Before the start of any flight, passengers are required to download flight mode on their smartphones and mobile devices, while the operating airline provides internet services on its flights, so what exactly is flight mode, and why do airlines require it?
First, what is flight mode on a mobile phone?
Airplane mode is a setting on a smartphone that temporarily suspends signals and Wi-Fi, even when the rest of the device is still running at full power.
On Android phones, Airplane mode is activated by swiping down from the top of the screen twice to open the Settings panel. There, you will see an airplane icon. On the iPhone, the Airplane mode icon is located in the Control Center. You can access it by swiping either down from the top right or up from the bottom depending on the age and model of the phone.
What happens when you put your phone on airplane mode?
The phone immediately stops receiving radio signals that enable sending or receiving text messages or calls, accessing web pages, email, or downloading data, according to Digital Trends .
However, text messages that have already been downloaded can be accessed, along with other stored information; From documents, games, music, or movies you’ve already saved on your device.
Why do airlines require this feature to be activated?
Just like aerodynamics and aeronautics, the reasons behind requiring airplane mode are not simple. But in short, “Flight mode is required; to mitigate any potential interference with sensitive aircraft systems,” a pilot, who requested anonymity, told Reader’s Digest .
He explained that communication and navigation systems that use radio frequencies emitted from the Earth are the most vulnerable to radio signal interference, because these frequencies are the same as what is used by mobile phones and tablets.
“Radios for Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, voice calls, and 3G, 4G and 5G data all use different parts of the radio frequency spectrum.”
The problem occurs when crosstalk or adjacent channel interference (ACI) is a technical problem.
“ACI basically means that a single radio receiver can inadvertently pick up a transmission from a transmitter on a nearby frequency,” the pilot said.
This transmission can interfere with the intended signal, as if listening to an FM radio from their car, but the sound is not clear, because the device is picking up a transmission from another station broadcasting on a nearby frequency.
On the plane , if pilots are flying over a difficult landing strip or there is a real emergency on board or on the ground, their lines of communication with ground control must be clear and wide open, and a stray cell phone call can compromise this Communication is compromised at crucial moments.
The pilot explained that flight mode has become “extremely more important” with the introduction of the 5G network by many cellular service providers.
“Signals from terrestrial antennas and 5G devices for people can cause interference at the most dangerous times of flight,” he explains; Because it is very close to the signals used by the aircraft’s wireless altimeter, which works by bouncing the radio signal off the ground and then back to the aircraft’s antenna to determine the altitude.
So during landing, in particular, the interference signal may make it difficult for the cockpit to recognize the plane’s altitude.
What about on- board Wi-Fi ?
And the question arises: while most airlines now offer in-flight Wi-Fi as a paid service. So why doesn’t that interfere with aircraft communications?
Because Wi-Fi works with satellite signals rather than radio signals, it does not connect to cell phone towers on the ground. This means that if you are willing to pay for it – and it may be slow or choppy – you can surf the Internet and download data while traveling, albeit at a slower speed.
However, many airlines prohibit the use of communication software such as Skype, WhatsApp, or FaceTime; So that passengers do not get carried away by making loud calls that disturb those around them throughout the flight.
What happens if you don’t put your phone on airplane mode?
If you forget to put your phone in airplane mode, the chances of disaster are remote. But the consequences of a mistake at a crucial moment can be fatal.
While pilots use the station’s radio altimeters to know the exact altitude of the aircraft over the terrain, this data becomes essential while approaching the ground when visibility is extremely low due to fog, snow or other adverse weather conditions.
He warned that a fifth-generation passenger device out of flight mode could cause the plane to receive a false signal via the plane’s wireless altimeter antenna.
This wrong signal can have frightening consequences, the pilot concluded: “It doesn’t matter whether one person or several people are ignoring the rules, all it takes is one wrong signal and the wrong combination of circumstances for a disaster to occur.”