Is That Flight Mode or Fight Mode?

Who’d want to own a Samsung Galaxy Note 7 phone? Especially if you’re about to take a flight somewhere. Several airlines, including BA, EasyJet and Ryanair have warned passengers to keep this particular make of mobile phone switched off for the duration of the flight.

(In fact, Ryanair has gone one further and asks owners not to stow them in checked baggage).

In Samsung’s case it’s pretty extreme advice. And rightly so. There’s plenty of documentary evidence now circulating on social media to show that these phones are a fire hazard and the company has this week now taken the decision to withdraw the phone from the market – leading to $20bn being wiped off its market value in two days.

(Hands up all those who’d like to be in the shoes of the Samsung executive who made the decision to choose that particular battery!)

But why do airlines insist on our setting all “portable electronic devices, including any mobile phones, to flight mode”? Surely modern day aircraft, jam packed with the latest electronic wizardry can’t be brought down just because someone in seat 28D is phoning home?

And although the vast majority of passengers – albeit begrudgingly – do obey the air crew’s instruction to turn off, an increasing number don’t. So are they putting the rest of us goody two shoes at risk?

Well apparently, they are.

When quizzed about this issue, Patrick Smith, a former pilot and author of a book called ‘Cockpit Confidential’, explained that “if, say, 50 people on board are inconsiderate enough who can’t be bothered to switch their cell radio off, there will be 50 phones constantly looking for cell towers at maximum power.  That is a lot of radio pollution. So, in a technical sense, phones do have the potential to interfere with the plane’s instruments, but only to a small degree”.

Another pilot writing on this topic, this time in a blog called claims that “the interference caused by mobile phone signals registers on the headsets of the flightdeck, in the same manner that one might have encountered on speakers affected by a nearby mobile”.

Where safety is of paramount importance, then clearly there’s no argument and it sounds like it has the potential to put the crew off, so you can understand why they’re happy to have radio silence at the back of the plane.

But we wonder if there is another reason here. At the point that it’s proved beyond all reasonable doubt (you can tell we’re in the insurance industry), that mobile phones don’t interfere with onboard instruments, you can expect to see a bunfight happening on-board between those who insist on making calls throughout the flight and those who appreciate the momentary peace and quiet that this particular regulation still brings.

Air crew have quite enough to do during a flight without having to referee fights.



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