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Airplane mode

Old 10th Jul 2019, 17:05
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Airplane mode

Hi!

I'm right now doing my PPL and I should be getting it later this year. Now, my question is: Do you enable airplane mode when flying a general aviation aircraft? I can't seem to find anything addressing this. My instructor says that I should enable it but how about those navigation apps you can get on your iPad? Do they require internet connection?

Thanks
V
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Old 10th Jul 2019, 17:43
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First of all, welcome to this place!

Do you enable airplane mode when flying a general aviation aircraft?
Negative. My plane doesn't even have such a switch - though, if there were one, I think I would prefer "airplane mode" over "coffeemaker mode"

Seriously: don't worry about all those gizmo's! Keep that "smart"phone as far away as you can, there's a plethora of other things to keep your attention going. Learn to fly the plane with as little "auxiliaries" as you can - your instructor might well cover all your instruments one day, with a sheet of paper or so. It happened to me, and did me a power of good!
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Old 10th Jul 2019, 18:21
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Welcome Finnish Flyer,

What Jan said. Forget the phone, look out the window as much as you possible can, it's what you're paying for! Remind yourself that many of us learned to fly before "technology" was even thought of, and we did perfectly fine. I'm not saying that technology is of no use, but I will say that every minute you spend being distracted by a gizmo during your early flight training, is a minute that you paid for, that you did not use to learn about flying! You have lots to think about and learn just looking out the window, so do that first. Leave your phone in your pocket the entire flight.

To more directly answer your question, the phone may slightly interfere with the airplane radios. You may hear a little "bip bip bip" sound every now and then. It may be distracting, but won't bother visual flying in a GA plane.
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Old 10th Jul 2019, 18:36
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DAR, I am much honoured by your consent and support, thanks indeed. Still, allow me to suggest we should be even more rigourous than your usual gentle self: keeping the phone in one's pocket is not enough. Not even mentioning how close it could be to certain delicate parts of the human body (depending on the body and the clothing, and the detail position of the pockets therein), and what effect it could have upon them when suddenly unexpectedly buzzing and vibrating - it simply shouldn't be aboard, unless switched off but then really off, until the PPL has been achieved. The whole PPL syllabus and exam scheme was conceived and implemented long before these contraptions came around. Potential distractions are to be avoided, unconditionally.

Last edited by Jan Olieslagers; 11th Jul 2019 at 14:21.
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Old 10th Jul 2019, 19:15
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and what effect it could have upon them when suddenly unexpectedly buzzing and vibrating
It's rare that I fly an airplane so smooth that I could feel the phone vibrating in my pocket! In any case, the pilot should prevent it being a distraction during flight. However, I find value in it being available in the case of emergency. I admit, that a couple of times, I have used it to pull up internet weather radar, when I needed up to date storm tracking. BUT, at the student pilot level, the student should not be needing to do this, and the instructor should not be tinkering on the phone during a lesson either - unless to assure flight safety.

I like the idea of having a cell phone available in the case of a crash. Toward this end, I put my cell phone in a waterproof bag, and clip it to my life jacket when I water fly. Unfortunately, two years ago, when my student sent me out of the plane through the windshield, and into the water, the phone bag, as well as the bottom edge of my inflatable lifejacket, were torn off on the way past the windshield. My phone was never found. My wife called it for a couple of days, and eventually it either flooded, or the battery went flat, 'cause it stopped ringing. It's down there somewhere. The only things right about that accident were that we both lived, and my student crashed in front of people with boats, rather than the middle of the lake.

Take the phone, but ignore having it unless everything has gone wrong....
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Old 11th Jul 2019, 08:32
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Personally, I have it on while I'm currently doing my PPL, tracking with CloudAhoy... but the next thing I do is mute it and stick it in my bag in the back seat. No airplane mode, but also no buzzing and (mostly) out of reach.

...on another note....DAR, this may have already been asked... but when are you going to write a book?

Last edited by onionabroad; 11th Jul 2019 at 08:44.
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Old 11th Jul 2019, 11:39
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but the next thing I do is mute it and stick it in my bag in the back seat.
Better in your pocket or a fanny pack you're wearing than in the back seat. Two reasons:

Though not so much a factor in a landplane than a seaplane, it is still a slip possibility that following an unusual landing, you're getting out as fast as you can. When this happens ('been there) only things on your body are leaving with you, things in the back will remain, as you won't take time to go digging for them. For the effort to have your cell phone on your person, you may as well, so if you ever have to call for help following a crash landing, your phone left the plane with you, rather than burning in it. A friend had an in flight fire in his 182 amphibian last year. The plane was on fire as he landed it, happily on a runway. He got out - just - the plane burned to the ground, with everything he had left aboard as he rushed out. Or, worse:

You crash, and are trapped in the wreckage. You want your emergency resources within reach from your seat, not out of reach in the back. This happened to a friend decades back, crashing a Cherokee in Labrador on a winter night. All of his comprehensive emergency kit was behind the back seat. He was pinned in by his ankle, and could not access anything to keep warm, or to communicate. His ELT went off, which helped him be found - very good. However, it had no remote switch, so he could not turn it off, when the rescue helicopter was radioing him on 121.5 hovering above. He could hear them calling, but the airplane radio he was using (broken antenna, I think) could not transmit over the ELT, so he could not transmit his condition and other information to the rescue crews. Therefore, my planes also have a remote ELT switch, not only so you can turn it on, but also so you can turn it off! When flying solo, I carry all emergency gear within reach of my seat. For water flying, I wear a lifejacket with large pockets built in, with a summer night's worth of emergency gear in those pockets.

DAR, this may have already been asked... but when are you going to write a book?
I have about 100 pages written down along the way. One day, I'll figure out what to do with it.... In the mean time, PPRuNers get bits of it on the installment plan!
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Old 11th Jul 2019, 11:54
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Originally Posted by Pilot DAR View Post
Better in your pocket or a fanny pack you're wearing than in the back seat. Two reasons:

Though not so much a factor in a landplane than a seaplane, it is still a slip possibility that following an unusual landing, you're getting out as fast as you can. When this happens ('been there) only things on your body are leaving with you, things in the back will remain, as you won't take time to go digging for them. For the effort to have your cell phone on your person, you may as well, so if you ever have to call for help following a crash landing, your phone left the plane with you, rather than burning in it. A friend had an in flight fire in his 182 amphibian last year. The plane was on fire as he landed it, happily on a runway. He got out - just - the plane burned to the ground, with everything he had left aboard as he rushed out. Or, worse:

You crash, and are trapped in the wreckage. You want your emergency resources within reach from your seat, not out of reach in the back. This happened to a friend decades back, crashing a Cherokee in Labrador on a winter night. All of his comprehensive emergency kit was behind the back seat. He was pinned in by his ankle, and could not access anything to keep warm, or to communicate. His ELT went off, which helped him be found - very good. However, it had no remote switch, so he could not turn it off, when the rescue helicopter was radioing him on 121.5 hovering above. He could hear them calling, but the airplane radio he was using (broken antenna, I think) could not transmit over the ELT, so he could not transmit his condition and other information to the rescue crews. Therefore, my planes also have a remote ELT switch, not only so you can turn it on, but also so you can turn it off! When flying solo, I carry all emergency gear within reach of my seat. For water flying, I wear a lifejacket with large pockets built in, with a summer night's worth of emergency gear in those pockets.



I have about 100 pages written down along the way. One day, I'll figure out what to do with it.... In the mean time, PPRuNers get bits of it on the installment plan!
Agreed. I always carry my mobile (usually in flight mode) and PLB in my flying suit or survival suit if over water.

I once read an article by a round the world solo pilot (in an RV6, I think) who wrote that he reckoned that in a ditching you would probably only get what was attached to your body out of the aeroplane. He even had a one man raft attached to his waist belt!

This makes sense to me, even over the Scottish Highlands and Islands.
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Old 11th Jul 2019, 12:07
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Originally Posted by Pilot DAR View Post
Better in your pocket or a fanny pack you're wearing than in the back seat. Two reasons:
.....
!
cheers...both things i'll be thinking about going forward!
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Old 11th Jul 2019, 12:20
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When I did my seaplane rating I was handed a waterproof bag for my phone, with a strap, and told to wear it Every Single Time I flew. The phone still works inside the bag, touchscreen no problem. Probably a good idea to cut any security as well, so you don't have to remember a pin while swimming.
No reason not to use it in a landplane, either.
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Old 11th Jul 2019, 13:37
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I read an AAIB report a couple of weeks ago where it took some time to find the injured pilot and his passenger (hip and leg injuries) and a recommendation was that had a mobile phone been immediately available and not in an unreachable bag on the back seat, then they could have phoned for assistance which would have arrived about a half hour earlier (the crash was near an unmanned farm strip).

I was also told that up to date 4G phones are terribly unlikely to interfere with any aircraft systems and don't need to be turned to aeroplane mode and the airlines only insist on it to avoid in flight punch ups.

I guess that is so judging by the noises I hear from hand baggage in flight where innumerable phones are getting a welcome text as they cross borders and that there are not easyJets raining down on us.
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Old 11th Jul 2019, 14:27
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Okay, so cell phone interference, some observations:

They will sometimes make the bip bip bip sound, which could be annoying to pilots, I'll get back to that...

A part of my role in issuing STC approvals for modifications to aircraft is to qualitatively evaluate the modified aircraft for any electro magnetic interference (which would include cell phone interference). In the role, I spend a fair amount of time in the jump set of highly modified research airplanes, with a lot of special electronic gear, and some scientists in the back. Does any of that gear interfere with the plane or pilot's duties (story coming later...).

So there we are flying north from Inuvik in the Canadian arctic, with me listening on the headset, watching all the cockpit instrumentation, monitoring electrical consumption, and making lots of notes. Everything is fine, zero interference to the airplane systems, my job is mostly done, I'm along for the ride until we fly a practice ILS and do the final checks. In the intercom, I hear a gentle scientist's voice ask: "does anyone in the cockpit have their cell phone turned on?". Two pilots and I look at each other sheepishly - we all do. We turn them to flight mode, and report having done that - with a little embarrassment. The gentle scientist voice say thanks, they were interfering with our equipment. It would appear that the gear in the back was much more sensitive that anything in the cockpit!

In sitting jump seat, I'm right beside the avionics bay. In the just deliverd version of the plane, I remember having a rather annoying signal in my headset from the transponder. I checked with the pilots, and neither of then could hear it - it was just in jump seat - weird! I unplugged my headset to move to different jacks, and noted that even with the headset unplugged, I still heard the signal! With headset plugs in hand, I verified that I was not imagining this! I suppose it was some kind of induction from the transponder to the headset, with no electrical connection required. I ask that it be checked, simply out of radiation concerns for the crew. I guess it was fixed, 'hasn't done it since!

So, the story..... We had a newly designed radar system mounted to the belly to measure sea ice thickness in real time. This was powerful radar, so much so that it was not permitted to be operated on the ground - it would irradiate the crew! So the first test of this radar system would be the certification test I would ride along. I took the radiation meter, which I would wander around the cabin with, to check for radiation. We were given a specific line to fly over one of the great lakes (provided no boats were visible) by the authorities, as this radar was not to be operated over people at any altitude. So we're at the appointed start point, no boats. I give the okay to turn it on... three, two, one.... and an intolerable shreaking sound hit our headsets, and we all ripped them from our heads. Well... that didn't work! The radar scientists in the back did not need to hear me tell them over the headsets they were all holding that the test was a massive fail. We landed, went for lunch, while radar techs tuned things.

Next flight, same outcome: "Sorry, I cannot approve this system." " But... we're taking it to Greenland next week...". "Well, not approved, you can go with it turned off "(not much use for ice thickness measurement). So the next week, I was in Greenland, jump seat again, and the whole system was silent as could be. A pleasant run up and down the fjord, and all was fine. I signed the approval, marveled the beauty of Greenland, and headed back to Copenhagen. (By the way, there are not flights for Canada to Greenland, it is necessary to fly both ways via Copenhagen, so it makes for a long trip!
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Old 11th Jul 2019, 14:36
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You really ought to start work on that (first) book. Help available, if and when required, I'm sure.
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Old 11th Jul 2019, 14:39
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And by the way, I am more and more curious to hear again from the topic-starter - I dearly hope we didn't scare her/him off!
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Old 11th Jul 2019, 15:28
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Apart from the EMC risks associated with operating cell phones in the cockpit - it is against the terms of your service contract. Somewhere in the fine print is a requirement not to operate in the air. Its against the law in some coutries but also, historically it can cause problems to the cellular operator. ( Because you can suddenly now see too many cells at once) . I do wonder how that works with airlines that provide service on board ...
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Old 11th Jul 2019, 16:53
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I've had Cambridge Approach ask me to turn my phone off as it was interfering with our conversation at their end. Subsequently found that SkyDemon (other systems are available ) does work in "Airplane Mode".
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Old 12th Jul 2019, 15:40
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I confess that in 2000 hours of PIC I have NEVER turned my phone off, or put it in flight mode. NEVER. I've never heard the old cell phone interference noise - I think that probably went away when 3G was introduced. Usually it just sits in my pocket, occasionally I will use it to text someone and say I'm arriving. At normal GA altitudes it generally works OK.

As for airliners... now they have picocells on board it's a bit hard for them to argue that the plane will fall out of the sky if you turn your phone on. A, ahem, good friend of mine, has been known to use FlightAware on his phone in flight to figure out where he is. He says it's hard to get good GPS reception sitting inside a metal tube, but if you hold the phone against the window for a couple of minutes it generally works.

I remember reading years ago Matthew Parris (well known UK journalist/ex politician) writing that he always keeps his phone switched on in flight on the principle that someone is bound to, so it may as well be him.

As for legality, in the US anyway, it's at the pilot's discretion. So if I'm the pilot, I apply my discretion and keep it switched on.

As for keeping things available - not just in small planes either. Since BA038 and the Asiana thing at SFO, I keep my wallet, passport and phone in my pocket during takeoff and landing, always.
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Old 13th Jul 2019, 16:14
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A bit more practical information.

Your phone operates/transmits at a multitude of frequencies. They can broadly be classified as cellular (including Edge, 3G/4G and whatnot), bluetooth and wifi. When you switch your phone to airplane mode, by default all three will be switched off. However, even in airplane mode you can then go back in and switch BT and Wifi back on. Cellular will always be deactivated. Receive-only frequencies, including GPS, can always be activated if an app requests it, regardless of whether you have airplane mode switched on or not.

The distraction of incoming messages/calls, and the interference issues have been covered already. But I want to add something about functionality. When you actually use your phone in-flight, it may be beneficial to have some of these categories on. For instance, some pilots may have removable equipment such as a portable AHRS, a remote GPS receiver or some sort of PCAS/TCAS to enhance the capabilities of the phone, or to enhance the reception of the GPS signal. These devices may communicate with your phone over BT or Wifi, so that will need to be enabled in that case. And obviously you have to be running the right software. SkyDemon comes to mind. As an aside, I have never seen any interference with aircraft systems from a BT or Wifi signal. Cellular, yes, but BT and Wifi not.

Similarly, programs such as SkyDemon can be configured to make use of a cellular connection in-flight, to download the latest weather, NOTAMs and various other bits of useful information that may change while in-flight. Obviously for this to work you will need a cellular connection to be active. Whether you want that or not, then becomes a captains decision between interference/distraction on the one hand, and usefulness on the other hand. Furthermore, you will most likely find that above a certain altitude, cellular signals are simply not working: For efficiency purposes cellphone towers only transmit the signals in a more or less horizontal disc, and not up into the sky.
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