Mobile phones, gadgets may cause plane crash

Last Updated: Wed, Jan 19, 2011 12:30 hrs

London, Jan 19 (IANS) The growing presence of mobile phones and other gadgets on board could create electronic interference that could send an aircraft crashing down.

Most personal devices transmit a signal and all of them emit electromagnetic waves which could interfere with the plane's electronics. Besides, older planes might not have the best protection against the latest generation of devices, the Daily Mail reported.

'The technical advancements for wireless devices and portable electronic equipment is so rapid, it changes every week,' said Doug Hughes, an electrical engineer and air safety investigator in Britain was quoted as saying. 'The advances in airplanes take 20 years.'

There is no recent survey on how often passengers ignore restrictions on use of their gadgets.

But seven years ago Bill Strauss, then doctoral student at Carnegie Mellon University, in the US, monitored the signals emitted from phones during flights and discovered that they were frequently being left on.

So, Strauss said, the deterioration of planes and advance or decline of electronic devices over time was the immeasurable factor that was never taken into account by passengers.

'It would be a perfect storm that would combine to create an aviation accident,' he said.

One crash in which mobile phone interference with a plane's navigation was cited as a possible factor involved a 2003 flight in Christchurch, New Zealand. Eight people died when the plane flew into the ground short of the runway.

The pilot had phoned home and the call remained connected for the last three minutes of the flight.

Since 2000, there have been at least 10 voluntary reports filed by pilots in the US with the aviation safety reporting system, administered by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

In 2007, one pilot recounted an instance when the navigational equipment on his Boeing 737 had failed after takeoff.

A flight attendant told a passenger to turn off a hand-held Global Positioning System (GPS) device and the problem on the flight deck got sorted.