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Flight attendant Cierra Mistt shared on a recent TikTok video why passengers are always asked to switch their mobiles to “aeroplane mode” when flying. “The reason may actually shock you and make you think twice about trying to sneak and keep your phone on normal mode,” she said.
The flight attendant explained: “From the moment the boarding door closes to the moment of landing the pilots are following specific instructions given to them from a group of people on the ground called Air Traffic Control, or ATC.
“Their job is to make sure that planes take off and land safely without running into each other.”
Mobile phone frequencies could get in the way of radio conversations between the pilots and the ATC.
Cierra continued: “In order for the pilots to be able to communicate with ATC, they use frequencies which is what we use on our phones.
@cierra_mistt flight attendant FAQs part 2 ✈️ #SimlishSessions #CompleteMyLook #MyColoredHair #fyp ♬ original sound – Cierra Mistt
“Now picture how bad it would be for a pilot who is taking directions from ATC on the ground, all of a sudden loses signal and starts flying blindly all because of the frequency of a passenger’s phone which interjected it.”
Ryan C, a commercial pilot who wished to remain anonymous, agreed explaining aeroplane mode “is required to mitigate any possible interference to sensitive aeroplane systems”.
The radio signals are the same frequencies used by cell phones and tablets, the pilot explained.
“The radios for Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, voice calling, 3G, 4G, and 5G data all use different parts of the radio frequency spectrum,” he said.
The pilot added that planes are able to perform an auto landing, which is when the autopilot system lands the aircraft without control from the pilots.
This is used when there is low visibility and in these cases, they “must have reliable information from the radio altimeter”.
Ryan explained: “The fear is that if a passenger’s 5G capable device is not in aeroplane mode, it could cause a spurious signal to be picked up by the aeroplane’s radio altimeter antenna.
“This could possibly cause an erroneous indication of the aeroplane’s height above the runway.
“As you can imagine, this could have frightening consequences.”
Mobile phones can be dangerous not only because the frequencies they emit can interfere with aircraft systems, but because the device itself can be a security hazard.
A strict airport rule many travellers are not aware of could see their mobiles banned from flights.
Experts from International Citizens Insurance explained: “If you cannot turn on your devices when requested by security personnel, they can take it from you, placing your holiday snaps in jeopardy.”
Random checks can be carried out at the airport and where passengers can be asked to switch on their mobile phones.
If they can not switch on an electrical device when requested by border control, airport staff or cabin crew, the item could be seen as a security risk and be confiscated.
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