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Apple iPhone suspected of interfering with airline equipment

Details of a 2011 incident report suggests than an iPhone may have caused interference with flight equipment onboard a regional airliner.

Many people, myself included, have considered the “no phones on planes” rule completely ridiculous. The notion that planes would be so poorly designed that a cell phone signal could cause problems is laughable. Plus, despite having had my phone on while flying last year (I admit it), we never crashed. I may have to admit I’m wrong however, because an incident in 2011 suggests that an iPhone may have interfered with a plane’s systems.

The compass on the flight in question was behaving abnormally, sending the plane several miles off-course according to a report which was published by Bloomberg today. The systems apparently returned to normal after a flight attendant asked a passenger in row 9 to turn off their iPhone. The incident is not a lone occurrence either: there are dozens of reports where airline pilots, mechanics or other personnel believe passenger electronics may have interfered with airplane systems. Since there’s no way of actually proving this however, some airlines such as Delta still support relaxing the rules regarding electronic devices under 10,000ft.


"Billy! Turn off the phone, you're crashing the plane!"


The FAA is currently considering such a rule change, but has been held up by technicalities. It hopes to announce such a rule change before the end of the year. Apple’s iOS devices and most other modern smartphones, computers and tablets come with an “airplane mode” to turn off all wireless radios on the device. However, the FAA has had trouble adopting a set of rules for such devices, since airplane mode can mean different things on different devices


David F.
A grad student in experimental physics, David is fascinated by science, space and technology. When not buried in lecture books, he enjoys movies, gaming and mountainbiking

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