, RR: 76
Reply 18, posted (1 year 10 months 3 weeks 2 days 6 hours ago) and read 2147 times:

Quoting MrCazzy (Thread starter):
Noticed the thread about cell phone usage on the ground and the reason behind the cell phone use. I have heard that cell phones while in the air disrupt the avionics in flight. I have also heard the opposite, could you help me clear this up for me?

Simple rule, if they tell you to switch it off, switch it off. If they say it's OK, then it's OK.
Again, it also depends on whether or not the aircraft is equipped for providing cellular service onboard, wifi onboard (different from cellular service), both, or none at all.

Quoting jetblueguy22 (Reply 6):
The GoGo wifi system if I remember correctly runs off a cell tower type of system.

Well, I'll add to:

Quoting bond007 (Reply 17):
AFAIK, GoGo towers actually have dedicated antennas that are directed a different orientation, and a dedicated system to handle in-flight data.

And Gogo's cell tower communicates with the antenna on the aircraft, which then distributes the data through wi-fi onboard, and also vice versa (collects through wifi, and channels the data through the aircraft antenna)

Quoting jetblueguy22 (Reply 6):
There are some airlines that do provide inflight cell phone service such as EK.

With EK, except for the A380, there is an onboard cellular service. Your phone connects to a pico-cell/micro-BTS onboard, which converts your communication to data, and send it through the satcom antenna, and gets converted back into a cellular connection back on the ground... for both voice and data. With the A380, the above is provided, with WiFi internet also available, through the wireless access points onboard.

Quoting AAR90 (Reply 10):
NOT in USA airspace.

In USA airspace or over US territory? Air safety regulations aside, US telecommunications regulations apply over US territory, which, as far I remember, does not allow satellite communications transmissions through a foreign service provider (regardless of satellite network used, be it US or foreign owned) for commercial purposes, to which, channeling onboard internet or onboard cellular service through the satcom, counts as 'commercial purposes'. So, Emirates, cannot provide the onboard cellular service through the Inmarsat SwiftBroadband network, provided by Aeromobile, which is not US-owned...

Other countries have similar laws, such as:
China, where when the aircraft is overflying Chinese territory, the SatCom service provider has to have an agreement with a local Chinese provider, and allow for the data transmitted over China be routed through China (either a satellite ground earth station in China, or have the data routed through China from the ground earth station before going out to the internet), or obtain clearance from the Chinese government with whatever condition is set by them.
Indonesia has the same as China and USA in terms of the telco regulations. I think India has the same.
Australia has a slightly different regulations (where it applies to Australian registered aircraft operating domestically and internationally, and foreign registered aircraft when flying between 2 points in Australia).

And then there are countries which apply their rules not just for the satcom transmissions over their territory, but also transmissions made in the cabin to the satcom system, regardless of country of aircraft register... this kind of regulations, while respecting the "law inside the cabin of an aircraft inflight is the law of the operator or aircraft registry", uses the argument that the transmissions made inside the aircraft (phone/computer to the onboard BTS or WiFi access point), cannot be contained 100% within the cabin of the aircraft, hence the telco law of that country being overflown, effectively applies to the transmissions made from within the cabin.

So, providing the service onboard, an airline must consider:
1. Air safety regulations of the country it is based in.
2. Air safety regulations of the country it is overflying.
3. Telecommunications regulations of the country it is based in.
4. Telecommunications regulations of the country it is overflying.

This, can, and does lead to patchy service when you fly long haul that's not over water... and also a regulatory nightmare to sort out!   

Mandala499



When losing situational awareness, pray Cumulus Granitus isn't nearby !
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