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Holy Crap: Cell Phones Really Do Screw With Planes

You know those warnings when you get into a plane and they warn you to turn off cell phones and electronic devices and then you pretend like you turned it off and keep using it? Yeah well it turns out those warnings are real. ABC News retained a copy of confidential studies that report that there is a real possibility that cell phones and wireless devices can emit radio waves that can mess with planes internal wireless systems. Take a look:

A report by the International Air Transport Association, a trade group representing more 230 passenger and cargo airlines worldwide, documents 75 separate incidents of possible electronic interference that airline pilots and other crew members believed were linked to mobile phones and other electronic devices. The report covers the years 2003 to 2009 and is based on survey responses from 125 airlines that account for a quarter of the world’s air traffic.

Twenty-six of the incidents in the report affected the flight controls, including the autopilot, autothrust and landing gear. Seventeen affected navigation systems, while 15 affected communication systems. Thirteen of the incidents produced electronic warnings, including "engine indications." The type of personal device most often suspected in the incidents were cell phones, linked to four out of ten.

The report, which stresses that it is not verifying that the incidents were caused by PEDs, includes a sampling of the narratives provided by pilots and crewmembers who believed they were experiencing electronic interference.

They have cases of autopilot disengaging and the planes GPS reading incorrectly. It seems to be a question of wrong place/wrong time as devices spike in emissions, with the iPad noted as the worst offender, and these signals cross with the planes internal systems. The one saving grace is that newer planes (like the ones with wifi enabled capabilities) do in fact have appropriate shielding but that doesn’t impact older planes.

So next time you’re on a plane and you get that warning turn off your device and makes sure your neighbors aren’t faking it…crazy stuff right?