Yes, Your Phone Could Mess With the Plane

Experts suspect gadgets in a number of incidents
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 18, 2011 10:58 AM CST
Updated Jan 22, 2011 12:02 PM CST

(Newser) – Show of hands: How many people actually turn off all their electronic devices on an airplane? Well, maybe you should next time, because experts say they might—just might—actually interfere with the flight. “It’s a good news-bad news thing,” one Boeing engineer tells the New York Times. Illicit device use almost never actually does any harm, which is mostly good, he explains. But “it’s bad in that people assume it never will.”

Many electronic devices emit signals, and all of them emit electromagnetic waves that could, in theory, interfere with the plane’s electronics. Safety experts suspect that such interference played a role in several accidents—in one New Zealand crash that killed 8, an investigation found that “the pilot’s own cellphone might have caused erroneous indications.” Older aircraft, which have less shielding against modern devices, are especially vulnerable. “The technical advancements for wireless devices … is so rapid. It changes every week,” says one engineer. “Advances in airplanes take 20 years.” (Read more airplane stories.)

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