Aviation Explained: REAL reasons to turn OFF Mobile Phones while flying on a Plane

Turning off when on a flight is a mandatory protocol that has been followed by the airlines and passengers alike for a long time; Here we explain the real reason to do it.

Aviation Explained: REAL reasons to turn OFF Mobile Phones while flying on a Plane

When boarding a flight there are myriad directions that the passengers are given by either the crew members or the pilot of the plane. The warning cover multiple aspects of travelling like the direction and user of emergency doors. How to tie the seat belt? What to do in case of emergency and multiple other things. One of the crucial one of these warnings is to turn off your mobile phone or put it in airplane mode. Most people feel that this is an unnecessary step that they need to follow. But is it really not important? We answer that question. Here's why you should put your plane on airplane mode while travelling.

Interference in plane's communication

Aviation navigation and communication relies on radio services, which have been coordinated to minimise interference since the 1920s.The digital technology currently in use is much more advanced than some of the older analogue technologies we used even 60 years ago. Research has shown personal electronic devices can emit a signal within the same frequency band as the aircraft's communications 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 interference and found no issues with computers or other personal electronic devices during non-critical phases of flight. (Take-offs and landings are considered the critical phases.) 

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The US Federal Communications Commission also began to create reserved frequency bandwidths for different uses, such as mobile phones and aircraft navigation and communications, so they do not interfere with one another. Governments around the globe developed the same strategies and policies to prevent interference problems with aviation. In the EU, electronic devices have been allowed to stay on since 2014.

Why turn on airplane mode on planes?

Why then, with these global standards in place, has the aviation industry continued to ban the use of mobile phones? One of the problems lies with something you may not expect? ground 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 of what the 2019 passenger numbers were. The wireless companies might have a point here.

Of course, when it comes to mobile networks, the biggest change in recent years is the move to a new standard. Current 5G wireless networks, desirable for their higher speed data transfer, have caused concern for many within the aviation industry.

Radio frequency bandwidth is limited, yet we are still trying to add more new devices to it. The aviation industry points out that the 5G wireless network bandwidth spectrum is remarkably close to the reserved aviation bandwidth spectrum, which may cause interference with navigation systems near airports that assist with landing the aircraft.

Also read: Cochin International Airport awarded for ensuring seamless traffic post COVID-19

Airport operators in Australia and the US have voiced aviation safety concerns linked to 5G rollout, however it appears to have rolled out without such problems in the European Union. Either way, it is prudent to limit mobile phone use on planes while issues around 5G are sorted out.

Ultimately, we can't forget air rage Most airlines now provide customers with Wi-Fi services that are either 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 an airliner with 200+ passengers, in-flight service would take longer to complete if everyone was making phone calls. Some might believe, the problem with in-flight use of phones is more about the social experience of having 200+ people on a plane, and all potentially talking at once.

In a time when disruptive passenger behaviour, including "air rage", is increasingly frequent, phone use in flight might be another trigger that changes the whole flight experience. Disruptive behaviours take on various forms, from noncompliance to safety requirements such as not wearing seat belts, verbal altercations with fellow passengers and cabin crew, to physical altercations with passengers and cabin crews typically identified as air rage.

In conclusion, in-flight use of phones does not currently impair the aircraft's ability to operate. But cabin crews may prefer not to be delayed in providing in-flight service to all of the passengers it's a lot of people to serve. However, 5G technology is encroaching on the radio bandwidth of aircraft navigation systems; we'll need more research to answer the 5G question regarding interference with aircraft navigation during landings. 

With agency inputs

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