Planes are peculiar places, aren’t they? Hunks of metal that fly in the sky, with lots of little seats and sinister-looking bathrooms that are so small you can’t swing a cat in them. And then there are bizarre in-flight processes, like setting your phone to aeroplane mode. Why TF must I do that? Will the flight attendant send me to the naughty corner if I don’t? Or will the plane crash? Well, not quite, but turns out it can actually cause a bit of bloody mayhem.
Basically, aeroplane mode turns off the wireless features on your phone, smart watch et cetera, which means you can’t make calls, send texts or update your Hinge profile with your snazzy new holiday pics.
This stuff is all made possible through different types of frequencies, which TBH is a phenomenon I don’t wish to know about because, frankly, it scares me.
But as it turns out, pilots use, you guessed it, different types of frequencies to communicate with air traffic control — these are the people on the ground who make sure planes take off and land safely and don’t fly into each other. Doing God’s work, IMO.
Research has shown electronic devices and an aeroplane’s communications and navigation systems both emit signals in the same frequency bandwidth, which means there’s a chance they could collide. If this were to happen, it would be a major awkward turtle moment.
According to Head of Aviation at CQUniversity Doug Drury, there are global standards in place to make sure it doesn’t happen. Phew! But it doesn’t mean we can start raw dogging our phones while flying — there’s the chance our devices’ frequencies could mess with the signals emitted by cellular towers on the ground.
“Wireless networks are connected by a series of towers; the networks could become overloaded if passengers flying over these ground networks are all using their phones,” Drury said via The Conversation.
“The number of passengers that flew in 2021 was over 2.2 billion, and that’s half of what the 2019 passenger numbers were.”
Basically, if the cellular towers became overloaded then phone signals would drop out and no one would have reception. Frankly, it would be a nightmare scenario for those of us who are chronically online, like myself.
Drury said the brand spankin’ new 5G wireless networks could also wreak havoc with aeroplanes.
“Radio frequency bandwidth is limited, yet we are still trying to add more new devices to it,” he said.
“The aviation industry points out that the 5G wireless network bandwidth spectrum is remarkably close to the reserved aviation bandwidth spectrum, which may cause interference with navigation systems near airports that assist with landing the aircraft.”
Essentially, it could be another frequency fuck up situation, but more research is still required to know for certain.
In the meantime, be sure to fang aeroplane mode on next time you jet off.