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HomeNewsHere's the real reason to turn on airplane mode when you fly

Here’s the real reason to turn on airplane mode when you fly

By Doug Drury | CNN

We all know the routine by heart: “Make sure your chairs are upright, the tables with trays are put away, the blinds are up, laptops are stowed in the overhead compartments, and electronic devices are set to airplane mode.”

Now, the first four are decent, right? Shades have to go up so we can see if there’s an emergency, like a fire. Tables with trays should be put away and chairs should be upright so we can get out of line quickly. Laptops can become projectiles in an emergency because the back pockets of the seat are not strong enough to contain them.

And cell phones should be put on airplane mode so they can’t cause an emergency for the plane, right? Well, it depends who you ask.

Technology has progressed tremendously

Aviation navigation and communications rely on radio services, which are coordinated to minimize interference since the 1920s.

The digital technology in use today is much more advanced than some of the older analog technologies we used even 60 years ago. Research has shown that personal electronic devices can transmit a signal in the same frequency band as the aircraft’s communications and navigation systems, causing so-called electromagnetic interference.

But in 1992, the US Federal Aviation Authority and Boeing, in one independent study, investigated the use of electronic devices in aircraft interference and found no problems with computers or other personal electronic devices during non-critical phases of flight. (Takeoff and landing are considered the critical phases.)

The US Federal Communications Commission also began creating reserved frequency bandwidths for various applications, such as cell 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 avoid aviation interference problems. Electronic devices have been in the EU may stay on since 2014.

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2.2 billion passengers

Now that these global standards are in place, why has the airline industry continued to ban cell phone use? One of the problems lies with something you might not expect – ground interference.

Wireless networks are connected by a series of towers; the networks can become congested if passengers flying over these ground networks all use their phones. The number of passengers that flew in 2021 was more than 2.2 billion, which is half of what the passenger numbers were in 2019. The wireless companies may have a point here.

When it comes to mobile networks, the biggest change in recent years is of course the transition to a new standard. Current 5G wireless networks – desirable for their faster data transfer rates – have caused concern for many within the aviation industry.

The radio frequency bandwidth is limited, but we are still trying to add more new devices. The aviation industry points out that the Bandwidth spectrum of 5G wireless network is remarkably close to the reserved aviation bandwidth spectrum, which can lead to interference with navigation systems near airports helping to land the plane.

Airport operators in Australia And The United States have raised concerns about aviation safety related to the rollout of 5G, but it appears to have rolled out without any such issues in the European Union. Either way, it’s prudent to limit mobile phone use on airplanes while issues surrounding 5G are resolved.

Ultimately, we can’t forget air rage

Most airlines now offer their customers pay-as-you-go or free Wi-Fi services. New Wi-Fi technologies could theoretically allow passengers to use their mobile phones to make video calls to friends or clients during the flight.

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On a recent flight, I spoke to a flight attendant and asked her opinion on in-flight phone use. It would be annoying for cabin crew to wait for passengers to finish calling to ask them if they would like a drink or something to eat, she said. On a plane with more than 200 passengers, in-flight service would take longer if everyone was on the phone.



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