Stories by Louis Ibah
Why do airlines advise passengers to turn off all mobile phones and all electronic appliances prior to aircraft taking off and landing, and sometimes even while it is at a cruising altitude? This is one question that almost any curious first time flyer on an aircraft or even regular flyers would like to get an answer to. Sometimes you are still fiddling with the phone trying to make the last call or send perhaps a last SMS to a close friend or family members. It could be to alert that you are about to depart and to get the other person at the other end informed so that they can pick you up once you arrive. It could even be, particularly for those with a phobia to fly, a call for a prayer of supplication for a safe flight. Then from nowhere, comes the warning; it’s a voice from the aircraft public address systems. “Please turn off your phones and any other electronic device”. For years, frequent flyers have complained about the inability to use their electronic devices on planes. Several people have questioned why they can’t make phone call from their cell phone during a flight?
This reason has its basis in both practical applications of science and in the law. Cell phones and wireless devices such as laptops emit active transmissions on the electromagnetic spectrum, also found in devices that include phones, radios and Wi-Fi networks. The Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) has the jurisdiction over the use of electronic devices on airplanes and it has banned the use of electronic devices on planes for fear that the electromagnetic interferences associated with their use could affect the delicately calibrated and critically important instruments used to help the pilot fly the plane. Had an electronic device given off a strong enough signal, it could have negative impact on the aircraft navigational equipment, garbled radio transmissions, or otherwise interfered with the plane’s instruments. Anyone who has ever set a mobile phone near a radio or television speaker and heard the effects which alters the sounds from the speaker will readily appreciate and understand the reason for this concern. Imagine what that sort of interference multiplied by the dozens or hundreds of passengers on a particular aircraft all using electronic devices at the same time could amount to. It would be a real catastrophe. It could compromise the aircraft safety. American aircraft manufacturer, Boeing also investigated several cases in the 1990s where aircraft crews reported that laptop computers or gaming devices caused autopilot disconnects, uncommanded airplane rolls or instrument display malfunctions.