This is the real reason to turn on airplane mode when flying
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We all know the routine by heart: “Make sure your seats are upright, tray tables stowed, window shades up, laptops are stored in the overhead bins and electronic devices are set to flight mode.”
Now, the first four are reasonable, right? Window screens must be up so we can see if there is an emergency, such as a fire. Tray tables must be stowed and seats upright so we can get out of the row quickly. Laptops can become projectiles in an emergency, as the seat back pockets are not strong enough to hold them.
And cell phones have to be set to flight mode so they can’t cause an emergency to the plane, right? Well, it depends on who you ask.
Aircraft navigation and communication rely on radio services, which have been coordinated to prevent interference since the 1920s.
The digital technology in use today is much more advanced than some of the old analog technologies we used even 60 years ago. Research has shown that personal electronic devices can emit a signal within the same frequency band as the aircraft’s communication and navigation systems, creating what is known as electromagnetic interference.
But in 1992, the US Federal Aviation Authority and Boeing, in an independent study, investigated the use of electronic devices on aircraft jammers and found no issues with computers or other personal electronic devices during non-emergency flight phases. . (Takeoffs and landings are considered critical phases.)
The US Federal Communications Commission also began creating reserved frequency bandwidth for different uses – such as mobile phones and aircraft navigation and communications – so that they do not interfere with each other. Governments around the world developed the same strategies and policies to prevent interference problems with aircraft. In the EU, electronic devices have been allowed to remain on since 2014.
Why then, with these global standards in place, has the airline industry continued to ban the use of mobile phones? One of the problems comes with something you might not expect – earth intervention.
Wireless networks are connected by a series of towers; the networks could be overloaded if passengers flying over these ground networks are all using their phones. The number of passengers who flew in 2021 was over 2.2 billion, which is half of the number of passengers in 2019. The wireless companies may have a point here.
In fact, when it comes to mobile networks, the biggest change in recent years is the move to a new level. Current 5G wireless networks – desirable for their higher speed data transfer – have worried many in the aviation industry.
Radio frequency bandwidth is limited, but we are still trying to add more new devices. The aviation industry points out that the 5G wireless network bandwidth spectrum is very close to the reserved aviation bandwidth spectrum, which could prevent navigation systems near airports that help to ‘ land.
Airline officials are concerned about your cellphone’s 5G network. Here’s Why (2021)
Airport operators in Australia and the US have raised aviation safety concerns related to the rollout of 5G, but it appears to have been rolled out without those problems in the European Union. In any case, it is advisable to limit the use of mobile phones on planes while the issues surrounding 5G are resolved.
Most airlines now provide Wi-Fi services to customers that are pay-as-you-go or free. With new Wi-Fi technologies, passengers could theoretically use their mobile phones to make video calls with friends or clients in flight.
On a recent flight, I spoke to a cabin attendant and asked her opinion on phone use on flights. It would be an inconvenience for cabin crew to wait for passengers to finish their call to ask them if they would like drinks or something to eat, she said. On a flight with 200+ passengers, a flight service would take longer to complete if everyone was making phone calls.
To me, the problem with using phones on a plane is more about the social experience of having 200+ people on a plane, all of whom may be talking at the same time. In a time when passenger behavior is disruptive, including “rage air”, using a phone on a plane could be another boost that changes the entire flying experience.
Disruptive behavior takes many forms, from non-compliance with safety requirements such as not wearing seat belts, verbal altercations with fellow passengers and cabin crew, to physical altercations with passengers and cabin crew – such as usually characterized as air rage.
In conclusion – the use of telephones on a plane does not currently interfere with the ability of the plane to operate. But cabin crews might prefer not to delay in providing flight service to all passengers – that’s a lot of people to serve.
However, 5G technology affects the radio bandwidth of aircraft navigation systems; we will need more research to answer the 5G question of interference with aircraft navigation when we land. Remember, when we’re talking about the two most critical phases of flight, takeoffs are optional – but landings are essential.