Although many people use the airplane mode to sleep or during meetings, generally this mobile option, as its name suggests, is intended to reduce the interference that passengers’ electronic devices may have with those in the control room of an aircraft. Precisely for this reason, it is usually recommended to use it throughout the flight.
However, the reasons why this recommendation exists are very different from what we might think. It was recently explained by the aviation teacher Doug Drury in an article for The Conversation.
In it, he points out how, over the years, the technologies used in airplanes so that the existence of devices turned on in the cabin does not pose a problem. So the real reason airplane mode is recommended is not within transportation, but on land. It may seem strange, but it is so.
A coincidence less dangerous than it seems
Actually, airplane mode was invented in the sense that we all understand today. It is not for less, since since personal electronic devices began to be used in the cabin, the fear arose that these could interfere with on-board computers. Since then it has been known that these devices can emit signals within the same frequency. There are even recent studies that prove it. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s dangerous.
In fact, research has been carried out showing that, in reality, the use of these devices, even with that coinciding, do not interfere with aircraft signalsnor with the communications with the flight controllers. In addition, as if this were not enough, in some countries, such as the United States, bandwidths of frequencies designed for different uses have been created. Thus, the cabin signals and those of the control room would go through different paths.
For all this, it does not seem that airplane mode is necessary beyond the critical takeoff and landing maneuvers. In those cases, the mobiles should be kept off or in this mode, which prevents them from emitting any signal. Then the danger would be gone. Precisely for this reason, although it is recommended to use the airplane mode, in the European Union it ceased to be mandatory during the flight already in 2014.
So why do we still use airplane mode?
According to Drury, the real reason for using airplane mode is on Earth. And it is that if we add the signals emitted from all the devices in the cabin, with several planes flying a day, yes, some could be saturated busy terrestrial networks.
The danger would not be in the plane, therefore. Of course, all these conclusions are prior to the use of the 5G. And it is that, apparently, the band spectrum of this type of network is very close to that used in navigation systems near airports. Consequently, it could become dangerous to use when flying over these areas. And very dangerous if airplane mode is not used on landing. In any case, we have already seen that in takeoff and landing it is highly recommended, so we must not forget to use it.
The Social Component
Finally, the author of the article from The Conversation speaks of the social component of this decision. On the one hand, he mentions that the flight attendants They would be uncomfortable if they had to wait for each passenger to finish talking on the phone before they could offer them some food or any other service. We must not forget that walking around the plane is not as easy for them as it is for a train steward.
And that’s not all. It is also thought that the use of phones without airplane mode could influence a phenomenon known as air rage. This consists of a behavioral disturbance of the passengers, who tend to be more annoyed and even angry. The causes are not clear and it cannot even be considered as a medical or psychological phenomenon. Simply, it has been observed that it is something that happens frequently, especially on long flights.
It is believed that it may be related to spending so much time in such a small space without being able to go out, the stress and fatigue that the entire previous period at the airport entails, or even the smoking ban. Furthermore, all of this can be made even more marked if mixed with alcohol.
Finally, Drury believes that the use of mobile phones can further exacerbate the air rage, hence it is advisable to maintain the use of airplane mode. Who knows? Perhaps a certain Spanish singer on his day forgot to turn off his cell phone and that’s why he made that display of aerial rage seasoned with certain substances. Or maybe not. What is clear is that, even if it is not for the reasons we thought, it does not hurt to keep the phone in airplane mode. The more caution, the better.