IATA: this iPad could BRING DOWN A PLANE

Other gadgets dangerous too, aircrew think

Warning: aircraft

For as long as the world has had portable electronic devices, the mass debate has continued: does our tech pose a threat to flight safety?

With a greater number of services offering in-flight phone calls, the doubters appeared to have the upper hand. However, a new report claims our electronic gizmos could be hazardous after all.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA), no less, has detailed 75 incidents of "electronic interference" in flight systems which pilots and/or crew believed to result from portable electronic devices.

These were based on responses submitted to IATA from 125 airlines between 2003 and 2009.

Of those 75 incidents, 26 centred on interference with flight controls, the autopilot, auto-thrust equipment and landing gear. Seventeen involved communications kit, while 13 resulted in false electronic warnings.

IATA admitted it hasn't actually verified that any of these were caused by electronic devices, instead highlighting that crew members thought they were.

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In one instance, while two laptops were being used nearby, a clock spun backwards and GPS readings started going off. Another example tells of how altitude details went haywire until passengers were asked to switch off their devices.

Dave Carson, a Boeing advisor, reckons portable devices radiate signals that can disrupt electronic sensors hidden in a plane's passenger area, ABC News reports.

Engineers demonstrated how hidden signals from electronic devices were far above those which Boeing considers acceptable for aircraft use. The worst offender for those signals was an iPad, although Blackberrys and iPhones also sit well over the limit, it's claimed.

Newer planes with correct sheathing shouldn't be affected, but older models could remain a problem. In those cases, according to Carson, mobile phones are a genuine safety hazard.

But 75 incidents over a six-year period is far from convincing statistics. As these airlines represent roughly a quarter of the world's carriers, for arguments sake, let's call it 300 incidents in total, or 50 each year.

With hundreds of flights taking off every day, do such reports cause enough scare to turn your phone off on a flight? If so, don't get on a plane with me. ®

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