iPhone Interference Blamed For Sending Airliner Off Course

iPhone-plane

Wireless interference from an iPhone has been blamed for disrupting the compasses on a regional airliner and sending pilots several miles off course. The incident happened on a 2011 flight as it climbed past 9,000 feet, but the issue was resolved when a flight attendant asked a passenger to turn their iPhone off.

“The timing of the cellphone being turned off coincided with the moment where our heading problem was solved,” the unidentified co-pilot told NASA’s Aviation Safety Reporting System.

Many have called for the FAA to relax restrictions on electronic devices — such as smartphones, tablets, and laptops — during flights. Several public figures, including U.S. Senator Clair McCaskill, believe existing rules are excessive and “ridiculous.”

This has led to the FAA appointing an advisory committee from the airline and technology industries to make recommendations on how it could broaden the use of electronics during flights. Those recommendations are expected this July.

But pilot reports and scientific studies suggest that today’s restrictions may be necessary, after all. Bloomberg reports “government and airline reporting systems have logged dozens of cases in which passenger electronics were suspected of interfering with navigation, radios and other aviation equipment.”

Laboratory tests have shown that some devices broadcast radio waves powerful enough to interfere with airline equipment, according to NASA, Boeing, and the U.K.’s Civil Aviation Authority.

Furthermore, the FAA believes the risk of interference from personal electronics is increasing as the U.S. aviation industry adopts satellite-based navigation to improve efficiency and allow planes to fly closer together using GPS.

Airlines have been divided on the subject. Delta, which reported 27 suspected incidents of electronic interference causing aircraft malfunctions between 2010 to 2012, welcomes relaxed restrictions because it’s what passengers want.

Four in ten passengers surveyed last December said that they want to be able to use electronics at anytime throughout flights.

United said that it would prefer no change because new rules could be difficult for flight attendants to enforce.

CTIA, an international non-profit trade association representing the wireless communications industry, and Amazon have urged the FAA to relax existing rules, and they insist that personal electronics don’t cause interference.

Existing rules prohibit the use of most personal electronics while a plane is below 10,000 feet. Above that altitude, devices can be used as long as they are in “airplane mode” and wireless radios are switched off — though they can still connect to in-flight Wi-Fi networks.

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  • technochick

    IF this really happened we would have details. Safety reports have to be filed, inspections made etc before the plane is allowed in the air again.

    So instead of this possibly made up FUD let’s have the facts.

  • Jdsonice

    Total and complete crap! If this was the case the FAA would have been all over it. The Freaking pilot must be drunk and screwing a hostess when this happened. The iPhone was an easy target to blame.

  • Derek Schlicker

    I call BS. Correlation != causation. And if there was a prevailing problem we would have heard about this way before 1 flight on a regional airline 2 years ago, that maybe occurred.

  • Stuka_UK

    Bollox

About the author

Killian BellKillian Bell is a freelance writer based in the UK. He has an interest in all things tech, but most enjoys covering Apple, anything mobile, and gaming. You can follow him on Twitter via @killianbell, or through his website.

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