Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Can An iPad Cause A Plane To Crash?

My feeling is that if an iPad can bring a plane down, the plane isn't safe enough to fly in the first place:
Amid all the discussion about iPads in the cockpits of commercial and military airplanes, one question has remained unclear — what about during takeoff and landing? Passengers are supposed to turn these devices off, lest they interfere with aircraft avionics--at least, that's the line the FAA's been giving us, despite evidence to the contrary. Now the FAA is planning to investigate itself whether iPads, Kindles and other electronic devices really can harm a plane during crucial flight phases.
I made good use of my Kindle Fire during about 8 hrs of flying yesterday.


scott mccall said...

I'm still against it. how smoothly would the hudson landing have gone if everyone had their headphones in rocking out, or had their laptops or iPads out playing games? i'll bet you it would not have gone as smoothly because those devices would have gotten in the way at some point.

Darren said...

I disagree. There's no way the landing would have gone any differently had people had headphones on. Now the exit? I happen to believe that people are reasonably intelligent, and aren't *totally* zoning as their airplane loses altitude on take-off and gets closer and closer to the Hudson.

David said...

Dunno, Darren. Electronic devices do admit RF energy, even those that aren't designed to transmit anything....GPS signals (which are used for an increasing % of instrument approaches) are greatly attenuated by the time they reach near-earth, and they weren't that strong to start with. It's not inherently impossible that the emissions from portable devices could interfere with these transmissions.

There is at least one airline that is giving pilots iPads to replace paper charts, and I believe some fighter pilots are also using iPads for charts...I'd assume somebody investigated this particular device type from an emissions standpoint. But if an airline says iPads are okay, the great pressure will also be to allow various other tablets, Kindles, and weird devices of many types. It's not feasible for the flight attendants to screen them all for RF interference compliance.

Darren said...

I've seen no evidence, though, that any such signals have the capability to interfere with avionics.

My son's iPod, and my car radio, are *much* closer to my GPS than passengers's iPads are to aircraft GPS receivers, yet I get where I'm going all the time. Theories and dramatic stories are nice but I've yet to see a shred of evidence.

Scott mcCall said...

I currently work in flight operations for a national flight school. I mainly coordinate students to fly around the country with other students. The planes we fly aren't as shielded as a 737, and we've had avionics failures due to interference from students using iPads. I've even had this problem myself. The GPS I use that communicates with my iPad via Bluetooth caused one of our NAV instruments to go inop as long as it was in use. Further testing in maintenance revealed the instrument is fine but was subject to interference.

That's good enough for me to understand why electronic devices shouldn't be used.

An my earlier opinion was more about stuff being in the way. The exit wouldn't have gone as smoothly if people worried about where to put their iPads and laptops once on the water. Cell phones and iPods not so much, but bigger devices I see a problem.