×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

Study Says Cell Phones Can Interfere With Planes

CmdrTaco posted more than 8 years ago | from the telco-conspiracy-is-way-more-fun dept.

469

3x37 writes "The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette website reports a study by Cargenie Mellon University researchers found that cell phones do interfere with airplane cockpit instruments. The researchers came to this takeaway conclusion: "devices like cell phones 'will, in all likelihood, someday cause an accident by interfering with critical cockpit instruments such as GPS receivers.'""

cancel ×
This is a preview of your comment

No Comment Title Entered

Anonymous Coward 1 minute ago

No Comment Entered

469 comments

Thank the gods (1)

Ixne (599904) | more than 8 years ago | (#14826440)

Maybe now we won't have to worry about ceaseless cellphone blather during the entire flight...

Not surprising (1)

carguy84 (897052) | more than 8 years ago | (#14826579)

My Nextel interferes with everything. I can tell if my phone is going to ring seconds before it actually rings cause all the speakers near me go crazy.

yeah! (2, Funny)

BitterAndDrunk (799378) | more than 8 years ago | (#14826647)

My RAZR does that too!
For a while I thought I was a psyker and was actually utilizing precog, and it was manifesting as "speaker noise". But then a coworker said she heard it too, and she's so dumb she can't be psychic. It's debateable whether she's even sentient, if you ask me. Which you didn't. But you were going to. Hey, maybe I'm psychic!

Re:Not surprising (1)

cronot (530669) | more than 8 years ago | (#14826668)

I believe this is not exclusive to NexTel. At least here in Brazil, every GSM phone that I had contact causes some kind of interference with speakers. Mine does. The interference is not loud on the speakers, but it is much louder and annoying when I'm using headphones, and is exactly how you describe: right before the phone is going to ring. I can hear interference when I turn the phone on or off as well.

Re:Not surprising (1)

Nodar (821035) | more than 8 years ago | (#14826704)

My PC Speakers used to make a very loud static noise, now I have my TV on my desk immediatly to my left, and the picture on it actually goes out for a second or so abotu 2 seconds before my phone rings if I have my phone on my desk.

Re:Thank the gods (1)

xTantrum (919048) | more than 8 years ago | (#14826822)

unless they have the razr v3i which has airplane mode and enables you to use most of the features without and radio interference...so they say...i haven't tried it yet, but i will next week and i'll get back with a detailed summary of my experiences with it....yeah right!!

GPS? (1)

jstroebele (596628) | more than 8 years ago | (#14826449)

I'm not a piolt but I know a few, and GPS is just one of many systems they use. Most insturments in an airplane have at least one backup on board. Incase of GPS failure, there is always IFR, etc..

Re:GPS? (1)

roman_mir (125474) | more than 8 years ago | (#14826535)

I'm not a piolt but I know a few, and GPS is just one of many systems they use. Most insturments in an airplane have at least one backup on board. Incase of GPS failure, there is always IFR, etc.. - what if GPS does not fail but simply shows incorrect information and the pilot doesn't know that there is in fact an error?

Re:GPS? (0)

toggles (560010) | more than 8 years ago | (#14826602)

Pilots should not be using GPS except as a backup to other information, if you're on an aircraft where the pilot is using GPS as a primary source of information you are in a _lot_ of trouble, get off the plane! GPS is "selectivly available" that means whenever the people in charge of it decide to, they can _change_ the acuracy of the GPS or even _turn it off_, where is you're pilot now? Turning it off isn't so bad, it's obvious, but changing the acuracy could really cause havoc if GPS were a primary source of location information.

Cargenie Mellon? (1, Funny)

bodrell (665409) | more than 8 years ago | (#14826450)

Cargenie. Sounds like something that can be an air-freshener, a CD-player, and a beverage cooler all at once.

Re:Cargenie Mellon? (3, Funny)

Intron (870560) | more than 8 years ago | (#14826781)

Obviously a typo. It should be referring to the Cargenie Melon, a tropical fruit first imported to this country for the Great Pittsburgh Exhibition of 1899. It escaped into the steam tunnels of a nearby university where it has been flourishing ever since.

Shanannagins! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14826452)

I call Shanannagins!

Good! (3, Insightful)

xTMFWahoo (470364) | more than 8 years ago | (#14826456)

All I need when I'm trying to sleep on my flight is some yahoo yelling on his/her cell phone. I think people can spend just a few hours away from thier cell.

you don't fly in the states, do you (1)

BitterAndDrunk (799378) | more than 8 years ago | (#14826770)

Cell phones have to be turned off for the duration of the flight. Nobody's yacking until you land, and then there's a veritable symphony of cell phones turning on.

Hmmm... (3, Interesting)

PrinceAshitaka (562972) | more than 8 years ago | (#14826458)

I would really like to actually see this study. The researchers go so far as to say that in the future a crash will be caused by some portable electronics. There must be a way to engineer around this. They not only name cells as a culprit but also laptops and other electronics. How much EM radiation do these devices really produce? It can't be that much. How sensitive are these GPS systems in the planes. Is the GPS system the only affected system? By how much is the GPS system affected. Does it show an error of a dozen meters of a dozen kilometers or does it simply not work at all? To a certain point I understand banning cell phones, but other electronic devices?

Re:Hmmm... (3, Informative)

Mark Programmer (228585) | more than 8 years ago | (#14826703)

According to Carnegie Mellon's alumni page (http://www.epp.cmu.edu/httpdocs/people/alumni.htm l [cmu.edu]), G. William Strauss's graduate thesis was "Portable electronic devices onboard commercial aircraft: Assessing the risks." Published 2005.

Any CMU students willing to use their library access and a photocopier for the expansion of human knowledge before the IEEE article is published in March?

I always wonder... (1)

C10H14N2 (640033) | more than 8 years ago | (#14826782)


How much similar EM radiation is coming off the plane itself and all its integral electronics?

I had this happen in a hospital waiting room years ago. I knew my battery was shot, so I asked at reception if I could plug in somewhere. "Oh, no, this is a HOSPITAL. We have VERY sensitive equipment in here. We can't have computers running." I sort of chuckled and said "yes, while the first two are true, uhm, [pointing to the several commodity computers on the desk, complete with massive CRTs], what are those strange devices right there? I bet this hospital has LOTS of those." They got in a complete huff and stood their ground, "just because, we just can't."

With the amount of EM radiation surrounding your average airport and with landing being the absolute most critical point for this equipment, how the hell can they certify landing-via-GPS if the radiation from a fricken laptop could be catastrophic? If true, the market for backpack EMP weapons is going to skyrocket.

re: all electronic devices (1)

BitterAndDrunk (799378) | more than 8 years ago | (#14826804)

My assumption has always been that the electronic devices are a distraction, and therefore need to be turned off in case of any sort of emergency announcement by pilots or stewardesses.

I.e. it's not that they're interfering with the instruments, it's that they're making you unable to hear announcements during the two most dangerous parts of a flight.

Re:Hmmm... (1)

massivefoot (922746) | more than 8 years ago | (#14826954)

How much EM radiation do these devices really produce? It can't be that much.

It's obviously much greater for a mobile phone than other electronic devices, but a laptop/gaming handheld with wireless technology could still produce a significant amount.

Is the GPS system the only affected system?

Almost certainly not. I suspect GPS was mentioned because it's the only technology most readers would understand. It's not legal to navigate solely by GPS, and the modile phone ban has certainly been part of UK aviation law long before GPS navigation was common, however the air law manual still cites the reason for the ban as "interference with naviagtion equipment". Therefore I'd guess it's possible for it to interfere with at least one of VOR, VDF or DME.

Does it show an error of a dozen meters of a dozen kilometers or does it simply not work at all?

Well the accuracy of GPS is about 10-15 meters, so dozens of meters will not be a huge error relative to its unsual accuracy.

To a certain point I understand banning cell phones, but other electronic devices?

It's unlikely that other electonic devices will be banned. The aritcle stated that they can only be used once the plane has climbed to its cruising altitude. At this point the flight crew would normally be navigating along an airway using VOR, so small interferences from electronic devices should not be too serious.

And so can... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14826459)

...toaster ovens 10 miles away. But *DO* they? Absolutely not. The radiation just isn't enough. My GF's vibrator's EMF interferes with my brainwaves, but it isn't enough to actually do anything bad to me.

Useful! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14826463)

I'm sorry, but how are cell-phones useful 30,000 feet in the air again?

Re:Useful! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14826512)

30,000ft ~= 6mi of unobstructed RF transmission. The reason cell towers are so close is that they are mounted relatively low.

Re:Useful! (1)

'nother poster (700681) | more than 8 years ago | (#14826599)

Actually one of the main reasons cell towers are so close is thet each tower has a limited number of concurrent calls they can handle.

Re:Useful! (1)

TripMaster Monkey (862126) | more than 8 years ago | (#14826523)


They aren't. [physics911.ca]

Re:Useful! (1)

rbannon (512814) | more than 8 years ago | (#14826702)

Yes, this is really a story that refuses to go away. At first I bought the whole story about this rogue flight, but upon closer inspection it appears that the US Government was involved in this 911 incident in a rather deceptive manner.

Re:Useful! (1)

Zontar_Thing_From_Ve (949321) | more than 8 years ago | (#14826958)

To be honest with you, I have always wondered if it was even possible to make a call from a cell phone while in the air on an airplane, but I would prefer to have evidence from a site other than some crackpot "The US government deliberately caused 9/11!" website.

Re:Useful! (1)

CockMonster (886033) | more than 8 years ago | (#14826953)

(GSM) Mobile phones have a maximum transmission radius of 35km. I believe it's the speed of the plane that hinders a consistent connections being made, not the altitude.

CarGenie research (1)

digitaldc (879047) | more than 8 years ago | (#14826468)

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette website reports a study by Cargenie Mellon University researchers found that cell phones do interfere with airplane cockpit instruments.

The CarGenie researchers also found that they interfere with garage door openers as well.

Does This Mean We're Authorized to Slap the Morons (1)

aquatone282 (905179) | more than 8 years ago | (#14826470)

. . . who insist on using their cellphones after they've been directed not to?

Re:Does This Mean We're Authorized to Slap the Mor (1)

failure-man (870605) | more than 8 years ago | (#14826573)

Doubtful, but I would think that they could face confiscation by the crew and cops on the ground for it if anyone wanted to get serious.

Re:Does This Mean We're Authorized to Slap the Mor (1)

'nother poster (700681) | more than 8 years ago | (#14826648)

No, they could face arrest on federal charges, in the U.S., for failure to follow the directions of a flight crew in the execution of their duties.

VOIP over WiFi (1)

pablo_max (626328) | more than 8 years ago | (#14826480)

They should can just let you use VOIP via wifi enabled phones...then the problem is solved. Your not blasting out 850/900/1800/1900MHz. (2100 for some UMTS bands).
If they were testing UMTS(WCDMA), I have also seen that these phone really do have a lot more interferece.

Besides,
have any of you ever turned on your mobile at 30k feet to see if you would get a signal? I have, and I didnt. Much of the western US has no coverage anyhow. In the cities sure, but planes tend to take routes over mountains and what not, so there are not a lot of towers around anyhow.

'Consideration'? (1)

TripMaster Monkey (862126) | more than 8 years ago | (#14826482)


The findings come as the Federal Communications Commission is considering lifting the ban on the use of cell phones during flight.

Why would the FCC 'consider' lifting this ban? If technologies like AirCell [aircell.com] are involved, cell calls from airplanes are completely safe. If not, however, there's no point in lifting the ban, as an unassisted cellphone call has an extremely poor chance [physics911.ca] of getting through above 2000 feet (which would be during landings and takeoffs...precisely when you cell calls can be most hazardous).

Either way, there doesn't seem to be much room for 'consideration'. Either AirCell is used, in which case there is no safety issue, or not, in which case cell calls are both hazardous and nigh-imposible.

Someone usually forgets to turn it off (1)

sdo1 (213835) | more than 8 years ago | (#14826488)

On most every flight I've been on recently, I can recall at least one wayward cell phone ringing by someone who has forgotten to turn their phone off.

That most large commercial flights are probably carrying some number of cell phones that are turned on, and that there doesn't appear to be a change in the number of airline incidents as the number of cell phones has increased, indicates to me that the study is probably flawed.

-S

Re:Someone usually forgets to turn it off (1)

drewzhrodague (606182) | more than 8 years ago | (#14826660)

I just turn the ringer off, and leave my phone on. In fact, if I have a laptop with me, I usually leave it on in my bag with netstumbler [stumbler.net] running. I always have my GPS with me -- on and next to the window (I've even taped it to the window on some trips).

It would be of poor design to make the airplanes' electronics easily interferable, and if that is the case, then they shouldn't leave the ground in the first place. If I can bring a plan down while snapping pictures with my camera phone, the TSA has far larger issues than pissed-off foreign militants -- everyday American consumers.

Re:Someone usually forgets to turn it off (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14826855)

I just turn the ringer off, and leave my phone on. In fact, if I have a laptop with me, I usually leave it on in my bag with netstumbler running. I always have my GPS with me -- on and next to the window (I've even taped it to the window on some trips).

Don't forget to pack your parachute.

Re:Someone usually forgets to turn it off (1)

hal9000(jr) (316943) | more than 8 years ago | (#14826886)

I usually leave it on in my bag with netstumbler running. I always have my GPS with me -- on and next to the window (I've even taped it to the window on some trips).

Of first, why? Second, what kind of GPS you using? My Garmin GPSMap76 won't even get a lock or loses lock once we are zipping along at 400+ MP/H.

Extreme conclusion from "maybe" study (1)

jgercken (314042) | more than 8 years ago | (#14826497)

Why not prohibit cell phones in any condition other than cruising? Certainly here, a temporary glitch in the gps system isn't going to cause a crash. If problems (or the potential for one) arises, the Captain can instruct people to shut them off.

um what? (1)

tomstdenis (446163) | more than 8 years ago | (#14826501)

No way.

I go on a road trip with three phones around me (not all mine) and a Garmin GPS and it works just fine.

you're telling me that a multi-million dollar instrument panel is more vulnerable than a 350$ garmin GPS I bought at walmart? ...

Plus they FLY THROUGH areas of strong RF radiation all the time. From cell towers to AM/FM broadcasts to something we in the industry like to call ***RADAR***.

It's just a load of bullshit for three reasons

1. They want you to use the expensive inflight phone
2. It annoys others on the plane
3. In the event of an accident you're phone, laptop, cd player, gameboy, etc is a nice loose projectile.

Tom

Re:um what? (1)

kimvette (919543) | more than 8 years ago | (#14826604)

The problem is not the GPS receiver, but with improper antenna installation or a faulty cable. Your handheld GPS won't be connected with worn/frayed shielding, and the antenna won't have been damaged by clueless ground crews.

Re:um what? (1)

tomstdenis (446163) | more than 8 years ago | (#14826653)

Perhaps, but then the real problem is the planes are not maintained as much as they should be. Or not built as they should be.

I agree phones should be off during the flight but mostly because they're projectiles and because it's annoying.

Personally the only time I'm even remotely "weary" during a flight is takeoff. After that the rest including landing is fine with me.

Tom

Re:um what? (1)

kimvette (919543) | more than 8 years ago | (#14826978)

{
I agree phones should be off during the flight but mostly because they're projectiles and because it's annoying.
}

By that token so should books, pens, pencils, notepads, laptops, cameras, drinks, food, forks. . . eh, you get the idea.

Re:um what? (1)

Catbeller (118204) | more than 8 years ago | (#14826624)

"3. In the event of an accident you're phone, laptop, cd player, gameboy, etc is a nice loose projectile."

What about the two hundred 250 pound passengers that aren't strapped in? People, whether the vehicle is a plane or a car, never consider themselves the deadliest projectiles. I always belt up during the entire flight, as much as possible, anyway. A good reason to strap in a baby, other than the baby's safety, is that it become a twenty pound cannonball during an accident.

I frightened myself on a bus the other day by imagining the giganormous woman in front of me carreening into me at 45 miles an hour if the bus had had to stop suddenly. Ow.

Re:um what? (1)

tomstdenis (446163) | more than 8 years ago | (#14826684)

Yeah that too. When I can (I'm not what you call a small dude and planes aren't made for normal sized people anyways) i always leave it on for the entire flight no matter if it's 30mins of 8 hours.

though I've been in seats with a 12" seat belt (e.g. ridiculously short). I think honestly they have no standards. I've been on flights with huge seat belts that even I can tighten up a good 6" or so (recalling I'm a big dude...).

KLM though (dutch) are the worse for both space, seating and seatbelts. Their inflight movie selection is horrible too :-) United is decent I guess.

Tom

Re:um what? (1)

drewzhrodague (606182) | more than 8 years ago | (#14826697)

If you're in a plane, and 250lb people start to become projectiles, you have other things to worry about -- like the ground.

Re:um what? (1)

Intron (870560) | more than 8 years ago | (#14826939)

"Turbulence. Solar radiation heats the earth's crust, warm air rises, cool air descends, Turbulence. I don't like that."

The overstuffed compartments directly over our heads are more likely to injure you. I've seen those pop open on bumpy flights.

Re:um what? (1)

FSWKU (551325) | more than 8 years ago | (#14826739)

However, they said their data support the conclusion that use of devices like cell phones "will, in all likelihood, someday cause an accident by interfering with critical cockpit instruments such as GPS receivers."
Since when is GPS a "critical" cockpit system? Is it nice to have as a supplement to your standard instruments? Yes. However, any pilot who relies completely on it shouldn't be responsible for the lives of 200+ people. GPS is there to make things easier for the pilot, but they should ALWAYS have the skills to fall back to altimeter, airspeed indicator, artificial horizon, compass, and navigational radios.

I'm with the other poster in the thought that it's all just trying to scare you enough that you're willing to pay $2-$3/minute for the phones built into the seats.

Re:um what? (2, Interesting)

DieByWire (744043) | more than 8 years ago | (#14826940)

I go on a road trip with three phones around me (not all mine) and a Garmin GPS and it works just fine.

So what? A lot of people smoke and don't get lung cancer. Your few hours of sporadically monitored GPS performance don't mean anything statistically.

They want you to use the expensive inflight phone

The inflight phones were removed from our fleet years ago.

It annoys others on the plane

True, but you don't need RF studies to prove that.

In the event of an accident you're phone, laptop, cd player, gameboy, etc is a nice loose projectile.

What does this have to do with RF? That's why your supposed to stow your carry-ons for takeoff and landing, the most likely time for an accident.

GPS is just one of many nav instruments in the airplane, and for all but a handful of airplanes and approaches, is not the primary nav signal used for the last few thousand feet (the ILS is.)

Over the years, we've had several anomalous nav indications that were cleared up after flight attendants had all passengers shut down electronic devices. Proof? No - but enough to keep us all suspicious.

Re:um what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14826972)

It maybe that the EM waves from ground based radar, satellites and other forms of communication have low enough signal strengths that they don't interfere with the plane. However, a cell phone is more than a passive receiver, it is also a transmitter. Having the transmitter in such close proximity to the plane may have something to do with it.

Ever put your cell phone near your speakers? It can make one hell of a racket. You can tell by the rise and fall of the static when the phone is communicating with the cell towers, even when its not receiving any calls.

The three reasons you list do seem like higher priority reasons to curb in flight cell usage though.

I've had it up to here with your rules! (1)

phlegmofdiscontent (459470) | more than 8 years ago | (#14826504)

From TFA:

"And despite the ban on cell phone use during flights, the researchers discovered that on average one to four cell phone calls are made from every commercial flight in the northeast United States."

There's always someone who thinks the rules don't apply to them. Even if there wasn't an interference issue, I'd still advocate a cell-phone ban on planes. Who wants to sit next to someone blathering away for an entire flight (and you know there would be people who would do that)?

Re:I've had it up to here with your rules! (1)

tomstdenis (446163) | more than 8 years ago | (#14826526)

1 in 4? I've been on a lot of flights and I have NEVER seen ANYONE talk on a cell once we're airborn. Must be some hip commuter flights or something... ... PERIODS!!!!

Tom

Re:I've had it up to here with your rules! (1)

Frequency Domain (601421) | more than 8 years ago | (#14826785)

Turn the passenger compartment into a Faraday cage [wikipedia.org]. Then the phones won't interfere with anything in the nose of the aircraft, people who ignore the rules will get squat, and I won't be asked to shut down my iPod for takeoff and landing.

Re:I've had it up to here with your rules! (0)

(H)elix1 (231155) | more than 8 years ago | (#14826874)

Even if there wasn't an interference issue, I'd still advocate a cell-phone ban on planes.

And I'm on the other side of the fence. I also fly over 600k miles a year for work, so a *lot* of time in the air. I don't care to fly with children, people who insist they must push the seat in front of me so far back I cannot work on my laptop, or sit next to folks that are too big for the seat either. Don't see bans on those issues, so mickey mouse issues like someone next to you talking on a cell does not really matter.

If you can talk on a cell phone, odd are you can also do CDMA speed data on it as well. While you might not want to yack on the phone, I sure as hell want to surf the net while flying home from Tokyo to Minneapolis... A week or two ago I was flying back from DC and we hit a really strong headwind. The flight was only making about 350 on actual groundspeed, but we did not know when I called my wife just before they closed the plane door. Had my cell phone worked in the air, I could have called them and let them know I was running late even though the flight left on time

Airplanes controlled by GPS (1)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 8 years ago | (#14826516)

Shouldn't airplanes (the software controlling them) be able to deal with bad information coming in from their GPS systems, either by shutting down, and letting the pilot take over, or having redundant systems that detect when a sensor is giving incorrect data? Don't pilots have to know how to navigate and control the plane without GPS in the case where it isn't working.

Re:Airplanes controlled by GPS (1)

cat6509 (887285) | more than 8 years ago | (#14826674)

"Shouldn't airplanes (the software controlling them) be able to deal with bad information coming in from their GPS systems, either by shutting down, and letting the pilot take over, or having redundant systems that detect when a sensor is giving incorrect data? Don't pilots have to know how to navigate and control the plane without GPS in the case where it isn't working."

Yes! also reference http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RAIM [wikipedia.org] , Pilots also do not ever rely on just one instrument or one type of navigation, flying is a process of checking instruments and other observations against each other. At this point in aviation the human is allways in contol of the aircraft dring the landing and takeoff, even when using auto-pilot the aircraft responds to the control inputs by the human pilot ( just like cruise control in your car ) The only area where this differs is on some comercial airliner that has a system for avoiding an imminent collision in which the aircraft will execute a manuver to avoid.

Re:Airplanes controlled by GPS (1)

bloobloo (957543) | more than 8 years ago | (#14826722)

Of course the pilots can navigate & are able to fly. However, by having to concentrate all the way through a tedious long haul flight they will be more fatigued when it comes to be time to land. This is why you have an autopilot. It is also not necessarily the case that you will know that your GPS is reading poorly. You could fly on thinking you are on path when you are off. In reality you'd get a discrepancy flagged up vs your INS readings so you'd know but losing sensors when you can help it isn't a good thing.

Re:Airplanes controlled by GPS (1)

kimvette (919543) | more than 8 years ago | (#14826948)

Actually this whole thing is a non-issue as a GPS is supposed to be used only as supplemental instrumentation during flight and NOT to be relied upon, unless things have changed in the last four years or so (It's been a while since I've read up on IFR requrements).

because, y'know... (1)

Corf (145778) | more than 8 years ago | (#14826522)

...before planes had GPS, they dropped out of the sky all the damned time.

Obviously the complication arises..... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14826542)

When the pilot is unable to determine the planes proximity to the ground w/ out the GPS receiver....

it's a PhD Thesis (1)

teslar (706653) | more than 8 years ago | (#14826544)

I like my "scientific findings" to come in the form of published articles, not a note in a random newspaper I've never heard of. So I googled around a little bit and it turns out that this is the PhD Thesis of this Bill Strauss guy. Unfortunately, I couldn't find the thesis online, nor any papers published by that fellow during the writing of said thesis. So I'll be taking this with a grain of salt, as I don't know what the requirements on quality for getting a PhD at Cargenie Mellon University is either.

Re:it's a PhD Thesis (1)

psbrogna (611644) | more than 8 years ago | (#14826613)

I think it's time for a Study Study. Here's my prediction: Study Says Most Studies Aren't Studies

Re:it's a PhD Thesis (1)

drewzhrodague (606182) | more than 8 years ago | (#14826812)

CMU is a top engineering school. Every year, they crank out high-quality engineers, most of which instantly flee the City that is Pittsburgh. I'm sure the requirements on quality for a PhD at CMU are about that of MIT, CalTech, Penn, and others. I haven't gone through any of their programs, but I do live here.

People have to die first. (3, Insightful)

Rob T Firefly (844560) | more than 8 years ago | (#14826550)

Unortunately, the same self-important gadget love that has people driving one-handed while juggling a phone with the other ensures that nobody will ever pay much attention to the cell phone ban until an actual plane crash happens, and is conclusively proven to have been caused by someone's phone.

Sad, really.

Re:People have to die first. (1)

Swanktastic (109747) | more than 8 years ago | (#14826920)

I agree. The ban was initially put in place by the FCC, not the FAA, primarily because the concept of a cell phone travelling at 500 MPH jumping from tower to tower would wreak havoc with the cell system, NOT because of any safety concerns. I would wager your chances of getting killed by someone driving with a cell phone are orders of magnitude more than dying in a plane crash caused by a cell phone- even when standardized by per mile, per minute, etc. Safety is not the issue, and we shouldn't pretend our overseeing adminstrations are concerned about it. They are there to protect the interests of the telecommunications companies...

I've experienced interference (1)

BiggerBoat (690886) | more than 8 years ago | (#14826552)

I'm a private, instrument rated pilot and have experienced interference on my instruments because of cell phones. I had a passenger on my plane forget to turn his off, and during the flight I couldn't figure out what the intermittent buzzing was that I kept hearing over the com system. It was definitely distracting. Eventually we realized it was his phone (I believe it was actually receiving a call). I didn't notice it interfering with the GPS, but I suppose it could have been and I just didn't realize it, and that could be a real danger if I was flying in IMC, especially if we were on an approach. Thankfully that was a VFR flight and I was not using the instruments for much.

And for whatever reason, on the occasions that I have forgotten to turn my own cell phone off when I go out flying, I haven't experienced this interference (and I know at least once a call had come in on my phone while in flight). I'm not sure what the difference between our phones or their service was that would account for that.

GSM interference to GPS? I doubt it. (1)

name_already_taken (540581) | more than 8 years ago | (#14826649)

GSM interference with audio systems is well known, as the GSM system seems to use pulsed transmission that can be picked up by all kinds of audio gear. GSM seems to be much "noisier" than other systems that run in the same bands.

The question is, can GSM phones (using the 850, 900, 1800, or 1900 MHz bands) actually interfere with GPS, which is on a completely different frequency? Civil GPS is currently on 1575.42 MHz and 1227.60 MHz - far enough away from the cellphone frequency bands that any well-designed GPS reciever should not be bothered by GSM.

I doubt it.

Surely the output of all those cellphone towers and cellphones would cause trouble for land-based GPS recievers if this was actually an issue? (They don't)

They sure can interfere with poorly isolated audio equipment though.

Re:I've experienced interference (1)

sane? (179855) | more than 8 years ago | (#14826706)

That's the point. Evidence shows that any interference is primarily in the pilots' headset and sometimes an oscillation in particular dials. There have been no documented examples that I know of that caused anymore of dangerous behaviour. Face it, in an aircraft of several hundred people there has got to be at least one every flight that doesn't turn off their phone or leaves a Blackberry on because 'its not a phone'. We don't see planes falling out of the sky every day, or week, or year for that matter.

Its about time the whining stopped and they started testing the aircraft to ensure it would continue to work properly and reject spurious signals - as they should have been doing for decades now. EM resilience is the key, not 'safety' messages that try to offload the responsibility from those that own the solution.

The solution is in the cockpit, not the cabin.

Re:I've experienced interference (1)

deeLo57 (641046) | more than 8 years ago | (#14826768)

What was your altitude at the time you believe he may have been "Recieving a call"?
Do you remember your speed?

"The biggest problem with a phone signal sent from the air is that it can reach several different cell sites simultaneously. The signal can interfere with callers already using that frequency, and because there is no way for one cell site to hand off calls to another that is not adjacent to it, signals can become scrambled in the process. That's why wireless calls from jetliners don't last long, says Kathryn Condello, vice president of industry operations for CTIA. The network keeps dropping the calls, even if they are re-established later." http://www.wirelessweek.com/article/CA160201.html? spacedesc=News [wirelessweek.com]

GSM vs CDMA -- need to clarify (1)

drgonzo59 (747139) | more than 8 years ago | (#14826964)

In all likelyhood it was a GSM phone, like the ones from T-Mobile or Cingular. CDMA phones will be much less likely to cause such interference. I used to have a Nokia GSM phone. When I would put in on my desk by my computer tower once a minute or so I would here these clicking noises coming from my speakers. That is because the GSM phones will have to burst a packet quickly into an available timeslot thus there are intermetent high spikes of RF energy.

The phones that use CDMA (Verizon for ex.) transmit continuously and don't need such a maximum power output as GSM phones. I have a CDMA phone now and there is no interference, I even tried putting it very close the speakers or to the motherboad.

So the problem is of course, which cell phones were used in the study? GSM phones cause interference even with my computer. It seems that if the said PhD student used only CDMA phones, he would not have had much of a thesis to write. I hope he really clarified the difference and used a good mix of cell phone technologies to study interference. I could not find his actual thesis, so as far as I am concerned, this study is just as valid as a fairy tale.

The good news that most companies that use GSM will be forced to move to CDMA (UMTS, WCDMA), because CDMA uses the available spectrum more efficiently. So in a about 5 years perhaps the situation will be different, but there will also be more people using cell phones -- so who knows...

An obvious solution...? (1)

Rinzai (694786) | more than 8 years ago | (#14826554)

Seems to me that a lot of this could be avoided if the cockpit instrumentation was shielded properly.

Daggone corner-cutters.

Re:An obvious solution...? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14826721)

Yup this is pure bull, everything produced and sold in EU at least for the last 15 years or se has to adhere to the 'EMC directive' addressing among other things this issue (other similar directives predates this by several years), so for the last 20 years or so it has in practice been illegal to sell equipment that either:

1) emits to much radiation outside its sepcified frequenzy bands
2) malfunctions because of high incoming radiation

http://europa.eu.int/comm/enterprise/electr_equipm ent/emc/directiv/text.htm [eu.int]

It is the same thing abount banning mobile phones in hospitals because of 'sensitive' equipment.

Re:An obvious solution...? (1)

Volante3192 (953645) | more than 8 years ago | (#14826724)

Shield the cockpit too well from outside radiation and the insturments won't get the data they're trying to receive either.

--Volante

Re:An obvious solution...? (1)

YrWrstNtmr (564987) | more than 8 years ago | (#14826869)

Seems to me that a lot of this could be avoided if the cockpit instrumentation was shielded properly.

And a significant number of currently fying aircraft were designed and built before such devices became popular.

IMHO (1)

psbrogna (611644) | more than 8 years ago | (#14826557)

Who the heck are these pilots calling when they should be focusing on driving the damn plane!? This sounds like a pilot training issue. If we prohibit them from using their cell phones are they just going to start playing solitaire or tetris on their Game Boys?!

Ok, 'nuf of that.

So RF will eventually cause an accident? Are they susceptable to intereference from cosmic radiation as well? Maybe they should fix this problem by better shielding on the susceptable devices rather than making an already sucky ride even more boring.

Have I missed something here? (1)

Rik Sweeney (471717) | more than 8 years ago | (#14826558)

On every single flight I have been on, we've all been told to switch off all electronic equipment during take off and landing and to keep cell phones off during the whole flight, even ones with Flight Mode enabled.

Cell phones: security and terrorism issues (1)

VincenzoRomano (881055) | more than 8 years ago | (#14826567)

I have always wondered about the claims made by the airplane crew regarding the interferences.
First of all I'd like to know how can a cell phone link to a BSS [wikipedia.org] while flying at 5 Km from ground. Well it's doable but the high speed would then hinder any real communication. I think.
Second, if such a low cost device can give troubles to an airplane, I would try to find a good solution as soon as possible because cell phones could be used by terrorists to do nasty things with airplanes.
And I hope that the solution is not to seize the phones at the boarding gates!

Do cell phones also "interefere" with SPELL CHECK? (1)

xxxJonBoyxxx (565205) | more than 8 years ago | (#14826570)

"Study Says Cell Phones Can Interefere With Planes"

Do cell phones also "interefere" with SPELL CHECK?

What airlines allow this... (1)

Flounder05 (957893) | more than 8 years ago | (#14826580)

I'm really surprised by the number of posts already saying "Maybe now people won't talk on their phones during flights!!"

I have to say, I've flown quite a bit in my time, both for business and vacations, and I have never seen anyone talking on a cell phone *during* the flight. Plenty sit around chatting just before take off and after landing, which gets annoying, but honestly, have that many of you actually seen someone talking on their phone while in the air? I'd have to imagine someone on the flight staff would put a stop to that quickly.

I think the real message here is that you should notify a flight attendent, or just use your own skills of persuasion, and get the person off their phone should someone actually be using one. When its just an annoyance, quietly cursing the person might be ok, but with information like this I'd be pretty upset at someone endangering my own safety as well as the rest of the passengers.

Re:What airlines allow this... (1)

Guido von Guido (548827) | more than 8 years ago | (#14826786)

It would be real easy for the flight crew to stop you from talking on your cel phone while you're in the bathroom.

Equipment malfunction != crash (1)

qwijibo (101731) | more than 8 years ago | (#14826603)

Since Hollywood is the inspiration for many of these studies, I'd like to refer to the documentary Die Hard 2. There was a crash caused by a combination of bad weather conditions, malicous interference by resetting the ground level reported to the plane and the destination airport being controlled by terrorists. The planes with the people using cell phones to communicate with family and the media did not crash.

Until we start replacing pilots with minimum wage aircraft operator trainees, the crash conclusion is irrational. Pilots for commercial airliners have a tremendous amount of experience. There are multiple instruments as well as visual indicators that are combined with experience to make decisions. Interference from other radio transmitters is likely to disable a device, not cause it to give information that will cause a crash. There would have to be several other problems coinciding with cell phone interference to cause a crash. Concluding that cell phones should not be used on planes, as is the current policy, is reasonable. Claiming they will cause a crash is just looney.

The Problem isn't really GPS (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14826614)

I work for Airbus. TFA completly misses the critical point when it comes to cell phones. Cell phones are primarily a problem with fly-by-wire systems. This is basically the newer system of aircraft flight control (the older being reliable but heavy hydraulics) Seeing that wiring will also run very close to where the passengers are sitting electromagnetic waves will very possibly distort signals being sent to critical aircraft components. This is why we are also working on developing fly-by-optics systems. Optical flight control systems are not prone to electromagnetic interference but it will still be years before we implement them full scale across all aircraft.

Re:The Problem isn't really GPS (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14826901)

Large chemical (and other places with noisy inductive equipment) plants have solved the problem of "electromagnetic noise in the environment" years ago with a combination of shielding and using a standard like RS484 to transmit information via current instead of voltage. Why aren't the fly-by-wire electronics based on a similar standard?

Pilots flying while on the cell-phone ? (1)

delram (803055) | more than 8 years ago | (#14826634)

A coupla drinks, maybe, but pilots speaking on their cellphones while flying??!! Ohh..I see what the article is about..Now that I've gone past the headline..

My phone makes my computer buzz (1)

pointyhairedmba (698579) | more than 8 years ago | (#14826639)

My Treo will make my Dell laptop and Polycom Soundpoint phone buzz if it's within 4 feet of either when I get a call. It's not out of the question that a phone in the wrong place emitting will mess with electronics. Or perhaps distract the pilot at the wrong time.

Cell phone questions? (1)

SlashSquatch (928150) | more than 8 years ago | (#14826643)

Who do people need to be in constant contact with?

There must be some cellphone rule similar to electronic bands that strives for lowest energy by preferentially pairing two cell phonies together so real life is not disrupted.

Technology now can make an automaton that will carry a conversation with some useless talking head with a spock ear phone. I suggest that planes be equipped with an interceptor device that talks to the sheep that can't be without continuous chatter.

Keep in mind.... (1)

JimXugle (921609) | more than 8 years ago | (#14826654)

Keep in mind... this is from the Putz Gazzette.

Forget taking it with a grain of salt, take it with a 20 lb bag of road salt.

*is from pittsburgh*

Bull. Bull, bull, bull... (1)

aug24 (38229) | more than 8 years ago | (#14826667)

Better not fly over any phone masts or tv transmitters then, they chuck out a lot more wattage.

This is cobblers, and even it it wasn't the correct answer is to shield the cockpit, not rely on everyone obeying the stewardess.

J.

Doesn't this contradict Sheilding? (1)

deeLo57 (641046) | more than 8 years ago | (#14826678)

(Spitzer, 1987) Spitzer CL. 1987. Digital Avionics Systems, New York, NY: McGraw Hill.

Kayton, M., "Navigation Systems". Chapter 13 of THE AVIONICS HANDBOOK edited by C.R. Spitzer. CRC
Press, 2001 and Second Edition 2006.

I thought that all avionics systems were shielded from rouge electromatic signals that may cause interference.

Hmm (1)

u16084 (832406) | more than 8 years ago | (#14826693)

Any Nextel clients? then you know their phones are crazy... If standing near a rack of UPSs alrams will churp, stand next to a tv while in 2way or phone call, screen gets fuzzy, stand next to a speaker .. etc etc... funny i only have this problem with nextel...
Last time i checked... cell phones require towers or other "recieving/transmitting agents (land based) who you gonna call at 30k? and if you got 5 bars, let me know who your provider is.

About that GPS receiver (1)

murderlegendre (776042) | more than 8 years ago | (#14826695)

This is pretty amusing, really. Commercial aircraft flew just fine, and with an excellent safety record for over 50 years before GPS technology was introduced.

Then, the GPS system was added - ostensibly as an aid to safe navigation. But the quote in the summary implies that it has become a single point of failure, which can result in an accident. ("CAUTION: Loss of aircraft may occur").

I know this article is about cellphones, not GPS systems. But am I the only one who has a vision of a dog chasing its tail? Features are failures, as the saying goes.

But what are the odds? (1)

ribblem (886342) | more than 8 years ago | (#14826713)

Assuming they have found something here, at some point you need to accept that one in a bazillion flights is going to crash because of interference and let me play my Nintendo DS on the plane. We already accept that a lot more than one in a bazillion crash because of mechanical failure.

Let's say I'm willing to pay $10 to play my DS, I'm willing to wager those $10 spend on extra maintenance will prevent more accidents than the fact that I'm playing my DS.

I guess I don't really care what the reason is (1)

beavis88 (25983) | more than 8 years ago | (#14826737)

So long as there are no jackasses talking on their phone, I'll be ok with the reasoning. I might even be willing to accept some pseudo science...

Here's some older research (1)

nigelc (528573) | more than 8 years ago | (#14826761)

This article [uni-bielefeld.de] contains numerous links about transient behaviour, erroneous fire warnings and other odd things caused by electronic devices in the cabin.

It is a small number, but it is non-zero.

Especially worrying are the cases where the glideslope indicators were being "misled" because of apparent electronic interference from the back.

This was also discussed at length on PPRuNe a while ago.

old news... (1)

Edman (931166) | more than 8 years ago | (#14826775)

I thought this was known for years now...why else are you not to switch on your cell phone during flights? just for fun?

two things wrong with this "article"... (1)

swschrad (312009) | more than 8 years ago | (#14826913)

one, nobody has shown a close call yet in practice.

two, the original source is of, ahhhh, developing trust, and not availiable for independent study.

puts this in the realm of "anomalous results in deuterated metals," shall we say.
Load More Comments
Slashdot Account

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?

Don't worry, we never post anything without your permission.

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>
Sign up for Slashdot Newsletters
Create a Slashdot Account

Loading...