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Ever been on a plane where the airhostess has scolded passengers for not turning off their gadgets?

Well, looks like the airlines were on the right track – electronic devices including mobile phones, tablets and iPads can interfere with planes complex machinery, a new study has claimed. 

Although they don’t always cause difficulties, they have the potential to be fatal in some cases, as they give out electromagnetic waves when left on, according to a study from the New York Times.

And “it’s bad in that people assume it never will” said David Carson, an engineer with Boeing told the Times.

Some aviation experts believe use of such devices could possibly have played a role in several crashes including that in Christchurch, New Zealand in 2003, which killed eight people.

An investigation into the cause of the accident revealed the pilot had phoned home shortly before the plan was to land. 

The plane subsequently tried to land but flew short of the runway and into the ground. ‘The usage’ might have caused erroneous indications’ on a navigational aid,’ the New Zealand Transport Accident Investigation Commission found.

There have been several other instances of devices interfering on-deck cited by experts. 

Older planes in particular may be more vulnerable, lacking the same protection from the newest generation of portable devices afforded by many of the new planes.

 

Although no plane crashes investigated in the past have been linked directly to interferences with devices, it is very difficult to prove, and thus far from the impossible, according to a studies.

This is in spite of common perceptions to the contrary, and aviation experts have noted the increasing indifference passengers display towards turning off devices when the plane doors go up.

It has also been found in the previous studies that many devices were being left on in-flight, finding signal emissions from mobiles, despite being asked to shut them down.

“Devices blur the distinction. P.D.A.’s that are cellphones, cellphones that play music. In the mind of the nominal consumer, it is hard to know what the device is actually doing,” said Carson.

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