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Feb 25, 2006

Cellphones May Pose Greater Risk To Airplane's GPS Navigation Than Thought

We've all heard those announcements prior to the flight asking us to turn off our cellphones and other electronic devices. While I always turn off my cellphone, I've always figured that was what I call a "feel good" rule. You know, something that really doesn't do much good, but the government makes us do mainly because it makes us feel safer?

However, in a statement released recently by IEEE Spectrum Magazine, a team of four electrical engineers have stated that their research found that cellphones and other portable electronic devices can interrupt the normal operation of key cockpit instruments, especially Global Positioning System (GPS) receivers. GPS navigation is becoming increasingly vital to safe landings.

The team's findings are significant because since December, 2004, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has been soliciting comments on proposed regulations that would allow airline passengers to use cellphones during flight. Many passengers do not believe that using portable electronic devices presents a risk to their safety. Over the course of three months in late 2003, the team of electrical engineers tested the spectral environment on 37 different commercial flights over the northeast United States. They found that passengers are using cellphones, on the average, at least once per flight, contrary to current government regulations.

The engineers that performed the study were Bill Strauss, an expert in aircraft electromagnetic compatibility at the Naval Air Warfare Center, two electrical engineering professors at Carnegie Mellon University, and Jay Apt an active pilot and former NASA astronaut.

Thanks to a commenter for further information:
The IEEE Spectrum podcast that this comes from is in their February 06 podcast at