Is It Dangerous to Use Electronics on a Plane?

Real Simple answers your questions.

Q. Could my electronic devices really interfere with airplane technology?

Kathryn Wynne
New Haven, Connecticut

A. Surprisingly, yes. “Anything that uses electricity—even small devices—emits radiation that may interact with the plane’s equipment,” says David Carson, an engineer who cochaired a committee advising the Federal Aviation Administration on its guidelines. The danger is greatest during takeoff and landing, when the pilot has little time to recover from errors. At cruising altitudes, pilots can more easily compensate for interference, which is why you’re allowed to use your iPad then. So why can’t you switch on a cell phone midflight? From above, cell phones can overpower wireless towers, making it difficult for users on the ground to connect calls. In 2004 the Federal Communications Commission considered lifting the ban, but the public protested. The reason: Apparently flyers in the United States would rather turn off their phones than hear 18D gabbing away on his.