Monday, 20 May 2019

Passengers should follow airline phone policies despite lack of interference




The fact that thousands of flights are completed safely each day with mobile phones left transmitting in the cabin proves mobile signals are not a risk to flight safety, according to a US study that found 40 per cent of airline passengers ignored requests to turn off their phones.


Psychology professors Daniel Simons and Christopher Chabris surveyed 492 American adults who had flown in the past year to see how often passengers breached the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations, which require all mobile phones to be switched off during take-off and landing.


Forty per cent admitted that they did not turn their phones off completely during their most recent flight and more than 7 per cent left their phones completely on, with the Wi-Fi and cellular communications functions active. A further 2 per cent said they actively used their phones when they weren't supposed to.
“Our survey strongly suggests that there are multiple gadget violators on almost every flight,” the researchers said.
“If personal electronics are really as dangerous as the FAA rules suggest, navigation and communication would be disrupted every day on domestic flights. But we don't see that.”
The psychologists argue that regulations on electronic device use need to be based on solid research rather than on anecdotal evidence.
“There is no reason to doubt the anecdotes told by airline personnel about glitches that have occurred on flights when they also have discovered someone illicitly using a device,” the researchers said.
“But when thinking about these anecdotes, we don't consider that glitches also occur in the absence of illicit gadget use. More important, we don't consider how often gadgets have been in use when flights have been completed without a hitch.”
Speaking on the 2GB Travel show (interview at 17.30min) last October, AMTA CEO Chris Althaus said there was no substantiated proof that low-powered mobiles can interfere with aircraft systems from within the passenger cabin because modern aircraft were designed to meet stringent international safety standards, including requirements dictating comprehensive shielding on aircraft wiring and electronic systems.
Mr Althaus said he was not surprised by the US survey’s results given the widespread use of mobile devices, but urged all mobile phone users to follow airline policies, which require passengers to either turn off their mobiles during flight or place them in flight mode, which stops them from transmitting.
He said despite the fact that mobiles had not been shown to interfere with aircraft safety the mobile telecommunications industry recommended that passengers always comply with the requirements of airlines relating to the use of electronic devices during flight.
“In Australia, the Civil Aviation Safety Authority does not have specific regulations regarding mobile phone use and has left the decision up to the discretion of the airlines,” Mr Althaus said.
“Passengers are required to obey all lawful instructions issued by a pilot in command in accordance with the Civil Aviation Regulations.”
However, Mr Althaus said many airlines around the wold, including Australia, were now encouraging the use of mobile phones for data and voice services at certain stages of flight through new on-board mobile base station technology, called pico-cells.
Aircraft pico-cells allow passengers to use their own mobile phones to make and receive phone calls and text messages during flight, just as they would on the ground.
The technology also resolves the potential issue of mobile devices attempting to connect to multiple base stations, which could cause congestion for the terrestrial network.
The FAA completed a study in July last year that investigated aviation authorities from 11 countries that permit passengers to make mobile phone calls during flight through on-board base stations.
The study found despite concerns about interference with flight systems, the aviation authorities had reported no safety issues associated with cell phone use.
“For aircraft with on-board cellular telephone base stations, the civil aviation authorities had no confirmed reports of cell phones affecting flight safety,” the FAA study found.
“The responses from Australia, Brazil, France, Ireland, and UK point out that when onboard cellular telephone base stations are installed on aircraft, the installer demonstrates that the cell phones and base stations can operate with no interference to systems required for safe aircraft operation.”
Since 2007, in-flight communication services have been introduced by airlines in Africa Asia, Australia, Europe, the Middle East and South America.
There are currently over 30 airlines already allowing mobile phone use on aircraft including: AirAsia, Air France, British Airways, Egypt Air, Emirates, Air New Zealand, Malaysia Airlines, Ryanair, Qatar Airways and Virgin Atlantic.
In Australia, Emirates, Malaysian Airlines and V Australia all currently operate flights that allow mobile phone calls during flight through on-board base stations and Qantas has also begun trials of in-flight Wi-Fi, SMS and GPRS data service.

For more information see AMTA’s advice on mobile phone use on aircraft.


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