Could your mobile device really bring down the plane?

By on June 13, 2011, 1:00 PM

Most airline passengers have doubts that their electronic device(s) can impact the functioning of the plane they are on. Many frequent fliers simply ignore the warnings, but the majority adheres to them, just in case. Is there any validity to the notion that your electronic device could bring down a plane? There actually might be, according to a confidential industry study by the International Air Transport Association obtained by ABC News.

The International Air Transport Association is a trade group representing more than 230 passenger and cargo airlines worldwide. Its report documents 75 separate incidents of possible electronic interference that airline crew members believed were linked to electronic devices. The report, which covers the years 2003 to 2009, is based on survey responses from 125 airlines that account for a quarter of the world's air traffic.

26 of the incidents in the report affected the flight controls, including the autopilot, autothrust, and landing gear. 17 affected navigation systems, 15 affected communication systems, and 13 produced electronic warnings including "engine indications." The type of personal device most often suspected in the incidents (40 percent) was of course the mobile phone.

The report stresses that it is not verifying the incidents were caused by mobile devices. It merely summarizes the anecdotal evidence provided by pilots, flight attendants, and other crewmembers who believed they were experiencing electronic interference. It could be very possible that the problems described were being caused by electromagnetic fields and other natural occurrences in the atmosphere. Still, is it worth it for you to take that risk?

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