The truth about your laptop computer

and landing safely

part Two


Mobiles ring out air warning

Mon "The Australian"

Mobiles ring out air warning
By Ian Gerard
September 15, 2003

Passenger interference on our airlines

It's official: mobile phones and other electronic devices can significantly interfere with a plane's navigational equipment.

That's the finding of the first comprehensive study of such use, carried out by the British Civil Aviation Authority, and it has prompted a fresh warning to Australian airlines and passengers that using a mobile during take-off or landing can be disastrous.

It is a Civil Aviation Safety Authority requirement that airlines ban the use of mobile phones and other equipment such as lap-top computers during flights, but some passengers continue to use them.

Interference from portable electronic devices or mobile phones has resulted in more than 100 air safety incidents in the past 10 years, according to the Australian Air Transport Safety Bureau.

In one incident last year, pilots on a NSW flight became concerned when the plane started rocking slightly from side to side while under the control of the autopilot.

Cabin crew found a passenger was using a lap-top computer and when it was turned off all problems stopped.

The British study, which involved using mobile phones on passenger-less flights, found that electrical equipment could cause compass freeze, navigation instrument errors, communication interference and false warning reports.

Cabin crew have the power to make passengers turn their electronic equipment off, confiscate it or have them charged with endangering the safety of an aircraft if they refuse to comply.

CASA spokesman Peter Gibson said most incidents were a result of passengers simply

 forgetting their mobiles were turned on.

"It's a manageable problem but it does show that the potential for something to go seriously wrong does exist and it's just not a request for some spurious reason," Mr Gibson said.

"Using them during take-off or landing is a concern because that's a time when the pilots are really busy and relying on their equipment."

Virgin Blue spokesman David Hutton said the overwhelming majority of passengers co-operated with instructions to turn off their mobile phones or hand-held computers.

"We do our utmost to make sure, both through announcements and doing a final check of the cabin to make sure that nobody is using their mobile telephones on the aircraft," he said.

"They emit a signal, as anyone who has their car radio on would know, that it's not only important that people are not talking on the phone but they are actually switched off."


Switched-on devices court disaster

Passenger electronic interference on Australian flights:

February 8, 2003: On take-off from Sydney, pilots on 737-300 found the flight - management system map display kept changing, rendering it useless. Passenger using electronic device.

September 2, 2002: Pilots on 737-800 leaving Sydney noticed uncommanded pick-up and thrust reduction at 18,000ft. Passenger forgot to turn mobile off.

June 8, 2002: Flight crew on 767-200 found auto-pilot switched off and plane swaying 5 degrees left and right for 10 to 15 seconds. Passenger using laptop computer.

May 1, 2002: Proximity warning system terrain alert sounded on twin-engine plane flying at 5000ft, 22km southwest of Sydney. Passenger using mobile.

April 23, 2002: Pilots on 767-300 from Brisbane experienced unexpected flight management computer readings. Passenger using laptop.

February 9, 2002: Pilots flying 767-300 from Manila to Sydney experienced the disconnection of the auto-pilot and auto-throttle. Passenger using electronic translator.

CASA Media Release - Monday, 15 September 2003

New warning: Turn off mobiles in the air

A fresh warning has been issued to aircraft passengers to switch off mobile telephones and other electronic devices during flights.

This follows mounting evidence of interference to aircraft instruments and systems caused by electronic devices.

More than 100 air safety incidents related to interference from portable electronic devices have been reported in Australia in the last ten years.

A recent report from the crew operating a 737 aircraft out of Sydney linked an uncommanded pitch up and reduction in thrust to an active mobile telephone.

Other incidents linked to portable electronic devices include:

Interference to radio transmissions
Autopilot malfunctions, including uncommanded climb, oscillations and disengagement
False readings from flight management computers
GPS navigation system failures
False alerts from engine warning systems.
The dangers of using mobile telephones and other electronic devices in-flight are set out in an article in the latest edition of the Civil Aviation Safety Authority’s Flight Safety Australia magazine.

The article says that while proving a link between electronic devices and in-flight incidents has been difficult in the past, evidence is increasing and is being supported by controlled testing.

The UK’s Civil Aviation Authority has just carried out the most definitive study of electronic interference, finding a range of problems caused by mobile telephone transmissions.

In a controlled test environment mobile telephone radiation caused compass freeze, navigation instrument errors, communication interference and false warning reports.

The Flight Safety Australia article calls on aircraft cabin crew to take firm action where passengers use electronic devices when they are prohibited and to make a detailed report of all incidents.

Current CASA regulations give aircraft crew the power to prohibit the use of any device which can threaten the safety of an aircraft.

Under proposed new regulations the use of mobile telephones and other electronic transmitters will be prohibited at all times, while devices such as laptop computers, video cameras and electronic games will be prohibited during take-off and landings or at the direction of crew.

Media contact
Peter Gibson
Ph 0419 296 446
Ref: MR0346

part One


to Cabin Safety Menu