Ina Fried

Recent Posts by Ina Fried

Could Using Your Gadgets in Mid-Air Really Bring Down the Plane?

It seems hard for many to believe, but one air travel industry study has found that there may be some merit to the idea that small electronics could interfere enough with airplane navigation to cause a safety problem.

According to a confidential study unearthed by ABC News, a study by the International Air Transport Association trade group found some 75 incidents of potential interference reported between 2003 and 2009. They involved interference with everything from flight controls to navigation to communications systems. The type of device suspected of causing interference varied, though the most commonly cited likely troublemaker was the cellphone.

Cellphone use is, of course, banned by the FAA during flights, though many people forget to turn off their devices or willingly ignore the warnings. It is increasingly common to hear a cellphone ring or an alert chirp well after take-off.

Even more irksome to some is the requirement to shut down non-transmitting devices, such as iPods and Kindles. Those devices are allowed during flight, but not during takeoff or landing, even though some airlines are starting to replace their flight manuals with iPads.

The best part about this story was the reaction I got from boss Kara Swisher when I summarized it on our story list.

“Uh-oh,” she wrote. “I call Walt all the time from a plane. Only place AT&T worked.”

The good news for her fellow travelers is she now has a Verizon iPhone and, perhaps as a result of this article, extra scrutiny from her future flight crews.

(photo credit: Flickr/Brentdpayne)


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Another gadget you don’t really need. Will not work once you get it home. New model out in 4 weeks. Battery life is too short to be of any use.

— From the fact sheet for a fake product entitled Useless Plasticbox 1.2 (an actual empty plastic box) placed in L.A.-area Best Buy stores by an artist called Plastic Jesus