Leaving your mobile on can make cockpit screens go blank, says FAA

1 Oct 2014

After years of grumblings by passengers having to make sure their phones are switched off mid-flight, the US Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) has supposedly confirmed the danger that turned-on devices pose to pilots.

The concern held by the FAA is considered serious enough that it is now calling on all airlines and operators of airline aircraft to upgrade or totally replace the existing screens because the FAA has found signals from mobile phones or Wi-Fi can cause the screens to go blank.

According to the BBC, the FA came to these conclusions after extensive testing, but the screens’ manufacturer, Honeywell, has said the issue was only found on stationary aircraft, not ones that are airborne.

This comes after a report made by an airline pilot in 2012 who found that after the introduction of wireless internet service into the planes, significant interference was found on screens, specifically those categorised as ‘phase 3’.

Since 2012, the FAA believe that there are still 1,326 Boeing 737 and 777 aircraft which have the Honeywell screens within the aircraft that need to be replaced.

Financially, this could cost airlines, in total, approximately €11m, but the FAA have hardly given a sign of urgency after putting a deadline of five years from now to replace the screens.

Ryanair had been one of the most vocal about the FAA and its requirements on mobile and Wi-Fi in flight as a non-issue in-flight.

In response, the FAA issued a statement which emphasised the need to be safe than sorry dismissing their claims: “We do not agree that no problems have occurred on in-service airplanes, since the Wi-Fi… testing that disclosed this susceptibility was conducted on an in-service airplane fitted with phase 3 display units.”

Man on his mobile on an airline image via Shutterstock

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic