March 2, 2005

Flight of not-so-fancy.

Why is it that I can play the stereo and talk on my cell phone and have my laptop open in my car without it crashing into a tree, but I can't play Zelda on a $70 million dollar jet during takeoff without dooming everyone?

Also, why don't terrorists just bring bags of phones onto airplanes and covertly LEAVE THEM ON? [Idea for new Stinger missile replacement: strap iPod onto a rocket, launch at jet.]

I'm thinking, if I were designing a jet and one day I discovered, say, during lunch break, that a GameBoy can cause my avionics to fail, I'd, you know, think about redesigning that puppy, instead of just putting in the manual: "Be sure to shut off all personal electronic devices during take-off and landing."

Seriously, do you feel safe then they announce that? Because I've NEVER been to a movie where someone hasn't forgotten to shut off their damn phone. Are we really betting our lives that everyone on the plane has shut off his phone, his laptop, his iPod, and his Palm? What if he has one of those pager watches? Do those count? Noise-cancelling headphones? Those are electronic.



Anonymous Josh said...

I suppose your post is meant to focus on the irony of it, but reality takes away from that fun.
Cars don't travel at 500mph and require radio communication to avoid crashing into other cars traveling 500mph in the exact opposite direction (500+500 = 1000mph impact).

I don't think it would be a problem if radio was not required. All electronics produce a small amount of electro-magnetic interference.

If you have a Motorola phone, you'll know what I'm talking about--notice how your speakers buzz during an incoming call.

March 10, 2005 12:23 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dude, not just Moto phones, and GSM phone will give you that odd clicking noise in your speakers right before you get a call.

April 04, 2005 2:34 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...


April 04, 2005 2:34 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fast circuitry can emit radio noise; radio noise can interfere with fast circuitry. And a GSM (or similar) cellphone is a 300mW microwave radio.

Supposedly, an Airbus fly-by-wire airliner on a domestic route in Thailand was trying to land in a storm. The pilot aborted three times then told his cargo he was diverting; around 200 cellphones simultaneously lit up so's their owners could tell their wives they'd be, er, late. 10% of the power of a microwave oven inside a reflective aluminium tube containing people, avionics, and cellphones? The jet flipped over and, uh, 'augered in'.

So the cellphones and some of the computers have to be off; but if you're a flight attendant, how do you tell a Gameboy from a phone with a weird case, and anyway, would you really have time to spend arguing with people "his device can remain on, but yours has to be powered down, now"?

Solution? Get your your own jet. Hey, that Gill Bates bloke has got one.

May 17, 2005 4:55 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Actually, there are 2 pieces to the puzzle here. There's the "take-off and landing" part and the "inflight" part.

During take-off and landing, airports use 2 transmitters (at 2 different frequencies) with overlapping beams. When a plane is approaching the runway, a little instrument measures the power at both frequencies, and if it's the same, the pilot knows he is on the correct glide path to land. High speed electronics can release a bunch of radio-hash that will interfere with this instrument, and screw the pilot up.

Why you can't use your cellphone in flight is actually because the cellphone operators don't want you to. When you are in a plane, you cover multiple cells at the same time (each with a fairly large signal strength because there is nothing obstructing your signal from reaching the base station). This screws with the network management the base station owners have to perform handover (moving from one cell site to the next). Once they work out the problem, and put little pico cells on each plane, you'll be able to use your cellphone during flight -- just not at TO/L.

June 09, 2005 6:37 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

You know, I think every high school physics student probably knows 500+500 != a 1000mph impact.

October 18, 2006 2:00 AM


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