13
$\begingroup$

Most of us are familiar with the standard warnings and regulations against passengers using electronic devices (at all during takeoff and landing, and in some cases throughout the flight). This is based on a concern that sensitive avionics or aircraft radio equipment could be affected by interference from devices being used by passengers.

Has a commercial flight ever crashed as a direct result of a passenger using an ordinary consumer-grade electronic device during the flight? More specifically, has there ever been a crash investigation where the conclusion was e.g. that the plane wouldn't have crashed if the passenger in seat 5-F had turned off his Game Boy before takeoff?

To be clear, I'm not asking about why there are electronic device regulations or safety guidelines. I'm asking if these guidelines are purely theoretical (we're pretty sure that using them could cause a crash, even though it's never happened) or if there have been actual crashes due to device usage.

Also to be clear, I'm asking only about ordinary, consumer grade electronics (e.g. phones, laptops, tablets, beepers, walkie-talkies, video game consoles, etc.), rather than military or industrial equipment.

$\endgroup$
6
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ A friend, a retired Capt for AA, and also a ham radio guy, has told several stories about NAV interference in the VOR days from consumer electronics. In each case he was able to establish that the NAV was unaffected with the device off, and was affected with the device on. Only with VOR, not GPS, LOC, ILS, etc. Given his degree of RF savvy, I give his accounts high credibility. $\endgroup$
    – mongo
    May 26, 2021 at 20:06
  • $\begingroup$ The answer is likely no, but that's not the reason for the regulation The reason is potential interference with aircraft systems. $\endgroup$ May 27, 2021 at 0:19
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Related: Personal Electronic Devices and Their Interference With Aircraft Systems, a bit old (2001). Crashes: Never; Incidents: Only suspicion, not well supported: "there is one category of the database that provides supporting credibility to these events--pilot flight hours. The total mean flight time of 10,790 hours from Table 1 indicates that pilots reporting PED events are very experienced." One thing to consider: If 300 persons emit with their 2W cell phones, that's 600W. Unlikely, but... $\endgroup$
    – mins
    May 28, 2021 at 16:49
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I would also like to add a sub question to this: Is it possible that it's a question of number of devices? E.g. 2 out of 300 pax using cellphones vs 298 out of 300 pax using cellphones. $\endgroup$
    – Mat
    Jun 8, 2021 at 7:16
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ It's a real problem in communications. Phones are to be turned off in the Center control room, but someone always forgets. When a phone is on vibrate, and goes off while you're transmitting, your sidetone sounds like heterodyne if the phone is close, and like someone tapping, if farther away. It also "goes out" to the pilots. The center has a charging kiosk (with locks) outside the main control room doors, and controllers are encouraged to leave there phones there, or in their lockers. $\endgroup$
    – atc_ceedee
    Jul 17, 2021 at 16:14

1 Answer 1

4
$\begingroup$

There has not been an actual crash to my knowledge, but I personally have had passenger cell phones interfere with my comm radios several. Once to the point where we couldn't hear anything but the interference noise and I had to call the flight attendants to tell them to find the phone and turn it off immediately. The interference stopped soon after that.

$\endgroup$

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.