Using a Cell Phone On Board An Aircraft DOES Interfere - from the Cockpit.....
There have been many discussions recently regarding air safety and the use of cell phones and other Portable Electronic Devices.
As a (Once Again) student pilot who is transitioning to EFIS - a Glass Cockpit, I am enjoying a side of aviation not available to me in private training back when I started.
If you travel frequently, own a cell phone (Blackberry and Palm Users Listen Carefully), then my story is worthy of your attention and in-flight safety.
On a recent flight, I decided to record my entire flight process - just over two hours - using a digital voice recorder that I linked into my headphones. It would prove to be one of the most important things I have ever done in flight training for many reasons.
One of those is what happened when I finished my pre-flight inspection and walk around of my plane.
As I climbed into the left seat and buckled in, my instructor climbed into the right seat and I began going down my checklist.
At this time, I was on my headset and everything my instructor and I said as well as all audible announcements from ATC, Other Aircraft, My EFIS Alerts and all conversation on the frequencies we used were all audible on my headset.
Basically, I had set up my own CVR to take home, listen to the flight and learn .
As I waited for my PFD to come up, I heard odd noises being picked up by my headset. I double checked my cell phone which I always turn off prior to walking out of the airport. It was off.
My PFD came on and I noticed more "noise" and a slight blinking on the screen. At this point, even though classified as a student again, I was the pilot in command and could cancel the flight.
My instructor looked at me and said he had turned his phone off. I double checked mine and then it hit me, I carry a second cell phone in my flight bag - usually always off but I had used it that morning.
I located the phone and saw that it was on but there had been no attempted incoming calls and no accidental call was in progress. However, it was a Blackberry.
Blackberry's, just like Palms and other interactive devices are updated with email on a regular basis. With my carrier, usually five seconds following an email, I get that mail on my phone.
I turned the phone off, the noise was gone, the display was steady in color and brightness and I continued down my check list before taxiing for departure.
Here is the important point and the reason I linked radar screen copies to this article as well as a close up that I took of an arriving Airbus in Seattle.
There are roughly 70,000 flights in US Airspace per day. And a lot more goes on behind the scenes for those of you who are on the plane that take your safety, your arrival time, and the comfort of your flight into consideration.
You don't have to be on an active call to cause interference. And it is unlikely that on a commercial flight that your device would cause a problem that couldn't be addressed immediately.
However, the electronic devices that we rely on up front are enhancements to the basic priciples of aviation safety. As pilots, redundancy is key - we have two of everything up front, if something becomes inoperative in flight, we have another backup instrument to keep us on track.
Look very carefully at those airpace screen captures from radar. There are a lot of flights up there. We rely on ATC to keep us on track, keep up spaced properly from other aircraft, notify us of air traffic around our aircraft and advise us when we need to change our heading or altitude.
To back up pilots and ATC, almost all planes have additional modern avionics to help us fly. That on board computer can notify us of traffic near us before ATC can make the call, as well as make us aware of the many aspects of flight that for years had to be monitored by a human.
This article is not to cover the technical side of EFIS but just to let you know that it really helps to have that onboard information available in an age where Navigators and two Second Officers are no longer required.
Most of today's flights only have two very well trained people up front that do an incredible amount of work before during and after the flight. That is why pilots are limited in the number of hours they can fly. It is very demanding.
Just ask a pilot what it is like trying to fly in the Chicago area and you will get an earful. It is challenging to say the very least.
Now think about delays. That delay holding up your flight while your crew is "checking" on something, may be the interference from your cell phone.
I can blog and complain all day long about the cost of training, the cost of tickets, and the delays caused at major airports.
Think of it this way - look at that approach picture of the Jet Blue A320-232 and imagine it flying at 135-150 knots on approach. That speed is incredible (about 155-172) miles per hour). In flight, those speeds are three to four times faster.
Near misses have been in the news as well lately but again, we have technology to make us aware of our speed and planes around us. We can get an on board warning faster today than a controller can get it to us.
The next time you use a cell phone on a plane and think your are above the law, keep in mind that your call could be just that - your call - to the safety of your flight.
We have the most reliable equipment on board our planes today. But they, too, are enhanced by technology - and are targets of interference from Electronic devices.
I'm the guy you don't want to sit next to and use your phone after that door is closed. I know firsthand that in some cases, your phone can be an issue for the flight crew.
Look at our very crowded skies as shown on radar - now forget about the fact that you have a million miles with your favorite carrier, or that First Class was Free or you paid the Full First class fare to sit up front - that doesn't allow you to break the law.
I've been in First many times with people who have an attitude problem. Flying is more frustrating than ever today. For passengers and crew.
Think you are above the law when someone asks you to stop using that phone in flight? Wrong.
Any passenger can notify a flight attendant who can let the Captain know that security will need to be present at the gate. You may never be told this while you sit there and talk on the phone.
Anyone will tell you flying is an art, a skill and a privilege. And it comes with it's own set of rules. If you want to fly, listen to those rules. You may be the person that delays your flight and never know it.
Please respect your flight crews (Pilots and Flight Attendants) and fellow passengers (not to mention yourself) by having that phone turned off completely when you get on that plane.
It really is for your safety. And I know this first hand as someone who has experienced intereference from a cell phone.
It was my phone and I was the pilot in command.