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Personal Electronics May Indeed Disrupt Avionics

timothy posted more than 2 years ago | from the so-we'll-sell-you-wifi-service dept.

Cellphones 505

mattrwilliams writes "There is a growing body of anecdotal evidence that points to personal electronics being a real issue on board planes. Dave Carson of Boeing, the co-chair of a federal advisory committee that investigated the problem of electronic interference from portable devices, says that PEDs radiate signals that can hit and disrupt highly sensitive electronic sensors hidden in the plane's passenger area, including those for an instrument landing system used in bad weather."

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...really? (5, Insightful)

chemicaldave (1776600) | more than 2 years ago | (#36390822)

There is a growing body of anecdotal evidence

Need I say more?

Re:...really? (4, Informative)

Wyatt Earp (1029) | more than 2 years ago | (#36390914)

Have you seen how heavily shielded the cables and connections for PDAs and other PEDs are in US military aircraft?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:E-8_crewmembers.JPG [wikipedia.org]

Thats what you need to keep avionics from being disrupted and vice versa according to the DoD, they've done a lot of testing on that stuff over the last 30 years.

Re:...really? (2)

truthsearch (249536) | more than 2 years ago | (#36391156)

This is what I don't understand. With all the discussions over this, how has this not been fully tested and answered? How can we not have a definitive answer by now? And if it has been answered, why it is still being debated?

Re:...really? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36391308)

Each potential interfering device would have to be tested to characterize its emissions. No one at all is willing to pay for that since there's essentially an infinite number of device types (Think about how many models and variations of cell phones there are in the world). Since aircraft systems are designed to be resistant to specific levels of interference, bringing in unknown levels of interference is risky. You have to test both the potential transmission sources and the 'victim' devices to fully characterize the effects. This is especially true for devices which have actual RF transmitters (Cell phones) or sources of RF interference which may be caused by crappy design (EX: Bad circuit board layouts creating little antennas within the devices themselves).

Re:...really? (4, Informative)

gstoddart (321705) | more than 2 years ago | (#36391388)

This is what I don't understand. With all the discussions over this, how has this not been fully tested and answered? How can we not have a definitive answer by now? And if it has been answered, why it is still being debated?

Because .. testing every possible consumer electronics device which might end up on an aircraft, against all the possible aircraft, and all of the possible variations of an aircraft is damned near impossible.

Some aircraft have been in production for a long time (I think over 40 years for the 747). It's got a whole boatload of variations, and has been tweaked, updated, and re-arranged by different carriers over the years. It's got different generations of avionics, in-flight systems, entertainment systems ... and who knows what else. I've seen the inside of a 747 when it was stripped down to an empty shell ... it's got literally miles of wiring.

Now, think about all of the different models of aircraft in the world. You would need to test 'em all.

I get the impression to be able to definitively say that no aircraft could ever be affected by this, you'd need to do testing of every possible emission from the device to coincide with every possible state of the aircraft ... and some of those interferences might be intermittent or not 100% repeatable, or might be compounded by other factors they can't anticipate.

I don't think anybody has the resources to rule it out ... so they've erred on the side of safety. The sheer cost of trying to test this extensively would be enormous.

And, really, unlike the pharma industry which waits until you can prove that something is causing harm before they pull it, the airline industry is waiting for proof that it doesn't cause harm before they allow it.

Re:...really? (1)

rabbit994 (686936) | more than 2 years ago | (#36391178)

It's also possible their systems are shielded to handle EMP bursts and all sorts of other craziness that you wouldn't experience on commercial flight.Not to mention E-8 and E-3 are hauling around huge radars that pump out alot of energy. Finally, I would imagine alot of shielding is to protect the devices from said radar coming from airplane instead of protecting the plane from the devices.

Re:...really? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36391202)

umm... you talking about a military craft that
1) Has active radar on board
2) is designed to act as a command and contorl on the battlefield

So yeah.. I would expect heavy sheilding way beyond what a civillian craft needs.
Again this is a military craft, with very different requirments than a civilain craft.. unless you like to fly over war zones that is...

Re:...really? (3, Interesting)

AJH16 (940784) | more than 2 years ago | (#36391302)

That's a nice image, but it's a standard rugadized pda. You can find similar hardware for doing work in factory environments and such where you potentially need to protect the electronics from more abuse than your average consumer electronics are designed to take. It really has nothing to do with preventing interference.

Re:...really? (4, Informative)

WillAdams (45638) | more than 2 years ago | (#36391486)

Actually, that's more about meeting TEMPEST requirements so as to not emit a signal from which an enemy can derive useful information. Hardening of the avionics is a different thing, and not something one will readily find an image of.

William

Re:...really? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36390930)

There is a growing body of anecdotal evidence

Need I say more?

It would help, because the evidence that electronic devices do not disrupt avionics is also anecdotal.

The real issue? If the FAA was more regulatory agency and less cheerleader, then they would work with the FCC to create standards for acceptable levels of electronic emissions from electronic devices on aircraft, personal or otherwise. There's FCC Part 15 that says that I can't radiate enough noise to jam TVs and cordless phones, and FCC Part 68 which says what you can hook up to the public telephone system. There's no reason there can't be an FCC/FAA part whatever that specifies emission limits for equipment brought aboard aircraft.

... Cue Ron Paul crowd saying that there should be a market-based alternative to these regulations, without giving feasible examples.

Re:...really? (1)

c0mpliant (1516433) | more than 2 years ago | (#36391082)

There is a growing body of anecdotal evidence

Need I say more?

It would help, because the evidence that electronic devices do not disrupt avionics is also anecdotal.

Burden of proof much?

Re:...really? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36391124)

can't FAA regulate a minimum amount of insulation around airplane avionics instead?

are airplanes really less shielded than a television?

Re:...really? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36391458)

less shielded: no
more sensitive: yes

the problem is that even if they were to set a tougher regulation here, the old planes would still have issues, it would not be practical to replace a while fleet, or retrofit EVERY SENSOR in EVERY existing aircraft. It would be smarter to do both, regulate all new aircraft meet xxx standard, and all electronics to be carried onboard planes only emit yyy amount of interference. Only admit compliant electronics on planes, and you have two factors of safety (in time on newer aircraft) the first it very low interference from devices permitted onboard, and the second (eventually) will be, that even if someone manages to get a non-compliant device onboard it shouldn't matter because the aircraft can actually handle much more interference than the device can generate (assuming enough time, 50+ years, for all planes to be compliant). Any way you look at it, it will be a long, and expensive process.

Re:...really? (3, Insightful)

shadowrat (1069614) | more than 2 years ago | (#36391200)

Not to mention that if an effect is real and measurable, it will have anecdotal evidence.

I think it's pretty indisputable that electronic devices can cause interference in other devices be they tvs, radios, or airplanes. Is a cell phone going to bring down a plane? I seriously doubt it, but i'd like to think that aviation as a rule is a risk averse field. Why use up resources chasing after these ghosts when the simple solution is just turn your cell phones off?

What the airlines should probably do is offer reward miles to people who turn their phones off promptly on the plane.

Re:...really? (1)

AJH16 (940784) | more than 2 years ago | (#36391336)

Because if it isn't the cellphone there may be something else you need to do to fix the problem.

Re:...really? (1)

MojoRilla (591502) | more than 2 years ago | (#36391466)

Why use up resources chasing after these ghosts when the simple solution is just turn your cell phones off?

Why use up resources locking your car when the simple solution is to trust the laws against stealing?

People accidentally leave electronic devices on. Some people want to intentionally disrupt flights. Critical systems on airplanes should be designed defensively.

Re:...really? (2)

chemicaldave (1776600) | more than 2 years ago | (#36391222)

I'll say more. I would hope the FAA uses scientific evidence when making decisions.

the evidence that electronic devices do not disrupt avionics is also anecdotal.

Then it seems the issue is still at an impasse. Perhaps it's bad summarizing, but using "anecdotal evidence" to make decisions is very bad.

Re:...really? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36391278)

Cue the anti-Ron Paul troll who has to bring up an issue before it ever becomes an issue.
 
I was all with you until you had to use your post as a pulpit for totally out of line political bickering. Sorry dude, you lose.

Re:...really? (0)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 2 years ago | (#36391368)

... Cue Ron Paul crowd saying that there should be a market-based alternative to these regulations, without giving feasible examples.

lol yes, that's exactly how Ron Paul is, pretty good at finding problems, not so good at finding solutions.

Some activities warrant excessive caution ... (4, Insightful)

perpenso (1613749) | more than 2 years ago | (#36391020)

There is a growing body of anecdotal evidence

Need I say more?

Actually, yes. How about something regarding consequences? Say 100+ people in a fragile machine, surround by flammable liquids, moving at a high rate of speed and doing so with limited to no visibility outside the machine having a "mishap" because someone had to check twitter? There are some activities where an excess of caution is warranted, personally I believe that needing to use an ***instrument landing system because of bad weather*** is one such activity.

Re:Some activities warrant excessive caution ... (1)

chispito (1870390) | more than 2 years ago | (#36391220)

So what you're saying is, "Gee, flying planes is hard."

Why not also establish some empirical basis for the policy?

There is a growing body of anecdotal evidence

Need I say more?

Actually, yes. How about something regarding consequences? Say 100+ people in a fragile machine, surround by flammable liquids, moving at a high rate of speed and doing so with limited to no visibility outside the machine having a "mishap" because someone had to check twitter? There are some activities where an excess of caution is warranted, personally I believe that needing to use an ***instrument landing system because of bad weather*** is one such activity.

Re:Some activities warrant excessive caution ... (1)

perpenso (1613749) | more than 2 years ago | (#36391452)

So what you're saying is, "Gee, flying planes is hard."

Why not also establish some empirical basis for the policy?

Actually I'm saying that flying planes is dangerous, and that given that *many* lives are at risk the burden of proof should be that a device needs to be proven safe, not that it needs to be proven hazardous.

There is a growing body of anecdotal evidence

Need I say more?

Actually, yes. How about something regarding consequences? Say 100+ people in a fragile machine, surround by flammable liquids, moving at a high rate of speed and doing so with limited to no visibility outside the machine having a "mishap" because someone had to check twitter? There are some activities where an excess of caution is warranted, personally I believe that needing to use an ***instrument landing system because of bad weather*** is one such activity.

Re:Some activities warrant excessive caution ... (1)

Microlith (54737) | more than 2 years ago | (#36391528)

the burden of proof should be that a device needs to be proven safe, not that it needs to be proven hazardous.

Perhaps you should stop making up panicky, ridiculous statements like "the machine having a "mishap" because someone had to check twitter" and come up with something more sensible and, as the GP noted, based on empirical evidence instead of anecdotal evidence.

If personal electronics carried by a passenger are a threat to avionics, then the problem is in how the plane is constructed. Otherwise they'll need to start issuing EM scanners to detect if you have any active electronics on you before takeoff/landing.

Re:Some activities warrant excessive caution ... (1)

chemicaldave (1776600) | more than 2 years ago | (#36391262)

Anecdotal evidence, by it's definition, is incompatible with science. Scientific evidence is needed in this situation.

Re:Some activities warrant excessive caution ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36391500)

If this was the case aircraft would be falling from the sky everyday.....

Re:Some activities warrant excessive caution ... (1)

rthille (8526) | more than 2 years ago | (#36391564)

Picture one person on the plane with a device designed to interfere with the avionics. The device looks like a cell phone, but when turned "off", it really goes into "interfere mode". This is why I see it as idiotic that the avionics aren't hardened well enough to deal with unintentional interference from devices designed to minimize interference...

Re:...really? (1)

Phyridean (1122061) | more than 2 years ago | (#36391280)

There's a growing body of anecdotal evidence that I'm great in bed. (That doesn't make it true.)

Re:...really? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36391442)

I can vouch for you.

-Dave

Re:...really? (1)

The Moof (859402) | more than 2 years ago | (#36391432)

Is there some good reason we shouldn't test against this? It's possible the people who originally did the tests didn't create the circumstances these anecdotes suggest. I'd rather be safe than sorry, but that's just me and my flying preference.

TFS links to page 2 (2)

xded (1046894) | more than 2 years ago | (#36391546)

TFS is not summarizing TFA. Is it also because it links to TFA's page 2?

Proper link: http://abcnews.go.com/Blotter/safe-cellphone-plane/story?id=13791569 [go.com]

Proper excerpt:

Asked if a cellphone's signal could really be that powerful, Carson said, "It is when it goes in the right place at the right time."

To prove his point, Carson took ABC News inside Boeing's electronic test chamber in Seattle, where engineers demonstrated the hidden signals from several electronic devices that were well over what Boeing considers the acceptable limit for aircraft equipment. A Blackberry and an iPhone were both over the limit, but the worst offender was an iPad. There are still doubters, including ABC News's own aviation expert, John Nance.

"There is a lot of anecdotal evidence out there, but it's not evidence at all," said Nance, a former Air Force and commercial pilot. "It's pilots, like myself, who thought they saw something but they couldn't pin it to anything in particular. And those stories are not rampant enough, considering 32,000 flights a day over the U.S., to be convincing."

Fiberoptics (3, Insightful)

Ranger (1783) | more than 2 years ago | (#36390854)

If planes switched to fiber optics and got rid of copper wiring I'm sure that would reduce the likelihood of interference. I can hardly wait for the day people will be able to use their cell phones on those long haul flights.

Re:Fiberoptics (1)

bkr1_2k (237627) | more than 2 years ago | (#36391180)

Actually many of them are already fiber optic. Certainly not all but more and more every year.

Re:Fiberoptics (2)

kidgenius (704962) | more than 2 years ago | (#36391504)

No. No they are not. Passenger jets still use wire cabling for communications buses. Even new ones (B787) still use copper.

Re:Fiberoptics (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36391246)

Good luck with that. Cell towers don't point up, and the hand off between towers isn't really optimized for airplane speeds.

Re:Fiberoptics (2)

NoNonAlphaCharsHere (2201864) | more than 2 years ago | (#36391344)

I can hardly wait for the day people will be able to use their cell phones on those long haul flights.

As a daily train commuter, whose most hated sound is someone shouting "NO, I'VE GOT PLENTY OF TIME, I'M ON THE TRAIN!" into their cellphone, I can only warn you to be really, really careful what you wish for.

Re:Fiberoptics (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36391350)

If planes switched to fiber optics and got rid of copper wiring I'm sure that would reduce the likelihood of interference. I can hardly wait for the day people will be able to use their cell phones on those long haul flights.

That's funny, I'm dreading the day people will be able to continue yelling into their cell phones without end in the air. Flights are already uncomfortable. I expect they'll pass on the appropriate headsets and yell louder to get over the ambient airplane noise.

Easy Solution (3, Insightful)

ArhcAngel (247594) | more than 2 years ago | (#36390862)

A couple of coats of lead based paint will take care of that.

Re:Easy Solution (4, Funny)

roman_mir (125474) | more than 2 years ago | (#36390992)

yeah, if applied directly over certain passengers.

Re:Easy Solution (1)

Abreu (173023) | more than 2 years ago | (#36391438)

Yeah, but "a crown of lead that that men shall tremble to behold" doesn't have such a nice ring to it.

Re:Easy Solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36391474)

yeah, if applied directly over certain passengers.

What?!? That's the cause of their shitty behavior! Those people were the ones who were eating lead paint off of the walls, grew up next to roads when lead was in gasoline, and when lead was considered to be a GOOD THING (TM)! Lead wasn't completely removed from the above until the 1980s - all because of lobbying from industry saying the that there wasn't any conclusive data. Which is what the cigarette companies said about the Surgeon General's statements and what Doctors were telling their patients decades before the warnings on cigarettes.

And then there's the Coal Fired Electric industry and their stance on Global Climate Change .... even though there are technologies that make coal just clean as LNG ... but they're too short sighted to use said tech (coal gasification) ... (HINT: Having legislatures pass laws for you to upgrade will actually boost your bottom line. - Talk amongst yourselves...)

Whoa! Damn! I sure did go on a ride there!

It's hard being a "big picture" type of person!

Re:Easy Solution (1)

couchslug (175151) | more than 2 years ago | (#36391148)

Of course you were being facetious, but aircraft paint is heavy and must be taken into account in weight-and-balance calculations to ensure the aircraft is stable and not overweight after painting.
If too much paint accumulates, it must be removed and the paint cycle begun again.

And (3, Insightful)

Osgeld (1900440) | more than 2 years ago | (#36390884)

These planes can take direct lightning hits but the sensors cant handle a cell signal that's going to be there weather the phone is off or not?

does not compute

Re:And (1)

mkiwi (585287) | more than 2 years ago | (#36390954)

You might even take this a step further and claim that people who spend a lot of time on planes have reduced risk of brain cancer, for all the media is telling us.

Re:And (2)

localman57 (1340533) | more than 2 years ago | (#36391036)

Actually, increases your risk. Generally speaking, The higher up in the atmosphere you go, the more radition you're exposed to.

Re:And (4, Insightful)

Xiph1980 (944189) | more than 2 years ago | (#36390958)

What's your point? Those are two entirely different things.
Some appliances can handle a firehose spraying directly at them, but break when subjected to water vapor.. Just as related, actually, no even more related.

Re:And (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36391106)

Because it is shielded from the outside but not the inside maybe ?

Re:And (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36391152)

Because you are a moron.

Planes are designed to take a lightning hit, but that is on the OUTSIDE of the craft, which is basically a gaussian surface (I am sure you are going to need to look up what this means, I suggest wikipedia... I'd link, but I think you need all the help you can with technology, and perhaps you will learn some additional things about physics in your quest). Yes, there are cell signals OUTSIDE the craft, inside there are much fewer, and of lower amplitude.

Imagine blasting a 140DB noise inside the cabin, and when people complain you say, "well, that's what a jet engine sounds like.. and LOOK, there's one RIGHT THERE, and its not bothering you. let me have MINE!

The primary difference here is that you can directly experience the effects of one (sound), and the other is 'magic', you cannot see it, you cannot hear it, feel it, taste it, or experience it.. so there is no way it can cause something even bigger then you any problems at all.

Re:And (1)

Ferzerp (83619) | more than 2 years ago | (#36391538)

The amusing thing is, you mean faraday cage instead of gaussian surface.

I suppose I can, sort of, see how you made that mistake, but you are like the grammar pedant who confuses there and their.

Re:And (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 2 years ago | (#36391342)

A human has no problems touching the terminals of an AA battery, but applying the same battery to the heart can cause cardiac arrest and death. Did you have an actual point?

Place a phone by a P.A. system... (1)

bodland (522967) | more than 2 years ago | (#36390900)

Brrrrrrr.....Dut Dut Dut Dut Dut....brrrrrrr

What a great way to trash a recording.

Re:Place a phone by a P.A. system... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36391304)

To me that only happens when I am on an edge network, not on 3g

Listening (1)

Daniel_is_Legnd (1447519) | more than 2 years ago | (#36390946)

I had always heard that the real reason they make you turn off electronic devices is so that you listen fully to any instructions you are given. Why else would they make me turn off my wi-fi only Kindle?

Re:Listening (2, Interesting)

Moderator (189749) | more than 2 years ago | (#36391192)

I had always heard that the real reason they make you turn off electronic devices is so that you listen fully to any instructions you are given. Why else would they make me turn off my wi-fi only Kindle?

Maybe. I think that the "cellphone interference" is just a blanket term they use whenever anything goes wrong. When I was flying from PSP to DFW a few months ago, the flight attendants had already given the "turn off all electronic devices" thing followed by the safety brief, yet we still hadn't moved onto the runway. Instead of telling us what the hold up was, the flight attendant got on the intercom and said, "We would be on the runway right now, but somebody left their cell phone on and it's interfering with our signals." Lo and behold, about half the passengers pulled out their cell phones and turned them off. This was reverse psychology, shifting the blame to the passengers for the delay. Sad thing is, it worked.

this is totally impossible (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36390948)

I was told by people on the internet that this cannot possibly happen, so this expert from an actual aircraft manufacturer must be wrong.

Re:this is totally impossible (1)

wintercolby (1117427) | more than 2 years ago | (#36391514)

I was too! I had to look it up immediately after the pilot informed us all that we need to turn off our cell phones. I just didn't believe that someone with years of experience and training could be smarter than the internets.

C'mon... (4, Informative)

jra (5600) | more than 2 years ago | (#36390960)

ILS receiver antennas aren't "hidden inside the passenger compartment".

They're "attached to the outside of the friggin airframe".

Any story that gets the details that wrong, that fast, receives no credence at all. And if airplanes are having this much trouble with my 2mw iPad, what the *hell* are they doing about getting hit by 2GW of lightning?

(And don't tell me "Faraday cage"; that protects the occupants, but not necessarily the things connected to antennas outside the cage.)

Re:C'mon... (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36391164)

Correction. A bolt of lightning is only 1.21 GW.

Re:C'mon... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36391412)

oh man, thank you!

Re:C'mon... (4, Informative)

couchslug (175151) | more than 2 years ago | (#36391290)

I'm not impressed by the story itself, but do note that ILS testers are operated from INSIDE the aircraft. I've done plenty of ILS ops checks as a Comm/Nav weenie in the USAF.

The airframe doesn't block the signal enough to matter.

Since my being entertained in-flight is of no importance, I leave my electronic gear off when flying and sleep/nap through the trip.

the one in a million problem (1)

papabob (1211684) | more than 2 years ago | (#36390964)

As i was told in mid 90 by my electromagnetism teacher, the problem is not the miriad of (then) walkmans and cd player used in the plane. Those are more or less certified for electromagnetic compatibility. The problem are the crappy chinese electronics that don't pass any test and the one in a million "certified" hardware that is faulty. So, do you prefer listen your music and risk your life in an emergency situation or forbid them all just in case?

And speaking of statistics, in this case "anecdotal evidence" can cause the death of 200+ people...

Re:the one in a million problem (1)

wbav (223901) | more than 2 years ago | (#36391122)

If the hardware is faulty it is faulty. Full stop. Doesn't matter if my iPod causes it to react, because it is just as likely, the thunder cloud we just flew through caused as much if not more interference.

Re:the one in a million problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36391198)

Given how people love breaking the rules, I would think we'd have plains dropping out of the skies with electronics failures, when that simply doesn't happen given the good safety statistics for flying in a plane. People are stubborn enough to ignore rules like these when there is no direct evidence to the contrary.

Re:the one in a million problem (1)

Spectre (1685) | more than 2 years ago | (#36391356)

As i was told in mid 90 by my electromagnetism teacher, the problem is not the miriad of (then) walkmans and cd player used in the plane. Those are more or less certified for electromagnetic compatibility. The problem are the crappy chinese electronics that don't pass any test and the one in a million "certified" hardware that is faulty. So, do you prefer listen your music and risk your life in an emergency situation or forbid them all just in case?

And speaking of statistics, in this case "anecdotal evidence" can cause the death of 200+ people...

It's interesting and reasonable, I suppose.

Statistically speaking, though.

And speaking statistically, it seems the vast preponderance of hijackings have occurred by hijackers who were passengers on the plane. The safe way to avoid hijacked planes, then, would obviously be to not allow any passengers on board, or at least be sure they were "powered down". Having a flight marshal terminate all passengers before take-off would be an intermediate solution to the problem.

Re:the one in a million problem (1)

uglyduckling (103926) | more than 2 years ago | (#36391426)

You had an electromagnetism teacher? That's seriously specific (I was taught that by my adjective teacher).

Re:the one in a million problem (1)

AvitarX (172628) | more than 2 years ago | (#36391476)

Assuming the one in a million number is for certain death (and it woul.dn't be, It would be one in 1000 of those one in a million cases I suspect), and there are 500 seats (747), times 3 devices per person, we get a 1500/1000000 chance per flight.

1 in 1000 is a little steep for my taste, but if the assumption about only one in 1000 of those devices being a big deal, than I would gladly take the odds (one in a million vs boredom over 10 hours).

Still safer per mile than a car.

Re:the one in a million problem (1)

stewbee (1019450) | more than 2 years ago | (#36391560)

Reminds me of when I took my electromagnetics class. The professor had brought his daughter's tickle me Elmo doll into class. I don't remember what device it was that he had, possibly it was his car's remote key entry system remote, but when he click one of the buttons, he was able to make the tickle me Elmo doll activate and start laughing. This would probably be one of you million to one examples, but I think the crux is the same. If someone doesn't design properly, or well for EMI, then stuff like this can happen that isn't supposed to.

growing body of anecdotal evidence (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36390982)

now that's just good science right there

"Anectdotal"? (1)

T.E.D. (34228) | more than 2 years ago | (#36390994)

Seriously? "Anectdotal"?

This isn't the Middle Ages here, and there are lives at stake. If someone seriously believes there is a safety issue here, there must be scientific studies to show what is going on one way or another.

Re:"Anectdotal"? (1)

localman57 (1340533) | more than 2 years ago | (#36391140)

Studies cost money. Everything costs money. With a finite amount of money, you prioritize. And this isn't a big enough problem to warrant spending money studing. So instead of paying a bunch of test engineers to undertake a bunch of tests (which to be useful would have to be re-run on practically every aircraft configuration), you hire one guy to look at the anectdotal evidence. Best case, your studies would prevent a couple of crashes over the span of a human lifetime, saving a few hundred lives. Much better to invest in something else, such as the stability control systems on SUVs, which have had a huge impact on SUV rollover rates, for a relatively small investment.

Re:"Anectdotal"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36391242)

OH please, planes crash all the time, they make great entertainment and the the only thing the companies mourn is the loss of the aircraft itself. They skimp out on maintenance, spare parts, pay less for the staff and get only castoffs, and those they have, are run ragged, and you consider this a problem?
Not protecting the wiring, is one of those cost reduction methods.

It's a stupid sensor in the passenger area, probably weight scale to figure out fuel usage for each engine, or cabin pressure something like that. Well, let me tell you, when you run out of fuel you notice it right away!, And when you lose cabin pressure when high above the clouds, you notice that too!!

So, no there is no safety issue, not one worth mentioning anyway.

FAA certification? (1)

Anne Thwacks (531696) | more than 2 years ago | (#36391006)

I cannot see how the planes can get FAA certification if this is true. either the tests are not appropriate. or they are not being conducted properly. Which is it? Enquiring minds want to know!

There's Two Possibilities (1, Insightful)

wbav (223901) | more than 2 years ago | (#36391014)

1. Personal electronics are safe, this is just BS.
2. Personal electronics are not safe, thus if a terrorist wants to crash a plane, all they need to do is use an iPad.

I mean TSA takes away bottled water, if the iPad was really threat, why don't they take those too? Better resale value than the bottled water.

Re:There's Two Possibilities (1)

mean pun (717227) | more than 2 years ago | (#36391370)

1. Personal electronics are safe, this is just BS. 2. Personal electronics are not safe, thus if a terrorist wants to crash a plane, all they need to do is use an iPad.

How about
3. The safety is unknown, and is utterly impractical to determine for all combinations of airplanes and electronic gadgets.

And your point 2 is of course nonsense: even if some electronic gadget would be known to interfere with the functioning of an airplane, it wouldn't mean that switching on the gadget in the plane would make that plane unavoidably fall out of the sky.

Dear Slashdot dweebs, (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36391028)

The real world is not as simple as your freshman physics/engineering class would have you think.

I call Bull**** (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36391132)

So they're telling us that they're going to leave the security of landing an airplane to the passengers knowing how to turn their "PEDs" off? My mom just bought an iPad - I suspect she doesn't know how to *really* turn it off. Same thing for all those iPhone/Blackberry/smartphone users.

If it *REALLY* was such a problem, then they should confiscate the PEDs and give them to us when the flight lands.

I Call BS (1)

bkr1_2k (237627) | more than 2 years ago | (#36391216)

I call bullshit. These instruments are TEMPEST shielded to such a degree it's ridiculous. Personal devices also don't emit with enough power (unless modified) to affect anything further than a couple of feet away from them.

First hand experience (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36391226)

I had always been suspicious of the reality of small electronics and avionics interference, but now I have some first hand experience--I fly a small airplane (a Decathlon). Granted, it has much different RF characteristics than a large airliner. Like most airplanes, it is equipped with a transponder that encodes the airplane's altitude and transmits it when the air traffic control radar paints the airplane. Sometimes when my iPhone is turned on in the airplane, the altitude reported by my transponder varies wildly by several thousands of feet, and air traffic control tells me they are getting spurious signals. One day when this was happening, I thought ah heck and I turn off the phone, and the transponder settled down. I turned it back on, and the transponder started going wonky again. I've reproduced this on a few different days and most days with no issues with the phone turned on. I'd say it's 20% bad/80% good. I haven't figured out what conditions cause this to happen or not--could be poor equipment installation. Anyone else with actual experience of something like this happening?

So I've heard. (1)

crimsonshdw (1070988) | more than 2 years ago | (#36391230)

""There is a lot of anecdotal evidence out there, but it's not evidence at all," said Nance, a former Air Force and commercial pilot. "

Anecdotal evidence is the best kind of evidence so I've been told.

An engineer's reaction (5, Insightful)

bughunter (10093) | more than 2 years ago | (#36391258)

As an engineer who designs and integrates RF systems every day, all day, I have two impressions. And as a systems engineer, I'll describe them in terms of the two elements of risk: probability and impact.

FTFA: "In other events described in the report, a clock spun backwards and a GPS in cabin read incorrectly while two laptops were being used nearby."

First: Crap like that ain't supposed to happen. An airplane designed and built to standards for commercial passenger service must meet standards for electromagnetic susceptibility, interference tolerance, workmanship, etc. It's not the passengers' fault that things like that happen. Nor is it the direct fault of the manufacturer of the electronics that passengers carry. If something is that mission critical, and the cost of failure is measured in human lives, then engineers, inspectors, regulators, and operations crew damn well better make sure the likelihood of failure is as close to zero as can be.

Second: I know damn well that grounding and shielding is one of the most difficult aspects of any high-frequency electronics system. It's difficult to design, grounding and shielding design rules aren't generally taught as part of undergraduate EE curriculum (much less Aeromechanical, CS, etc.), and the manufacturing techniques are prone to failure and not easy to inspect and test. Therefore, statistically, a passenger that travels one or two times a year is likely to board a plane with a design flaw or manufacturing/maintenance flaw at some point in their lifetime. This doesn't mean they're going to notice it, or even have any effect on the flight, much less cause an emergency by forgetting a powered-up iPhone in their carryon. But the likelihood of failure will never be zero unless the passenger obeys the rules and turns off their devices.

So, turn your shit off when so instructed.

And consumer electronics designers: please give the consumer a switch that allows them to turn their shit off... not standby, but OFF.

Re:An engineer's reaction (1)

TheLink (130905) | more than 2 years ago | (#36391470)

grounding and shielding design rules aren't generally taught as part of undergraduate EE curriculum

If the shielding isn't good enough, the chances of grounding go way up ;).

so what? (1)

parallel_prankster (1455313) | more than 2 years ago | (#36391270)

To me this just means that Boeing engineers need to do a better job of shielding their sensors. The world has advanced, people have such devices and flights are getting longer. I dont want to use/pay for the crappy entertainment system on the plane. I want to use my own. I understand that this might not be the priority for them right now, but it needs to happen sometime soon.

What about the terrorists? (1)

Ikkyu (84373) | more than 2 years ago | (#36391298)

We spend hundreds of millions to keep me from bringing a bottle of water on a plane, but we can't manage to get protection from terrorist magic rays that will take down a plane just like in the movies? I thought all of these guys went to the Jack Bauer school of counter terrorism.

Re:What about the terrorists? (1)

TheLink (130905) | more than 2 years ago | (#36391566)

1) Many airlines let you carry 1 litre of vodka onto their plane. That's definitely more dangerous than 1 litre of water :).
2) There is usually no penalty if they catch you, you're allowed to chuck the item into a bin. They assume it won't blow up the bin ;).

It's all "feel safe" crap that isn't making the passengers feel safe.

Re:What about the terrorists? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36391574)

terrorist magic rays? What about a rf transmitter camouflaged as a laptop?

I'm still skeptical (1)

GrBear (63712) | more than 2 years ago | (#36391314)

On a recent Delta flight from Orlando to Minneapolis, I had the pleasure to sit next to a Delta employee on the same trip. He didn't even bother turning his iPhone on airplane mode.. in fact he was checking his email during takeoff and landing.

I kept hoping and waiting for his phone to ring during flight.

This is a diversion (1)

billrp (1530055) | more than 2 years ago | (#36391380)

Boeing simply wants to divert attention from their own design/maintenance problems they've been having recently that have caused serious accidents. But I thought the main source of accidents/mishaps is really pilots. And PEDs have caused zero accidents.

Continue the lies. (2)

Seumas (6865) | more than 2 years ago | (#36391428)

They've been lying about this for years. Let's use a little common sense to figure out the truth, here:

First, probably 90% of the people on every plane have one or more devices. Laptops, game devices, tablets, phones, and so on.

Second, there are several thousand flights in the US every single day.

Third, just because they say "turn off your devices" doesn't mean people do. In fact, I know people who intentionally don't turn their devices off, just as a personal point of spite.

Fourth, if these were a problem, planes would be fucking falling out of the sky. If you figure there are 300,000 to 500,000 people flying every single day, we should be seeing unexplained major airline catastrophes all the damn time.

Fifth - and finally - if this was even remotely a problem, they wouldn't have allowed devices all these years. In fact, if it was anything other than PROVEN to be safe, they wouldn't allow them. They would confiscate devices on entry and turn them off themselves or store them in some sort of Faraday cage kind of thing until you de-board.

Busted (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36391498)

Mythbusters busted this one I'm sure. So it must be safe........

747 brought down by an iPod..riiight. (1)

geekmux (1040042) | more than 2 years ago | (#36391552)

Ever heard of shielding, Boeing? Seriously.

If this were actually that bad of a threat, don't you think TSA/DHS would have adjusted their policies regarding PEDs onboard? Give me a break. Chances are they're crying wolf so they can try and secure a few billion in funding to upgrade all of their aircraft wiring and shielding under the guise of "homeland security", so taxpayers can somehow pay for it instead of the "poor starving" airlines.

Oh, and pay no attention to the terrorists lurking here taking notes (the real terrorists I mean, not your next-door-neighbors Grandmother caught trying to "smuggle" her Sams Club sized shampoo bottle on board). God forbid they find out an iPod is just as effective as a box cutter. Yet another reason I call BS on all this, as if had ANY semblance of truth, it certainly wouldn't be unclassified.

Then Develop a standard (1)

KDN (3283) | more than 2 years ago | (#36391590)

If there is or may be a problem, then develop a standard for both the electronic device maker and the navigation system maker can work with. I'm sick and tired of airplane makers saying that everyone must shut down all possible electronic devices or the airplane will crash into the ocean Does that include pace makers? How about artificial limbs that are electrically powered? Navigation systems should be defined to work with a given amount of noise on various frequency bands. It is not reasonable in today's world to design a system that assumes that the only RF transmitter for 100 miles around is the proper transmitter. Think of what a terrorist could do if they find such a vulnerability that can let them remotely down an airplane.

Conversely, electronic device makers must start shielding their equipment and start certifying that they meet this same standard. I've seen too many devices that have the EMF of a telsa coil and wipe out any other wireless device within 30 feet. One device was not even a wireless device. It was a street light that ran on 2.4Ghz, and wiped out WiFi whenever it was on.

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