Here’s the real reason to turn on airplane mode while flying

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We all know the routine by heart: “Please ensure your seats are in the upright position, tray tables are stowed, blinds are up, laptops are stowed in the overhead bins, and electronic devices are on flight mode.”

Well, the first four are reasonable, right? Blinds need to be up so we can see if there is an emergency such as B. Fire.

Tray tables need to be stowed away and seats set upright so we can get out of line quickly. Laptops can become projectiles in an emergency because the seat back pockets aren’t strong enough to hold them.

And cellphones need to be put on flight mode so they can’t trigger an emergency for the plane, right? Well it depends on who you ask.

Technology has come a long way Aviation navigation and communications have relied on radio services, which have been coordinated to minimize interference since the 1920s.

The digital technology currently in use is much more advanced than some of the older analog technologies that we used as recently as 60 years ago.

Research has shown that personal electronic devices can emit a signal in the same frequency band as aircraft communications and navigation systems, known as electromagnetic interference.

But in 1992, the US Federal Aviation Authority and Boeing conducted an independent study of the use of electronic devices during aircraft malfunctions and found no problems with computers or other personal electronic devices during non-critical phases of flight. (Takeoffs and landings are considered the critical stages.) The US Federal Communications Commission has also begun creating reserved spectrum bandwidths for different purposes — like cellular phones and airplane navigation and communications — so they don’t interfere with each other.

Governments around the world have developed the same strategies and policies to prevent aviation interference problems. Electronic devices have been allowed to remain switched on in the EU since 2014.

2.2 billion passengers

Despite these global standards, why has the aviation industry continued to ban cell phone use? One of the problems lies in something you might not expect – ground interference.

Wireless networks are connected through a series of towers; The networks could become overloaded if passengers flying over these ground networks are all using their phones.

The number of passengers flown in 2021 topped 2.2 billion, and that’s half of 2019’s passenger numbers. The wireless companies might have a point here.

The biggest change in mobile networks in recent years is of course the changeover to a new standard. The current 5G wireless networks — desirable for their higher-speed data transmission — have worried many in the airline industry.

Radio frequency bandwidth is limited, but we’re still trying to add more new devices. The aviation industry points out that the bandwidth spectrum of the 5G wireless network is remarkably close to the reserved bandwidth spectrum for aviation, which can cause interference with navigation systems near airports that help the plane land.

Airport operators in Australia and the US have raised concerns about flight safety related to the 5G rollout, but the rollout in the European Union appears to have happened without any such issues.

In any case, it is advisable to limit the use of mobile phones on airplanes while problems around 5G are solved.

Finally, we can’t forget about Air Rage

Most airlines now offer their customers Wi-Fi services that are either pay-as-you-go or free. With new Wi-Fi technologies, passengers could theoretically use their cell phones to video call friends or clients during the flight.

On a recent flight, I spoke to a flight attendant and asked her opinion on in-flight phone use. It would be an inconvenience for cabin crew to wait for passengers to finish their conversation to ask if they would like drinks or something to eat, she said.

On an airplane with more than 200 passengers, in-flight service would take longer if everyone was on the phone.

For me, the problem with using phones in flight is more of the social experience of having 200+ people on a plane and everyone potentially talking at the same time.

At a time when disruptive passenger behavior, including air rage, is becoming more prevalent, in-flight phone use could be another trigger transforming the entire in-flight experience.

Disruptive behavior takes a variety of forms, from failing to comply with safety requirements such as not wearing seatbelts, verbal altercations with fellow passengers and cabin crew, to physical altercations with passengers and cabin crew—typically identified as air rage.

In summary, in-flight phone use currently does not affect aircraft operability. But cabin crews may prefer not to be delayed when providing inflight service to all passengers—there are a lot of people to serve.

However, 5G technology interferes with the radio bandwidth of aircraft navigation systems; We need more research to answer the 5G question regarding aircraft navigation disruption during landing.

Keep in mind that when discussing the two most critical phases of flight, takeoffs are optional – but landings are mandatory.


When you buy an affordable 5G smartphone today, you usually pay a “5G tax”. What does this mean for those looking to get access to 5G networks as soon as they launch? Find out in this week’s episode. Orbital is available on Spotify, Gana, JioSaavn, Google Podcasts, Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music and wherever you get your podcasts.



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