What happens when you don’t switch off your mobile phone during flight?

Have you ever wondered why it is that every time your flight is about to take off, the staff on board kindly asks you to turn off all mobile phones? By not turning on the flight mode option available on almost every mobile phone, while you are flying is not very likely to bring down the entire plane; however, it is highly possible that it can create problems for the people who are flying the aircraft. While there is very little danger caused by leaving the connection of the phone on, while you are flying, the signals from your mobile phone can interfere with the communications system on board and will cause a problem for the pilot.[irp]

The main problem caused by the pilot will be the slow percussive thumping which can be heard when a phone rings close to or next to a speaker, as the same sound may be heard through the headsets which are worn by the pilots. However, even this occurrence is very rare. Out of 50 flights, the pilots on board might hear this irritating noise only once or twice. Till now it is not clear whether these small problems are due to some rare issue, or it is because the people on board will mostly remember to turn off their phones. Sometimes even the larger communications problems will come into effect. At least one individual has interrupted one of the radio calls between the traffic control, and the plane they are in.

This statistic has been reported by the Mail and is potentially a huge safety hazard for not only the plane but the hundreds of people who might be seated on the plane. They may inadvertently cause problems for other planes in the sky and the passengers seated in them too. However generally leaving the flight mode off is not very likely to stir up any sort of big problems or trouble.

Some of the airlines now even allow their passengers to use a special version of their telecommunication network, which allows the people on board to connect on to a special carrier while they are still in the air, and then that carrier will allow them to send and receive text messages as well as answer and make calls too.  These are however charged at a higher rate than the normal call and text message rate provided by your service provider.[irp]

I do have to urge though, as somebody who is absolutely horrified of flying, that some of us on board (yes there are always many of my kind on board) are hoping for a smooth flight so don’t do anything which might increase the chances of having an issue or problem during the flight or while taking off and landing. I must admit that I once did sleep off on the plane before I had the chance to turn my phone off, and nothing happened.

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Steve has been living in Saudi Arabia since 2013 and writing about Saudi rules, regulations, guides, and procedures since then.