I have been fascinated with the concept of personal electronics and whether they cause planes to have any navigation problems. It seems to me the airlines and FAA have been quite erratic in their rules regarding gadgets on flights.
First you can use laptops on planes — even during take off. Then you can’t. Then you can — but not after the aircraft door closes. In all cases you can’t use any gadget emitting radio waves.
Then the airlines start charging for WiFi and you can use devices with radio waves. But not VoIP.
Anyway, it is tough to keep track of all the changing rules and it seems to me in a world absolutely jammed with radio waves, how could small gadgets interfere with airplane navigation or other systems when satellite, WiMAX, EVDO, FM frequencies and others are flooding into the plane from ground-based sources.
Yes we want to err on the side of caution but let’s take a look at the latest from Quantus who was quick to blame personal electronics for an inexplicable 300 foot climb and even larger drop.
It seems in this case at least the problem was caused by an internal instrumentation error, not anything the passengers caused.
It is also worth pointing out three other Quantus problems in the past few months:
- On July 25, an exploding oxygen bottle punched a huge hole in the side of a Qantas Boeing 747-400 during a flight from Hong Kong to Melbourne, forcing an emergency landing in the Philippines. No one was injured in the mid-air drama.
- Just three days later, a Qantas Boeing 737-800 returned to Adelaide after a landing gear door failed to retract.
- In early August a Boeing 767 bound for Manila turned back to Sydney after developing a hydraulic fluid leak.