Mobiles ring out air warning
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
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
Cabin crew found a passenger was using a lap-top
computer and when it was turned off all problems
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
"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
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
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
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
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
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
In a controlled test environment mobile telephone
radiation caused compass freeze, navigation instrument
errors, communication interference and false warning
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.
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