Kudos to ABC News for reporting on the problem of using handheld devices during flight. In his report, Brian Ross took viewers into the EMI lab at Boeing, where engineer David Carson showed levels of electromagnetic interference from a Blackberry, an iPhone and an iPad that even the most blasé airline passenger might find startling.
Yesterday on my flight to Wellington, New Zealand where I have come to speak to the Australasian Society of Air Safety Investigators, I sat next to a man who was busy texting throughout the taxi and takeoff from Sydney Airport. Good thing I was exhausted so I could sleep instead of worrying. (What is it with the middle-aged men and texting?)
Along with a number of airlines I have flown since beginning my trip last week, Qantas takes seriously the use of portable electronic devices below ten-thousand feet -- specifically warning passengers that their use can interfere with flight instruments.
John Travolta, looking snappy in his pilot gear, makes the seatback video safety plea. Maybe that's why the middle aged guy next to me, paid no heed. But when John's talkin' I'm listenin'!
Seriously, the information backing up the ABC news investigative report comes from the International Air Transport Association's STEADS database, a confidential reporting program into which 93% of the world's airlines contribute.
The database showed 75 events over the past seven years, but since only about a quarter of the world's airlines participate in STEADS now, its likely that many more instances of interference have occurred. (Read more here.) One things for sure, the use of electronic devices is a problem passengers don't want to acknowledge.
Having flown around the world to meet with folks for whom aviation safety is a cause worth pursuing, its ironic that this safety issue is so troublesome considering it is one of the few that is literally in the hands of the people who most benefit, airline passengers.
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