The real reason you put your phone in airplane mode during a flight

Putting your phone on airplane mode is still required on flights (Image credit: Unsplash)

Putting your phone on airplane mode is still required on flights (Image credit: Unsplash)

The usual announcement to put the seats back, fold tray tables, and put all electrical devices in flight mode will be familiar to any ordinary aviator.

And every phone comes with an Airplane Mode option to turn off mobile data and Wi-Fi instantly.

It is widely believed that this could serve to limit any interference with the aircraft’s onboard electronics. However, this is not the case at all.

However, the myth makes sense. The navigation and communication technology used in the aviation industry is based on radio frequencies. And some research has shown that our phones (or laptops or tablets) can emit a signal in the same frequency band as an airplane’s own systems.

So the threat of electromagnetic interference is plausible.

But as early as 1992, the US Federal Aviation Administration, together with Boeing, produced an independent study showing that the use of electronics does not cause any disruptions in non-critical phases of flight, ie not during take-off or landing.

Despite this, airlines and regulators continue to insist that we dutifully put our aircraft into flight mode during travel.

Why?

In The Conversation, Doug Drury, Professor of Aviation at the University of Australia, explains:

“One of the problems lies in something you might not expect – floor Interference.

“Wireless networks are connected by a series of towers; The networks could become overloaded if passengers flying over these ground networks are all using their phones.

“The number of passengers that flew in 2021 was over 2.2 billion, and that’s half the number of passengers in 2019. The wireless companies could be right about that.”

Over 2.2 billion people flew in 2021 (Credits: Shutterstock/Maridav)

Over 2.2 billion people flew in 2021 (Credits: Shutterstock/Maridav)

“Of course, the biggest change in mobile communications in recent years is the switch to a new standard. The current 5G wireless networks — desirable for their higher-speed data transmission — have worried many in the airline industry.

“Radio frequency bandwidth is limited, but we’re still trying to add more new devices. The aviation industry points out that the bandwidth spectrum of the 5G wireless network is remarkably close to the reserved bandwidth spectrum for aviation, which can cause interference with navigation systems near airports that help the plane land.

“Airport operators in Australia and the US have raised concerns about flight safety related to the 5G rollout, however in the European Union the rollout appears to have taken place without any such issues.

“In any case, it is prudent to limit cellphone use on airplanes while solving 5G-related issues.”

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https://metro.co.uk/2022/09/22/the-real-reason-you-put-your-phone-into-aeroplane-mode-during-a-flight-17428963/ The real reason you put your phone in airplane mode during a flight

Justin Scacco

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