Jump to Main ContentJump to Primary Navigation
Top

This is why you do actually need to switch your phone to flight mode

flightmode.jpg

Among the many annoyances (yes, we're aware this is #firstworldproblem territory) of flying is being asked to switch your phone on to flight mode well before taking off, forcing us to miss out on that crucial extra two minutes of checking Twitter.

After all, we all know that it doesn't affect the plane's instruments or ability to fly - that's all been proven to be a load of nonsense, right?

Well, yes, that is correct - but there is a very good reason for the request: an active phone can annoy pilots and air traffic controllers by creating interference on an aircraft's radios. It's the same phenomenon that you might have noticed when a phone is near a speaker - that irritating "dit-dit-dit-dit" noise.

A blog post for AirlineUpdates saw a pilot write that phones can cause audible interference, although it is fairly rare. They wrote that it only happens a couple of a times a month, although it's most likely to be caused by flight attendants themselves, as they sit closest to the radios.

The post explains that three factors have to be taken into consideration for it to become an issue:

1. "Timing. Most of the time, the phone has to be actively transmitting at high power to cause the audible interference. That means it needs to be sending or receiving a call at the edge of cell reception, which is usually around 5,000 to 10,000 feet. On the ground with good reception it’s rare to hear the interference (but not impossible) and for most of the flight above 10,000′ you don’t have reception and your phone is just blissfully draining its battery in peace."

2. "The phone. Some models are worse than others, with GSM phones being some of the worst offenders. And as time goes on, I’m hearing it less and less as phone technology advances."

3. "The airplane. My personal opinion is that size is more of a factor than age here. Most of my flight experience over the past decade has been in smaller regional jets. An electrical engineer will be able to give you equations about field strength and dropoff over distance. I’m not an electrical engineer, so I’ll sum it up and say that you have to be pretty close to the radio equipment for your phone to interfere. So in a 767 with a wide fuselage and a galley between the cockpit and first class there might not be any passenger seat close enough to radio equipment for a cell phone to interfere. On a RJ, the first few seats can be within ten feet of the pilots’ radios. All of these have to coincide for a phone to cause audible interference."

So, although it's not exactly a big problem, ensuring that pilots are happy and relaxed is, in all likelihood, probably quite a good thing.

(Image: Shutterstock)

Related

hover.jpg

Someone finally made a working hoverboard

frankunderwood.jpg

House Of Cards is trolling David Cameron over his tax scandal

painting.jpg

This incredible Rembrandt painting was 'painted' by a computer

Comments

More

This might be the greatest Rocket League goal ever scored

They think it's all Rover

by Gary Ogden
20 Feb 2017

Crash Bandicoot: the greatest game I ever played

As its PS4 return is announced, one writer salutes one of the best platformers of them all

by Ryan Young
17 Feb 2017

TFL has been tracking you on the tube and the data is fascinating

Catnip for the tube heads

by Dave Fawbert
15 Feb 2017

20 Things You'll Only Understand If You Owned A Nokia 3310

14 Feb 2017

The Nokia 3310 is getting a relaunch (yes, really)

The return of the King

by Gary Ogden
14 Feb 2017

The new iPhone looks like it's going to have wireless charging

A huge move from Apple

by Dave Fawbert
13 Feb 2017

Things no one wants to hear on social media

We need to establish some house rules

by David Cornish
10 Feb 2017

Finding those hidden Netflix codes just became much easier

This could be a game-changer

08 Feb 2017

This artist turned the Apple T&Cs into a really cool graphic novel

We've never wanted to read a contract more!

by Sam Diss
07 Feb 2017

Francis Ford Coppola wants you to crowdfund an Apocalypse Now game

And it looks like it could be very disturbing indeed

by Jamie Carson
26 Jan 2017