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Technology can affect a flight's success

December 15, 2011, 11:04 am


Most flights ask passengers to turn off electronic devices upon departure and arrival. However, many passengers ignore these instructions, which could lead to potential problems.

MarketWatch reported pilots are most affected by the use of electronic devices during take off or landing, because portable electronic devices radiate and receive signals that can be picked up by one of the numerous antennas on passenger planes.

"Those antennas send signals to wiring that is connected to key systems such as autopilot, cockpit instrumentation and so forth," Gregg Overman, of the Allied Pilots Association, told the source.

According to Overman, pilots regularly report problems with electronic interface, particularly during take off and landing, that are caused by portable devices. Airplanes are required to follow precise routes so airports can monitor and manage inbound and outbound traffic levels. If an electronic device causes a plane to deviate from its course, it can cause crashes, emergency landings or disruptions in an airport's travel schedule.

“Passengers need to recognize that restrictions on the use of portable electronic devices exist for good reason,” Overman said.

The FAA regulations do have exceptions. The source reported portable voice recorders, hearing aids, heart pacemakers and electric shavers are exempt from the rule, as they do not emit signals that could interfere with aircraft electronic systems. At distances above 10,000 feet, laptops, electronic games and other devices are usually allowed by the FAA. Cellphones, however, are prohibited throughout the flight by the Federal Communications Commission. Newer smartphones that are set in "airplane" mode are typically allowed to be used above 10,000 feet. Below 10,000 feet, all electronic devices should be shut off no matter what.

A recent Tech News Daily poll of young passengers found the public is interested in the FAA loosening its restrictions on electronic devices on planes. The poll showed 70 percent of U.S. voters ages 18 to 29 think passengers should be able to play electronic games on the runway. Older respondents did not agree, with only 40.5 percent of voters ages 30 to 44 agreeing with the younger demographic.

The FAA has, however, approved the use of iPads with electronic charts in the cockpits of planes. The iPads will be used by pilots to replace paper books and charts. The Allied Pilots Association predicts the use of iPads will replace 35 pounds of paper and $1.2 million worth of fuel annually.

Pilots should invest in pilot insurance to protect against a possible accident caused by interference from an electronic device. If the electronic system in the plane is altered.

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