Resident pilot 121pilot, a captain for a major U.S. airline, authors a new column on Live and Let’s Fly called Ask Your Captain. His mission: demystify the flight deck and an answer any question you may have on the topic of flying.
Q: Few people on the airplane actually put their mobile phones in airplane mode prior to takeoff. Is there any evidence that a cell phone can interfere with pilots and put the aircraft in danger?
A: No, there is no evidence that I’m aware of that cellular phones can interfere with critical aircraft systems especially on modern aircraft. The only interference I’ve ever seen was back in the 2G/3G days.
If I forgot to turn my phone off sometimes during decent when it started trying to pick up a signal you’d get clicking noise on the intercom system if the phone was near a headset cable. That being said, it has been years since I’ve heard this and I suspect newer phones are on a different frequency spectrum that doesn’t cause interference the way older ones did.
It’s also worth looking back at when the FAA started allowing electronics to stay on for the duration of the flight. The assumption would have had to been made that everyone would have their phones on and even in that worst-case scenario the aircraft could still be flown safely.
At my airline when the ban was first lifted, we had a requirement that during CAT II/III approaches we make an announcement telling everyone to turn their electronics off but even this went away after a few months.
Have a question for the captain? E-mail him at ask121pilot at yahoo dot com and you may see your question appear in a future column!