Can a Kindle crash an aeroplane?

It’s a familiar request: “Please turn off all electronic devices as it interferes with our navigational equipment.”

Most air travellers obey, even though there’s no chance an iPod is going to flummox a giant Boeing aircraft.

But in this interesting piece in The Guardian, it shows that the real story behind the relationship between electronic devices and planes is quite complicated.

There are actually two ways your devices could influence navigational equipment. The first is “intentional emissions”, and the second is “non-intentional emissions”.

Products that use wifi or electronic signals make up intentional emissions, while other devices such as eReaders – which aren’t connected to wireless signals – emit signals due to the circuitry.

And any emissions that leak from a plane can degrade signals picked up by the aircraft’s antenna.

The UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) points to a handful of incidents where a mobile phone has been ‘involved’, although noting that problems had occurred at the same time a passenger happened to be using a mobile device doesn’t exactly represent proof.

And in a piece for Aero magazine in March 2000, Boeing admitted it could not find ‘a definite correlation’ between PEDs and aircraft systems malfunctions. Case closed, then? Well, no.

Of course, the Kindle is an interesting story considering it doesn’t have a signal. Richard Taylor of the CAA says “they represent a much-reduced safety risk compared to mobiles”.

However, there’s no point arguing – you’ll still have to turn them off.

This article first appeared at SmartCompany.


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