Can Using Your Cell Phone Make Your Plane Crash?
You know the drill. You’ve got about ten minutes until the plane you’re on is set to take off when the stewardess jumps on the loudspeaker and asks you to power down your cell phone, laptop, iPad, and any other electronic device you might have in order to help the plane prepare for takeoff. If you’re like us, you listen. You stop playing Words With Friends, shut off your BlackBerry, make sure your seat belt is on, and get ready for your flight. Simple enough, right?
Except there’s always that one person who just can’t seem to get with the program. If you’ve seen Due Date, you know the whole movie essentially took place as the result of Robert Downey, Jr.‘s character refusing to shut off his cell phone in a timely fashion. There’s always one guy who just needs to shoot off one more email before the flight or the girl who keeps on jabbering on her iPhone loooooong after the crew has asked her to stop.
The reason they make this request of you, of course, is out of fear a cell phone signal could cause gadgets and instruments in the cockpit to go haywire. The thinking some people use, though, is that the crew is being a bit too cautious when they tell passengers to shut off their electronics because even if a cell phone signal did cause a disturbance, it would be extremely brief and wouldn’t interfere with the flight of the plane at all.
Turns out, that thinking is completely flawed. In a leaked report from the International Air Transport Association recently obtained by ABC News, there have been at least 75 different documented incidents in which cell phones and other electronic devices have caused real disturbances on planes. In one, a plane’s GPS read incorrectly. In another, the altitude control readings changed rapidly. And in another, a clock spun backwards. All three of these incidents were tied directly to the use of an electronic device.
None of the incidents in the report led to any real problems—and we’re assuming that all 75 flights landed without a hitch—but as more and more people obtain different types of electronics these days, it has us a little bit worried about what might happen if more than just one or two people disobey the flight crew’s orders before takeoff. What if a dozen people kept their cell phones on? Even if they don’t do it on purpose, what if 10 iPads are left powered up before takeoff? What if Grandma doesn’t know how to turn off her laptop and leaves it on for the duration of the flight? And what if we all become so desensitized—as we’re prone to do—about the flight crew’s warnings that we start disregarding them? We could have a real problem on our hands.
You know the drill–and you follow it well. But don’t think for a second that because there haven’t been any real disasters caused by a cell phone or a laptop that it couldn’t happen sometime in the not-so-distant future. When you get on a plane, shut your phone off and power down your laptop. And while you’re at it, tell the guy sitting next to you and trying to send off one last email that he should power his down, too. It sounds strange to say, but it could be the very thing that helps you avoid disaster.
Enjoy your next flight.