Ever since I can remember, every time we get on flights, the flight attendants have asked us to turn off our cell phones shortly before takeoff. However, I’ve always just accepted this as fact, and never thought very far into it. Recently, the recommendation was taken back because now people believe that it doesn’t affect the flight and it’s radar.
The reason that this is a rule is because of speculation that cell phones interfere with the plane is because of electromagnetic interference. This has long been based on anecdotes from different aviation companies– for example: that there was an issue with the flight radar when a flight attendant saw a passenger with a cell phone, or that a video game was in use and the radar shifted 30 degrees.
However, because not one specific event has happened proving that cell phones interfere, the Federal Aviation Administration as of recent, allows for usage in flights. So, soon enough you’ll be seeing implementations of cell phone usage on flights.
What I found interesting is that we started believing all of this without even having any concrete data on whether cell phones affect flight systems. One reason could be is because planes are kind of risky in and of themselves, so it would be giving up just a few hours on your cell phone to avoid a speculated risk. This brings up this issue of whether something should be given up over a little speculation– like the opportunity cost of turning off the TV to avoid the risk of depression. Studies for this type of thing are kind of hard because no one really wants to experiment with a flight because each holds the lives of many people. Possibly in a simulated flight or a drone?
It is hard to make such a hard rule like the one that was followed for so many years which was never based on any real data. Therefore, it’s interesting to see the ban on phones be lifted by the FAA so that we can use our phones in peace– unless some real information comes out someday against it.