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Mobile phone suspected in plane crash inquiry

Ten died in light aircraft disaster

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Investigators are exploring the possibility that mobile phone use may have been behind the crash of a light airplane, which killed ten people.

An inquiry into the crash of Crossair flight LX 498, which crashed just after take-off from Zurich airport on 10 January last year, is focusing on a link with mobile phones after tests with the same model of airplane, a Saab 340, used on the flight.

Specialist website airdisaster.com reports that Jean Overney, leading investigations into the crash of Crossair flight LX 498, said tests showed that Saab 340's navigation system could be disrupted by a mobile phone.

Overney told airdisaster.com: "We have asked mobile phone operators to check whether a call was made or a message sent just before the crash. These are recorded precisely to the second. We need a court order to give us access, but should have this data by the end of May."

Using mobile phone aboard planes is banned by almost all airlines and by the air traffic regulations of most countries. However problems can arise when passengers forget to switch off mobiles. However this is the first time a mobile phone has been linked so closely with an air accident investigation.

A spokeswoman for the Civil Aviation Authority said that anecdotal evidence of interference with instruments from mobile phones had prompted it to carry out a full investigation of the effects of mobile phone transmissions on airplanes.

A subsequent report highlighted particular areas of concern from mobile phone use of airplanes including false cockpit warnings, malfunction of systems, interference with flight crew headphones and "hidden failures of safety systems with loss of protection".

Earlier this month, a Slovenian airliner made an emergency landing after a mobile phone caused the electronics system to malfunction and falsely indicate an onboard fire. ®

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