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Electronics & Planes Don't Mix?

Hemos posted about 11 years ago | from the what's-the-real-effect dept.

Portables 625

dirtydamo writes "The Sydney Morning Herald is running an interesting story on the old debate on whether electronic devices cause problems on planes. It appears pilots are pretty much accustomed to handling weird problems with equipment, which they attribute to passengers' portable devices. More research is needed to determine whether or not this is the actual problem, but the article certainly makes me a little uneasy about modern air travel."

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Dogmuck and penises don't mix? (-1)

(TK)Dessimat0r (668222) | about 11 years ago | (#6963121)

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-_At the head of the game._-
P__________________________P
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N_______#trollkore_________N
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Not too far fetched.. (3, Insightful)

grub (11606) | about 11 years ago | (#6963124)


Say I need more tinfoil on my hat, but I don't doubt for a moment that terrorists somewhere are looking at a way to have a "martyr" on a plane disrupt the controls from the cabin using electronics. No overt attack neccesary; he would flip a switch, sit back and look forward to his 70 virgins that Allah[0] will be handing over in a few minutes while the crew futiley scramble around until the inevitable crash.

[0] Just an example, Islam != terrorism.

Re:Not too far fetched.. (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#6963142)

Flamebait? People should have to undergo an IQ test before receiving mod points.

Could a HERF weapon be made notebook sized? (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#6963148)

http://www.amazing1.com/emp.htm

Sad I have to post this anonymously.

Re:Could a HERF weapon be made notebook sized? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#6963360)

Doesn't really matter. We watched you as you typed typed it in, Bill. Be seeing you!

This is not flamebait.. mod up (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#6963183)

-nm-

Re:Not too far fetched.. (3, Funny)

WIAKywbfatw (307557) | about 11 years ago | (#6963211)

...and look forward to his 70 virgins that Allah[0] will be handing over...

Actually, it's 72. That's 72 more than most programmers get in a lifetime.

Re:Not too far fetched.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#6963323)

Programmers like their women experienced? Is that what you're saying? Or is it because they like women to be loose, so they don't hurt them?

Re:Not too far fetched.. (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#6963379)

Or perhaps the 72 virgins will BE programmers...

Re:Not too far fetched.. (4, Funny)

RevMike (632002) | about 11 years ago | (#6963222)

Allah[0]

Quick show of hands: Who else read this as the first element of the Allah array?

Re:Not too far fetched.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#6963234)

while Allah[0] { kill (infidels); }

Re:Not too far fetched.. (1)

aborchers (471342) | about 11 years ago | (#6963333)


Allah[0]

Quick show of hands: Who else read this as the first element of the Allah array?


That was my first thought. My second was that it was like JHVH1 of the Subgenius mythos.

Re:Not too far fetched.. (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#6963263)


Please note that sticking an electric vibrator up your ass in the bathroom does not get you into the "mile high" club, you you can just chill.

Too far fetched... (5, Insightful)

TWX (665546) | about 11 years ago | (#6963303)

"No overt attack neccesary; he would flip a switch, sit back and look forward to his 70 virgins that Allah[0] will be handing over in a few minutes while the crew futiley scramble around until the inevitable crash."

If we design our aircraft so poorly as to not have any manual controls, then some re-evaluation needs to occur. There's a reason that we have trained pilots that go through fairly extensive training on a particular aircraft (and are certified on only the particular plan/cockpit configuration that they fly regularly), is because they are supposed to be experts in what they do. If an electronics bug can cause a plane to fall from the sky, then the electronics have way too much control over the flaps, engines, rudder, and ailerons, and even if the computer is capable of making adjustments, the plane should still be manually controllable. I mean, what if lightning strikes a plane in the exact wrong place and it manages to cook the onboard computers?

Re:Not too far fetched.. (0, Redundant)

Valar (167606) | about 11 years ago | (#6963310)

At first when I saw Allah[0] I thought you were referencing the first element in an array of Allahs. Polytheism?

Re: Not too far fetched.. (1)

Black Parrot (19622) | about 11 years ago | (#6963316)


> No overt attack neccesary; he would flip a switch, sit back and look forward to his 70 virgins...

And the joke's on him, because the 70 virgins are male gorillas that never got any in their whole life since they weren't the alpha male of their pack.

Eternity can be a long, long time.

Re: Not too far fetched.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#6963342)

Just a little FYI, when you have to explain a joke, it is usually not funny.

A better attempt would have been "And what he doesn't know is all 70 of those virgins are men.."

fp faggots (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#6963127)

goatse and michael don't mix

Hope Ashcroft doesn't see this article (2, Funny)

setzman (541053) | about 11 years ago | (#6963128)

Anyone with a laptop=possible terrorist, subject to immense scrutiny and background check.

Mod Parent DOWN (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#6963168)

Incessant bickering about Ashcroft won't get rid of him, you moron.

Considering this is supposed to be a geek haven, there's a lot of STUPID people around.

Seconded? Offtopic this bitch.

Re:Hope Ashcroft doesn't see this article (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#6963233)

Interesting, if not slightly askew, point. However I would be remiss if I didn't mention how disgusting I think it is when you pull your penis out of Hemos' ass and he puts it in his mouth when you're about to cum. I mean, it's his OWN SHIT AND BLOOD he's putting in his mouth! Gross.

Re:Hope Ashcroft doesn't see this article (1)

mopslik (688435) | about 11 years ago | (#6963264)

Anyone with a laptop = possible terrorist

Especially with a case-mod like this [mini-itx.com]

.

Re:Hope Ashcroft doesn't see this article (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#6963374)

Every now and then I dream about sinking a modern computer into an AN/UYK-7 chassis, just for old time's sake, but then I think, naaah, that's stoopid.

This is exactly right. (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#6963134)

Just the other week we had the article on Slashdot about cell phones not working in planes.

And, after all, what's the big rush?

Planes are generally quiet places, where you can lie back, enjoy some wine, watch a movie in the front of your seat, have a wonderfully cooked meal.

I can even recline horizontally if I so choose.

What need do you have for electronics on that? I don't want a pager or a beeper or a celly going off in the middle of the air! Not to disturb my solitude!

And another thing, let's get rid of all these damn kids with gameboys.

Re:This is exactly right. (4, Informative)

duffbeer703 (177751) | about 11 years ago | (#6963226)

What airline to you fly?

The last plane I was flying coach the aircraft was a virtual cattle car. Most city busses have more room and are usually more comfortable than the vast majority of aircraft.

Re:This is exactly right. (1)

p4ul13 (560810) | about 11 years ago | (#6963297)

Planes are generally quiet places, where you can lie back, enjoy some wine, watch a movie in the front of your seat, have a wonderfully cooked meal. I can even recline horizontally if I so choose.

Not all of us fly first class....
I have never been able to attain anything close to horizontal in any of the commuter flights I've taken.

But wait - (4, Funny)

vasqzr (619165) | about 11 years ago | (#6963136)


70 virgins? Why don't they just enroll in college?

You get virgins, alcohol, [b]and[/b] meth.

Re:But wait - (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#6963153)

"70 virgins? Why don't they just enroll in college?

You get virgins, alcohol, [b]and[/b] meth."

uh...who wants virgins? No thanks!

MOD PARENT FUNNY (1)

Darth Fredd (663620) | about 11 years ago | (#6963182)

This is a joke on the muslim thing: if you die for allah, when you get to heaven you get 70 virgins..and since anyone who's screwing the planes systems must be a terrorist...they die for allah...and get 70 virgins.

Right. Well, I hope guys laugh now. I did. Especially when I saw "Score:0, Offtopic"

MOD PARENT INSIGHTFUL (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#6963217)

he is tottalllyllyly right.

and you slashdot queers suck balls.

Re:But wait - (0)

Walrus99 (543380) | about 11 years ago | (#6963210)

Is there any college in the U.S. with 70 virgins?

Re:Flamebait. (1)

botzi (673768) | about 11 years ago | (#6963281)

You'va obviously mistaken your question. So:
Is there any college in the U.S. with 70 virgins?

is actually:
Are there 70 virgins in all the colleges Worldwide?

See???
Is=>Are, any=>all and US=>Worldwide

Re: But wait - (5, Funny)

Black Parrot (19622) | about 11 years ago | (#6963293)


> Is there any college in the U.S. with 70 virgins?

Yes, but out of politeness we call them "engineering students" instead of "virgins".

Re: But wait - (2)

p4ul13 (560810) | about 11 years ago | (#6963335)

> Is there any college in the U.S. with 70 virgins?
Yes, but out of politeness we call them "engineering students" instead of "virgins".


and once you factor in how many of them are actually female; the stats look pretty sad.

Re:But wait - (0)

DrEldarion (114072) | about 11 years ago | (#6963343)

Not to mention the minor little detail that you don't have to die to get 'em.

-- Dr. Eldarion --

70 Virgins? Is Sex specified? (0)

Mr.Sharpy (472377) | about 11 years ago | (#6963353)

Hmmm, I wonder if the sex of these alleged virgins is specified. Imagine the horror of the deceased when they discover that in fact their 70 virgins are all middle aged, overweight former tech support guys named Phil with body odor problems. Muahahahahaha!

What about flight 93? (4, Funny)

sixteenraisins (67316) | about 11 years ago | (#6963137)

Weren't folks on that plane using cellphones with no apparent problem? And I've seen DVD players for rent in airports as well.

Forget about screening for bombs - it's even scarier to think that you can bring down an airliner with a Game Boy.

Re:What about flight 93? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#6963204)

Weren't folks on that plane using cellphones with no apparent problem?
And a lot of the time, people can walk away from a side-impact car crash unhurt. Would you volunteer to be in one? Just because the risk is small doesn't make it non-existent. Also, I think the passengers on that flight had slightly more worries than whether their cellphones would interfere with the radio.

Re:What about flight 93? (1)

duffbeer703 (177751) | about 11 years ago | (#6963252)

I don't think anyone was worried about flaky electronics when a bunch of arabs are in the process of crashing you into large buildings.

GNOME SUCKS! (-1, Offtopic)

anonymous coword (615639) | about 11 years ago | (#6963140)

Havoc pennington should have his "features" taken from his body! After all, nobody wants his "HIG"

C & H (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#6963149)

Ahh yes, modern air travel [ucomics.com] , don't trust it.

Re:C & H (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#6963326)

Holy obscure reference! Do you have a Calvin and Hobbes search engine? I mean now that I see the particular cartoon I remember it but damn if I would have come up with it off the top of my head.

Anecdotal evidence is always suspect (5, Interesting)

jbellis (142590) | about 11 years ago | (#6963151)

The only actual research I'm aware of on this is an FAA study from the '90s. This article [com.com] is a good summary: Cell phone use isn't banned by the FAA, but by the FCC in 1991, citing "cell phones' potential to interfere with ground-to-ground cellular transmission." Another web site [planwireless.com] explains, "at altitude, a cell phone will light up multiple cell towers and may cause the system to lock up." BS? The FAA is going to do another study [washingtonpost.com] and they don't seem too worried about "locking up the system."

Re:Anecdotal evidence is always suspect (2, Informative)

Serapth (643581) | about 11 years ago | (#6963261)

I cant help but feel this is another one of those "just in case" type ban's. As such, there is probrably no issues with using cell phones or laptops in an air plane... but since so much is at stake... we might as well ban them.

Sorta like how your supposed to turn off your cell phone when pumping gasoline. This is based of an urban legend that the electronic feedback of the phone is sufficent to ignite petrol fumes. Yet... still we have warnings at all pumps, even though there has *NEVER* been a fire based on cell phones at the gas stations.

I figure its one of those better safe then sorry type stances. Although... this particular case, pisses people off to no end. Thing is, last time I flew I was allowed to use my laptop, except during take-off and landing... so this may be a airline to airline based rule.

Re:Anecdotal evidence is always suspect (1)

warpSpeed (67927) | about 11 years ago | (#6963301)

Thing is, last time I flew I was allowed to use my laptop, except during take-off and landing... so this may be a airline to airline based rule.

This probably has more to do with needing to stow everything under your seat or in the overhead compartment duing these critical times of the flight, then with the EM interferance (I hope).

Re:Anecdotal evidence is always suspect (2, Informative)

EinarH (583836) | about 11 years ago | (#6963270)

I think that the "locking up the system problem" came from those times that mobile phone networks had reduced capacity.
For example if a Jumbojet with 40 passengers flew over a residentilal are before landing their phones could overwhelm the network.

I'm not sure about how CDMA handles this, but my (limited) knowledge about European GSM networks don't indicate that this is a problem.

Exactly (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#6963280)

the 9/11 terrorists KNEW that there was no safety-danger to their plans if everyone used their cellphones, this has ALWAYS been a telephone company thing and NOT a safety-thing. The airlines profit from forcing us all to use that piece of shit seatphone, and the telcos profit from not-having to make cellphone towers really work like they should and hand-off airplane calls like they hand-off car-calls. The fact that nobody questioned this airline-telco-bullshit post-9/11 is an indictment of "Fair and Balanced" journalism of all sorts.
me

Open souce businessmodel? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#6963152)

1) Do free stuff.
2) ?
3) Bring your home-grown electronic gadgets on the plane and use it for blackmailing for a couple of million bucks.
4) Profit!

Stupid question: (5, Insightful)

ivan256 (17499) | about 11 years ago | (#6963155)

"You've got to ask, do you want to get there, or do you want to use your laptop?"

Both. It's a million dollar aircraft, and the ticket is expensive. Figure out how to make it safe. When they find themselves asking questions like this, how can they wonder why they're having a hard time making money?

Re:Stupid question: (1)

jj_johny (626460) | about 11 years ago | (#6963243)

It's a million dollar aircraft,...

Yeah and most were designed in the 60s and 70s. Most built before cell phones, laptops and other electronics were built. If they can't get their damn movies to work right half the time, why do you trust that they understand the electronic device that you are bringing on the plane. There is plenty of stuff that I want the airlines to fix but I personally used to like the days when the plane was a time out for reading not just another work place.

Re:Stupid question: (2, Informative)

ninthwave (150430) | about 11 years ago | (#6963258)

If you add in the operating costs of the craft I do not say the tickets are expensive. But then right now in the United Kingdom there is a budget airline price war where before taxes you can get a 9 flight to Spain. When I lived in the states that would be the same as a $14 NYC flight to Miami. So it is all relative about it being expensive or not. And the taxes on top of that cost do not go to the aircraft operating costs.

Hemos personal interest in the issue (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#6963159)


He really want to know if he has to turn off the vibrator that he keeps crammed up his ass when he flies to San Fran for the Young, Gay, & Black conference.

Can't they insulate this stuff? (3, Insightful)

penginkun (585807) | about 11 years ago | (#6963172)

Can't they insulate all the sensitive equipment from the passenger section? Maybe have a layer of lead between the cockpit and the rest of the plane?

If things are really that bad, they're going to have to do something to address this, and soon. They need to harden the equipment against interference, and do it NOW.

Re:Can't they insulate this stuff? (1)

puppet10 (84610) | about 11 years ago | (#6963202)

Lead would be a bit overkill, conductive mylar or thin aluminum should be more than sufficient.

Re:Can't they insulate this stuff? (2, Funny)

whopis (465819) | about 11 years ago | (#6963228)

Can't they insulate all the sensitive equipment from the passenger section? Maybe have a layer of lead between the cockpit and the rest of the plane?

I think that there are easier ways of accomplishing that... after all, you are only talking about isolating electronics, not preventing superman from peering into the cockpit and seeing what color underwear the pilot wears...

Re:Can't they insulate this stuff? (4, Informative)

psyconaut (228947) | about 11 years ago | (#6963235)

See my other reply to someone asking this, it's not the cockput that's the issue...it's the wiring looms that run all over the aircraft that end up acting like RF antennas.

-psy

Re:Can't they insulate this stuff? (1)

dkf (304284) | about 11 years ago | (#6963359)

Sure, but why do they still have those wiring looms? Wouldn't they be better off putting in an on-plane network with a suitable protocol? Easier to shield, lower currents (i.e. fewer heating problems), and cheaper too. Or am I way off-base?

Re:Can't they insulate this stuff? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#6963249)

At leaast they can't ground it ;-). Lead? What are you on? Faraday cages are made of good conductors, i,e copper. But I don't know of good grounding is required to make the Faraday cage efficient.

Re:Can't they insulate this stuff? (1)

gilesjuk (604902) | about 11 years ago | (#6963262)

Planes are commercially driven, if they add lots of metal shielding then it might mean losing a few passengers.

They could however remove all the stupid magazines from the seat pockets and then insulate the electrics. This was always the joke about Concorde, they didn't armour the fuel tanks due to the extra weight, yet by removing the magazines and the kitchen they might have found the weight they needed.

Re:Can't they insulate this stuff? (1)

garns (318370) | about 11 years ago | (#6963311)

Yeah a layer of lead in a vehicle that is supposed to fly...

And how about holes in boats.

Man this is bullshit (1, Troll)

inteller (599544) | about 11 years ago | (#6963177)

If a fucking electronic dictionary can fuck up a plane then we need to get better hardened electronics in planes! I mean shit, what happens when a plane is struck by lightning? The pilot just gives up? Or hell just put a farraday cage around the cabin. Who gives a fuck if it costs more, they should have integrated this into airliner design a long time ago!

Re:Man this is bullshit (1)

psyconaut (228947) | about 11 years ago | (#6963219)

It's not actually the cockpit that's the issue....think about it, the wiring looms in aircraft (ever seen just how much cable is running around your average aircraft) act like by RF antennas.

There are definitely ways to achieve better RF immunity....but, alas, aircraft manufacturers (at least civillian) often do the bare minimum required by regulators (just like car manufacturers generally do).

-psy

Re:Man this is bullshit (2, Interesting)

inteller (599544) | about 11 years ago | (#6963260)

there is no point in talking about car manufacturers because we are talking about airplanes. If a plane breaks, you fall out of the sky and die. If a car breaks, you are either late for work, or worst case you slide around on the ground, some airbags go off, and you are taken and treated at a hospital. People can't just walk away from a plane! Unless they want to start giving everyone a parachute, they better start making shit tougher! Making electronics this way is selfish and arrogant!

Re:Man this is bullshit (1)

psyconaut (228947) | about 11 years ago | (#6963336)

I was drawing an analogy that just about all vehicle manufacturers do the bare minimum to meet regulations (and why would a business do anything more, unless it could be parlayed into a feature?).

Incidentally, cars like the new BMW 7 series or Audi A8 have much more in common with aircrafty control systems than you'd think....and losing control of your BMW 760i on the autobahn at 200km/h because Dieter is playing on his Gamebody is also a concern ;-)

-psy

Re:Man this is bullshit (4, Insightful)

hughk (248126) | about 11 years ago | (#6963307)

Um, during flight test, they have serious hardware onboard up to and including Sun workstations. These aren't known to be particularly quiet, RF wise. The wiring looms for the sensors radiate too. The RF from the measurement technology doesn't give problems during flight test otherwise the plane wouldn't get certification.

I have a horrible impression that the use by passengers of high tech equipment is coincident with higher sophistication in the avionics and that software bugs are being misinterpreted by flight crew.

Re:Man this is bullshit (1)

psyconaut (228947) | about 11 years ago | (#6963373)

Well, you're aware that there are aircraft that run Windows, right? (I wish I were joking...I can remember if it's the 777 or one of the Airbus models).

I was delayed on the apron once while flight crew rebooted...again, I am NOT joking.

-psy

Re:Man this is bullshit (1)

godders (517242) | about 11 years ago | (#6963240)

dude an airliner is one great big faraday cage..

Re:Man this is bullshit (1)

thejuggler (610249) | about 11 years ago | (#6963257)

The planes are safe from lightning. They get struck all the time and go on eiwth out problems. It's only a $10 pocket dictionary that you have to fear.

How long before someone writes a program for a lap top that creates controlled interferance so they can fly the plane with their arrow keys?

Wireless keyboard (5, Funny)

jargoone (166102) | about 11 years ago | (#6963186)

A co-worker was using a wireless keyboard for his PDA, and was told by the flight attendant to not use it during flight. It was infrared, not RF. He tried to explain this to her, but she didn't get it, which is understandable, most non-geeks wouldn't. Solution: tape a piece of wire to it, and to his PDA, while in flight. :-)

Re:Wireless keyboard (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#6963325)

Almost all modern electronic devices have some sort of circuitry that produces RF interference, even the infared keyboard. This is what they're worried about. There's lots of wiring throughout the plane that acts like an antenna and using an electronic device onboard can introduce interference into the the plane's electronic systems causing the problems that were mentioned in the article.

So why don't these devices intefere with.. (1)

73bgt (706638) | about 11 years ago | (#6963189)

each other if they are kicking out all this radiation. The real reason they don't want you to use this stuff is so that your hands are free for their overpriced coffee and sandwiches.

Re:So why don't these devices intefere with.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#6963241)

They do interfere with each other. Stick a mobile phone next to your hifi or PC speakers and wait for an incoming call. Now imagine that happening during instructions to the pilot from the ground..."Pilot, please move to BEEP BEEP feet immediately to avoid collision..."

Re:So why don't these devices intefere with.. (1)

green pizza (159161) | about 11 years ago | (#6963299)

The real reason they don't want you to use this stuff is so that your hands are free for their overpriced coffee and sandwiches.

What airline do you fly? I don't recall ever having to pay for food. Sure, if you divide the total number of calories by the price of the ticket, it becomes a pretty expensive meal... but in general, the food is "free" with purchase of ticket. And, every now and then, the alcohol is also "free" for we peons in coach as well.

Re:So why don't these devices intefere with.. (1)

banzai51 (140396) | about 11 years ago | (#6963312)

My car, computer, and a whole range of electronic devices seem to work fine with all this other stuff around.

Maybe they should do some relieable testing rather than blame a convienent scapegoat. What would scare you more, the fact that these devices MIGHT be interferring or the fact that the airlines don't seem to want to find out for sure? Imagine if testing comes back negative. Then what?

Benefits of laptops (2, Funny)

Dark Lord Seth (584963) | about 11 years ago | (#6963195)

"You've got to ask, do you want to get there, or do you want to use your laptop?"

Well, let me put it this way; do you want to spend several hours in a plane with a possible nudge to some direction or go through several hours of terror as yuppies break down and explode in front of you because they can't read their bloody email, can't act interesting by talking on their mobile nor can they look up contact they'll never meet on their PDAs. Well?

Enough! (2, Insightful)

NDPTAL85 (260093) | about 11 years ago | (#6963334)

We yuppies are busy and important people. We most certainly WILL be meeting those contacts in our PDA's!

Whats with all the anti-yuppie sentiment anyways? Previous generations busted their asses to send their kids to college so they could become successful young people and when their kids end up actually succeeding they're instantly hated? What gives?

Air Certified (5, Interesting)

!the!bad!fish! (704825) | about 11 years ago | (#6963197)

Why not test the device on the ground if the passenger wishes to use it in the air? Busy types will pay a premium for equipment certified to be safe and allowed for aircraft use.

Re:Air Certified (1)

warpSpeed (67927) | about 11 years ago | (#6963347)

Perhaps they should certify the planes once and for all instead of these cockamamy restrictions on common protable electronic devices....

Is it really impossible... (1)

aidfarh (573967) | about 11 years ago | (#6963203)

to make the airplane instruments interference-proof? I mean, really, is it a matter of cost, or is there a technical reason? Can't they make the important instruments lined with lead or something?

Uneasy? (2, Insightful)

jargoone (166102) | about 11 years ago | (#6963218)

but the article certainly makes me a little uneasy about modern air travel

Why? The article says the pilots are used to it and know how to filter it out. Plane crashes are very rare, and the ones that do happen are nearly always related to either weather or non-electronic equipment failure.

So if it's the case that (3, Interesting)

BigGar' (411008) | about 11 years ago | (#6963220)

consumer electronic devices can cause problems with an aircraftssensitive equipment, couldn't it also be the possiblity that the planes own electronics are causing sporadic problems? Why the hell is suddley my game boy that caused the plane to crash, just because they don't have any other explanation.

They need to sort out a few things... (2, Insightful)

Australopithegeek (147578) | about 11 years ago | (#6963237)

In one case last year, the ground proximity warning system in a 34-seater plane suddenly went berserk even though the plane - which was just 22 kilometres south-west of Sydney - had levelled off at 5000 feet.


I think their problem is a bit deeper than it seems...

Re:They need to sort out a few things... (1)

AlecC (512609) | about 11 years ago | (#6963339)

If you think this is bad, you don't know the aviation industry. Thr aircraft speed was probably given in knots, fuel loaded in either pounds or kilograms (and they do get confused)but consumed in litres/hr. And altitudes in different ranges differ: something like under 10,000 ft, thery are measured in above local ground level, over 10,000 feet measured from sea level (This may not be right, but it is something equally confusing).

Seems funny only on planes (5, Insightful)

benpeter (699832) | about 11 years ago | (#6963245)

I've always wondered why electronic equipment on planes was so much more sensitive then the regular stuff we have down on earth. I mean I can use my mobile phone near my computer and it doesn't lock up and vice versa, turning on my computer doesn't exactly make my mobile phone calls drop out. Electronic devices are specifically designed to withstand a certain amount of interferance, did somebody just forget to do that for plane electronics?

Just a note, airlines make money from people using in-flight phones, it's not in their economic interest to have people using their mobile phones.

Electronics (3, Insightful)

TWX (665546) | about 11 years ago | (#6963259)

Now, I know that not everything is as ideal a the FCC Part 15 rules are supposed to ensure, but really, do laptops really put out that much interference in the form of radio waves? How about mp3 players, or calculators, or e-book readers? I guess that what I'm wondering is how these devices are considered Part 15 if they wreak havoc upon aircraft electronics. Yes, I can see how an actual emitter, like a wireless ethernet device, a bluetooth device, or that sort could potentially manifest, but those devices, or their functionality within a larger unit could be fairly easily detected, requiring the passenger to disable the feature, or failing that, not use the equipment in flight.

Beyond that, if a Part 15 device is that big of a problem, perhaps the FCC should start testing things.

T'was ever thus, (2, Insightful)

Crus7y (597424) | about 11 years ago | (#6963272)

... since the earliest days of aviation radio navigation aids. AM and FM broadcast receivers have oscillators in them that can be tiny transmitters. Depending on design, they can interfere with the VOR, localizer, glideslope and ADF navigation receivers.. and only a few feet away from their antennas. Add in the intentional transmitters on cellphones, the digital radiation from laptops with wireless links accidentally turned on close to the GPS and DME frequencies and there's reason to be concerned.

Terrorists win? (4, Insightful)

warpSpeed (67927) | about 11 years ago | (#6963274)

If the critical functioning systems of a plane are suseptable to the EM radiation from a computer or a cell phone, how long until a terrorist creates a cell phone jamming device to "jam" the planes avionics? Should they consider shielding the avionics like they did the cockpit door?

Or is this just more of the same: "don't use your cell phone on the plane, use the convinient onboard phones we've installed, or the terrorists win (because it cuts into the bottom line)"?

If you do not fix the problem at the root, you leave yourself open to other, possibly larger, problems.

Damn alcoholics (1)

SeXy_Red (550409) | about 11 years ago | (#6963284)

Always blaming there problems on everyone else :P

Software the problem? (1)

slashdog (256301) | about 11 years ago | (#6963287)

Avionics software is supposed to be way ahead of your everyday software package in terms of reliability, but sometimes I wonder if the pilots are mis-identifying software errors. Maybe they are blaming it on the first thing that comes to mind, and not realizing the software has freaked.

Marshall Brain's flawed robotic future (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#6963288)

What, he thinks planes will fly themselves? Why, they almost fly themselves now, don't they? Yeah, right.

The reason we still have airplane pilots, is when something minor screws up, a human can usually recover from the screwup. And something is always screwing up. You never hear about it, because nothing bad happens, and besides, they want you to keep buying plane tickets. What you don't know can't hurt you.

I can't wait for the first robotic jetliner, and the spectacular disaster just waiting to happen.

This is nothing new. As long as the pilots get their sleep, odds are you'll make it to wherever you're going.

If there are problems with the planes, fix them. (4, Insightful)

FleshMuppet (544521) | about 11 years ago | (#6963291)

Let's face it, airplanes generally last 30 years or more before they are retired. Now, I don't put too much stock in a bunch of non-engineer pilots blaming random problems, but if there are problems with these on-board systems and electronic interferance, they need to be fixed, because electronic devices are not going to become less scarce.

We routinely hear stories on the biomedical front about how embedded electrical devices are solving problems that traditional medicine couldn't, or didn't solve well. Since the Jarvis heart, biomedical devices have bee cropping up at an increasing pace. I don't think you can ask the guy with a life-sustaining device embedded in his body to turn it off for the flight.

Add to this wearable computer technology, RFID tags everywhere, smart consumables, etc., and it is very possible that in 30 years it won't be possible to just tell people to turn their devices off. If there is a problem, fix it. If there isn't, stop scaring people.

Yesssss (1)

r00zky (622648) | about 11 years ago | (#6963294)

It appears pilots are pretty much accustomed to handling weird problems with equipment, which they attribute to passengers' portable devices.

Then equipment is DEFECTIVE.
Replace it and/or isolate it properly.

LAPTOPS ARE SAFER THAN SANDNIGGERS (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#6963313)

Suspect (4, Insightful)

Dan East (318230) | about 11 years ago | (#6963314)

How could a device like a Spellchecker possibly emit enough RF to interfere with avionics dozens of feet away? If the avionics were really that sensitive then planes would be crashing every time solar activity increases or lighting strikes within miles of the plane.

An airport near here in Roanoke requires a landing approach that takes the plane very close to a couple mountains, the tops of which are literally covered with antenna blasting high power RF across the entire radio spectrum. Yet miraculously that doesn't interfere with the avionics.

Just because the problem went away about the same time the passenger turned off their spellchecker does not prove that was the problem.

What concerns me the most is that these hundreds of problems have been chalked up to consumer devices, when it could be legitimate problems internal to the avionics. If the are simply written off to external causes then the real problems will not be corrected.

Dan East

Disruption Devices (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#6963329)

Crude EM disruption devices are trival to build. It's one of the basic lessons in the Radio Shack Electronics sets they used to sell with springs and wires for each component in a fairly hardy box. Of course, the set used a relay to create a spark gap, then it just needed a little amplification. A spark gap would be unwieldy and make a lot of noise, but it's an easy leap to a solid state device.

Odd electronics should not be allowed as a carry on. They should go in a shielded luggage compartment, or be required to be in a shielded case to prevent such attempts.

Speaking of which, in 1996 when TWA800 went down I was going out of La Guardia the next morning. I figured it would be real fun, so I showed up hours early. I arrived to see three times the number of normal baggage handlers, and they all have shiney black shoes. There are "new" check in computers being manned by the shiney black shoe folks and it's taking over an hour to get "checked" in per person. They are really giving me a hassle, when all of a sudden a hand signal is given and the baggage handlers form a circle around a confused fellow holding a brief case. The biggest "baggage" handler says, "Drop the briefcase", followed by, "Sir, what is in the brief case?"

Then four of the handlers drop in a group and open the case and begin looking at it's contents. It's got four shiny cylinders, a lot of wiring attached to what appears to be a timer. The gentleman begins stammering. They baggage handlers repeat over and over, louder and louder, "SIR WHAT IS THIS THING!?".

As he continues to stammer, I lean over and say, "Sales pitch; make it a good one."

Something clicks in his addled brain and he begins to recite his canned pitch about plastic injection molds. I was relieved, as were several of the baggage handlers as he smoothly attempted to sell us plastic injection molds and controllers. He was led off quietly for further, "inspection".

That was a hair raising experience.

Feh. (1)

Black Parrot (19622) | about 11 years ago | (#6963349)


I thought we had solved this problem with the "in-flight reboot" technology.

No Alarm: GPS (2, Interesting)

skajake (613518) | about 11 years ago | (#6963354)

The reason the interference is not important: The Radio Navigation systems that are impacted by the intereference are no longer used to navigate and control the plane via autopilot. Although not entirely trusted by the FAA, the GPS is the guiding navigation system in most planes. GPS has no tranciever, and therefore is not affected by radio intereference

Product that needs to be invented in 21st century (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#6963355)

In this century, I think one of the most influencial things that needs to be invented is a better type of shielding for electronics. And this wouldn't just help for airplanes, space craft really need it to. I don't know how true it is, but I've heard that space craft can't use densely packed processors because the electromagnetic radiation from space interferes with the extremely small sized transistors.

Truth, paranoia and wi-fi (2, Interesting)

Channard (693317) | about 11 years ago | (#6963357)

Reading this brought to mind the whole 'Cellphones causing sparks in petrol stations' which seems to be largely myth - http://www.truthorfiction.com/rumors/cellgas.htm yet has been perpetuated greatly even to the point of supposedly 'official' notices appearing at petrol stations.

Whether or not the laptop/plane connection is true I don't know but I'd feel less safe flying with a modern laptop than an older model, largely due to the presence of WiFi ports. My paranoia is better fueled by the apparent ability of a laptop to transmit/receive via wi-fi than by some field emitted by laptops that supposedly messes with flight controls.

The crux of the problem... (4, Interesting)

Zocalo (252965) | about 11 years ago | (#6963375)

...seems to be whose equipment it is you are using, and more importantly, whether the airline can make any money off it. "Your cell phone? You can't use that on the plane sir - it might cause a crash, but you can use our ludicrously expensive 'AirPhone' instead." "WiFi laptop? Oh, no sir, might crash the plane, but we do plan to offer computing in our ludicrously expensive first and business class compartments real soon now!" And despite this there are plans to fly planes via PDA according to a recent Slashdot story. It's one or the other guys!

Actually, it may not just be money and the aviation industry, I suspect there is also an issue with the herd "I've been told, but did not question" mentality too. I walked into a hospital reception recently while finishing off a mobile phone call, fully intending to switch it off while actually visiting. I was asked to finish my call outside by a nurse with a mobile phone clipped to her belt, it was switched on and presumably there to receive calls. When I raised this it transpired that it was "hospital issue and therefore OK", yeah, right, whatever...

OK, that's two points, but can you even have two cru... WTF is the plural of "crux" anyway, which I guess answers *that* question. ;)

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