Do Electrical Devices REALLY Need to Be Turned Off When Taking Off and Landing on a Plane?

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How many times have you heard “Sir, please turn off your cell phone” during take-off?

Seeing a passenger seated two rows behind me still using his phone as the plane’s getting ready to take off used to annoy me, as I’d think “This ignorant guy is going to make the place crash, all because he can’t wait five minutes to play Angry Birds!”

After this happened a few times, I began to wonder – do electrical devices really need to be turned off during take-off and landing? Or is it a big conspiracy from the airlines annoy us all?

The short answer to this question is “No, electronic devices won’t cause any problems providing the flight is going smoothly”.

If the plane encounters problems during take-off or landing (which is statistically when half of all accidents happen), electronic devices can potentially make things worse.

The common response to this is:

“I see how cell phones (and other devices) that send out and receive signals could cause interference and communication problems (because of the very way they operate), and that it’s pretty obvious that these devices shouldn’t be used during take-off and landing, but what about MP3 players, portable games consoles and laptops (with Wi-Fi disabled)? These don’t send out radio signals, so how could they affect the plane?”

I’m glad you asked…

Electronic devices (of any kind) can cause Radio Frequency Interference (RFI) simply by being switched on.

Some electronic devices will create more interference than others, and if multiple devices are switched at the same time their interference will be added together.

For example, a single iPod won’t create very much interference, whereas 50 laptop computers will create a sizeable amount.

Plane
While it could technically be proven that some devices cause very low interference, it’s just easier and quicker (and won’t cause as many arguments between passengers) if the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) lumps all electronic devices into the same category and request that they all be turned off.

“So will my MP3 player, portable games console or laptop actually cause a problem with the flight?“

In most circumstances, no, not really, but where they might cause a problem is during an emergency, when the pilot needs to use the plane’s emergency communications.

Some aircraft’s emergency frequencies operate at a lower frequency ranges, making them susceptible to interference from electronic devices.

Although the risk of your electronic device affecting the plane is still very low, it’s still best for you just to follow the rules and play along.

Ask yourself this: In an emergency, do you really want to take the risk of interfering with the pilot’s emergency communications for the sake of listening to your iPod?

Turning your electronics off for five minutes won’t kill you. Just appreciate the fact that you can fly over an ocean in what is essentially a giant tin can!


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