Cellphones: an in-flight danger?

2013-06-21 09:46
Cape Town - Human nature means we always want convenience - which makes having cellular connectivity an ideal service for passengers.

Yes, local low-cost operator mango offers this luxury, but thanks to G-Connect technologies that enable it, as well as make it safe.

The safety issue of leaving your cellphone on during a flight has always had tongues wagging - and now a Travelstart survey confirms  that up to 15 passengers leave their phones on during any given flight.

The survey polled some 7 600 South African travellers, of which around 3% said they never turned their phones off during a flight, despite being asked to by cabin crew.

Interestingly, this contrasted with Namibian survey participants where not 1 respondent said they left their phone on during a flight. That being said, nearly a fifth of respondents said they believed that nothing would go wrong if they left their phones on.
 
This begs the question, with hundreds of flights taking off and landing safely every day within South Africa alone, is leaving your phone on during a flight really that dangerous?

This was a question posed by US-based news site, The Huffington Post earlier this year to a number of travel experts, including pilots and travel editors. The consensus seemed to indicate that this was a rule put in place at an earlier time when the science behind cellular communications was less understood.
 
One of the experts was commercial pilot and Executive Travel columnist Chris Cook who explained that he had never experienced any interference from mobile phones on flights he had piloted. This feedback was contrasted by a response to the same question on online Q&A site, Quora where chief pilot and flight instructor at The Flight Academy, John Fiscus reports having had cell phones interrupt his communications on several occasions.
 
These interruptions, he reports, are little more than buzzing noises on his headset meaning pilots can misunderstand instructions from control towers, rather than a complete communications black-out.

Either way, when a plane is about to land, any misunderstanding can be fatal.
 
American news channel ABC News managed to get their hands on an IATA (International Air Transport Association) report stating that there had been 75 documented reports since 2003 of “possible electronic interference” which crew believed to be attributed to devices like cell-phones and tablets. Unfortunately no scientific study has ever been conducted to verify the likelihood of this.
 
The other danger is that electronic devices pose a major distraction to passengers who are meant to pay attention to the safety announcements. In the event of accidents there is often precious little time for cabin crew to repeat instructions, meaning full attention from passengers is imperative.
 
Unfortunately, the verdict is inconclusive and with no one willing to put their heads on the proverbial chopping block about this, civil aviation authorities look certain to continue playing it safe and ruling that electronic devices remain off during take-off and landing. That being said, it also seems certain that there will continue to be those who refuse to abide by the rules.
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