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Airline policies not paranoia

Airline policies not paranoia

I would like to respond to the recent letter Palmtop Interferes with Airliner by David Shier (Vol.4, No.3, Pg. 4) I think David has been at least partially misinformed.

I certainly do not believe the policy off shutting down certain electronic devices during landing and take off to be paranoia. These policies are formulated both by the FAA and the airlines in response to documented problems reported to the ASRS (Aviation Safety Reporting System), which is under direct control of NASA.

When you are in an aircraft you are part of the electrical system much as you are when in your home or office. Just as nearby appliances such as TVs and radios may be affected by computers, cell phones or Gameboys, so can an Aircraft. Backup navigation may not be affected. However, during an instrument approach to landing or a critical departure procedure such as those published for cities like Chicago, Washington, D.C., Atlanta, Denver or Los Angeles, electronic devices pose a real problem on the Flight Deck. Which system has failed? Why?

Aircraft Navigation systems may be operating normally but on-board RF (Radio Frequency) as emitted by small electronic devices will interfere in some instances. During these critical phases of flight there is not enough time to walk through the cabin to determine the security of these items.

David mentions electrical storms as a source of interference. He is correct that weather related storms do pose problems with aircraft, including lightning strikes. Having been on the receiving end of numerous lightning strikes in the past 22+ years, I can safely say that they can cause extensive damage to Aircraft components.

Ground based EMI generally does not affect aircraft, as distance becomes a factor. Ground based appliances are not on board the aircraft and therefore not a great threat. Rare instances of on-ground interference have occurred with Airport Telephone Service Micro-wave Transmitters. These problems when noted are corrected immediately.

Sadly, I agree with David that liability issues are driving our lives. Airline policies at this time, to the best of my knowledge, specify that all personal appliances must be turned off for the first and last ten minutes of flight with the exception of cell phones, whose operation is prohibited while on board. Having been a commercial and airline transport pilot for some 22+ years with almost eleven years of service with United Airlines/Air Wisconsin (flying modern four engine turbo fan equipment), it is my belief that the current policies prevent the flight crew from having to deal with an artificial crisis during critical phases of flight such as landing and takeoff.

Sincerely, Daniel A. Scharf, Campbellsport, Wisconsin

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