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Home > Safety Issues > Portable Electronic Devices


This section contains information and links regarding the possible dangers of the use of portable electronic devices (PED) in flight. PEDs, such as cellular phones, laptop computers, CD players, and computer games, can interfere with aircraft instruments.

There are many rumours about the possible dangers of portable electronic devices.
On Septmber 23, 1998 an article in the "the Australian" newspaper mentioned a serious incident that happened on September 4, 1998. On approach to London-Heathrow, a Qantas Boeing 747 suddenly lurched heavily on to its side and pitched 700 feet higher into the sky.
The malfunction is believed to have been caused by passengers using electronic games, a laptop computer and a personal CD player during the descent - despite being told not to.

In the US the Aviation Safety Reporting System (ASRS) collects, analyzes, and responds to voluntarily submitted aviation safety incident reports in order to lessen the likelihood of aviation accidents.
A Database Report Set with 50 PED-related incidents can be downloaded from the ASRS Database Report Sets.

The anomalies and related possible causes of PED interference with aircraft instruments from a previous ASRS report set, is listed below

Anomaly Phase Possible cause
NAV CDI needle swing (off course) CL tape players
CDI needle swings ER chess player
erroneous nav signal of VOR station ER dictaphone
loss of VOR capability ER? cellphone
HSI's discsrepancies   cellphone
NAV compass & CDI oscillation (off course)   PEDs
off VOR course ER cellphone
off course   tape player
music blocked VHF comm's   FM radio
comm's blocked GR/CL Nintendo, cellphone, notebooks
off course   tape machine+Nintendo
off course ER cellphone
both VORs lost, no VOR audio signal ER cellphone
all directional gyros lost   25 radio's, 1 laptop
compass error; off course ER laptop,
2 missed approaches FA PED suspected
loss of all autonav functions CL 3 laptops, cdplayer/radio
loc receiver anomaly; missed app. FA PED suspected
compass precess 10deg ER laptop
Omega NAV unreliable ER tv set suspected
HSI errors TA,CL,ER cellphone
nav compass sys error; off course CL cellphone
temp loss of com freq.   cd player
INS nav errors   electronic games
off course   cellphone
eng fuel ctlr + vhf radio interference   cellphone
off course   laptop
EMI interference & radio alt flag ER cd-players (2)
erratic cdi indications ER 2 gameboys
autopilot erratic AP cellphone suspected
off course   gameboy
nav radio interference; off ILS course AP computer game
EMI interference causes a split between the compass system in flight ER laptop
both LOC and GS 'OFF' flags showed just prior to the Outer Marker AP PED suspected
significant LOC rate of deflection AP PED possible
loss of Captain EFIS display AP 8 laptops
electronic compass erratic   cd player
interfering transmitter AP cellphone
NAV and COM radio problems   PED suspected
off approach path AP PED suspected
off course due to drifting FM PED suspected
HSI discrepencies   PED suspected
EICAS interference, airspeed discrep. ER, DC PED
loss of COM frequency   cellphone
ILS, radio altimeter, and primary flight display went out   20 cellphones


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