Dangers of Using a Mobile Phone on an Airplane

Dangers of Using a Mobile Phone on an Airplane


Dangers of Using a Mobile Phone on an Airplane

            The use of mobile phones on an airplane has seen several regulations put in place to control the habit. In America, the federal communications commission (FCC) laws do not permit the use of mobiles phones in an aircraft during flight. This rule only applies to commercial carriers, as private aircrafts are exception to this rule. This contradicts the standpoint of Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations that do not forbid the use of electronic gadgets in an airplane. The contradiction between these two institutions is caused by the different opinions held by both departments concerning the effect of mobile use on the safety of an aircraft during flight. FCC argues the use of mobile devices during a flight affects aircraft instruments by emitting electromagnetic signals that might interfere with the plane’s systems. This logic is refuted by the FAA.

             Enforcement on the prohibition of cell phone usage in flight is done by individual airlines who also dictate stringent penalties for those passengers found in contempt of this rule. In October 2013, the FAA administrator issued out a statement that the department of transportation had come to a decision that airline could allow increased usage of PEDs (portable electronic gadgets) at any given time of flight (Straw & Lestch 2013). The application of this rule varied among individual airlines with the FAA expecting them to approve to this rule. However, FAA had no right in drafting regulations on usage of mobiles in making voice calls, that area is restricted to the FCC.

            The main issue that presents itself in the usage of cell phones in aircrafts is the impact it has on the safety. As a preventative measure, FCC banned the usage of mobile due to the interference it caused to the cellular ground towers responsible for guiding the airplane through the air routes. On the other hand, FAA only permits phone usage in a flight mode. This occurs after the airline has thoroughly assessed the threat of probable avionic issues that may result from PED usage and the tolerance of its fleet to radio interference thus permitting the passengers to use light portable PEDs.

            The common argument presented in support of the ban of cell phone usage is the interference caused by the electromagnetic transmissions by the phones (Cooke, 2009). This theoretical argument posits that the electromagnetic radiation emitted by radio frequency transmitters such as videogames devices; phones and laptops may disrupt the electronic systems of the planes (Straw & Lestch 2013). The same applies to electronic devices that are not radio transmitters. Recent studies have supported the claim that radio frequency transmitting devices such as phones indeed interfere with essential aircraft instruments such as the global positioning system (GPS) that is very important in guaranteeing safe landings of the aircraft. Research done by NASA showed that electronic devices had the ability to disrupt and cause an estimation error of up to 30 degrees in positioning a location using the GPS.

            Due to the growing demand by the public to allow usage of phones and PEDs during flights, a number of solutions have been forwarded by the relevant bodies involved. Solutions include allowed usage of 3G and 4G phones after an ascend to 10,000ft, introduction of air mobile network such as Pico cell that will allow the passengers to make voice  calls without interfering with the avionics and allowed extended usage of PEDs in flight mode. The use of 3G and 4G smart phones was a move by the European Commission. The regulations allow the use of these smartphones during mid-flight approximately 10,000ft (Smith, 2013). The passengers can switch out of the airplane mode and use their mobiles for browsing, voice calls and text messages at this altitude. The solution offers comfort to the passengers to able to communicate during flights and still offering safety during the flight (BBC News, 2008). The disadvantage of this solution is that it creates an uncomfortable atmosphere during flights if passengers are on voice calls disrupting sleep and peace for other passengers. This has been a concern to many passengers who find the behavior irritating and annoying (Straw & Lestch 2013).

             The allowed extended use regulation allows the passenger to use their electronic devices for various uses like accessing eBooks, video watching and video gaming without limitation. The restriction of this rule is that the PEDs should be in the air flight mode, limiting communication to the outside world. The regulation upholds values that ensure safety is considered above all things. The introduction of the airmobile network by the utilization of a Pico cell that acts as a base station and allows the use of mobile phones is the best solution. It guarantees minimal to zero interference of the avionics as it is compatible to the plane’s electronic system while offering the passengers the opportunity to linking to the world from the comfort of their seats during the entire flight (Gibbs, 2013). This technological advancement will indeed open opportunities to telecommunication companies and improve the enjoyment by the passengers during flights. The main weakness of this technological advancement is that it will create a leeway for people to make voice calls during flights. Most passengers are against the nuisance that results to having fellow passengers making calls in the aircraft. A protocol that outlines passenger etiquette when making and receiving calls should be drafted and followed. This will ensure the comfortabilty of the passengers and effective communication to the world.


BBC News. (2008, March 26). Approval for mobiles on aircraft. Retrieved from http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/7314362.stm

Cooke, C. (2009). Understanding the In-Flight Cell Phone Ban. Executive travel.

Gibbs, S, (2013, November 14). Europe approves use of in-flight electronics during take-off and landing. The Guardian.

Straw, J., & Lestch, C. (2013, November 21). FCC to consider lifting ban on mid-flight cell phone use on airplanes. NEW YORK DAILY NEWS.

Smith, O. (2013, December 18). British Airways to permit mobile use throughout a flight. Travel.

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