Julie Kalista
Online Editor

A study by Carnegie Mellon University researchers in the Department of Engineering and Public Policy (EPP) found that cell phones and other portable electronic devices pose a threat to the function of critical aircraft electronics. "These devices can disrupt normal operation of key cockpit instruments, especially Global Positioning System receivers, which are increasingly vital for safe landings," says Bill Strauss, an expert in aircraft electromagnetic compatibility at the Naval Air Warfare Center in Patuxent River, Maryland.

Three major airlines and EPP researchers recently traveled the northeast U.S. on commercial flights, monitoring radio emissions from passenger cell phones and other electronic devices. A broadband antenna attached to a portable spectrum analyzer tracked radio emissions. While the focus was on wireless phones, Granger Morgan, head of the EPP, says they discovered problematic emissions from other portable devices as well.

Researchers found that on average one to four cell phone calls are typically made from every commercial flight in the northeast United States. Some of these calls are made during critical flight stages such as climb-out or final approach. The EPP recommends that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and FAA begin to coordinate electronic emission standards, monitoring on-board radio emissions by flight data recorders, and deploying tools for flight crews to monitor passenger use of electronic devices during final approach.

More Information:
Carnegie Mellon University, Department of Engineering and Public Policy

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