September 11, 2002
Faiz Chopdat goes to jail for playing tetris on cellphone during flight

Ananova reports: Newlywed jailed for using mobile on flight

A newlywed who played a game on his mobile phone during the flight back from his honeymoon has been jailed for four months.

After sentencing Faiz Chopdat, 23, of Blackburn, Lancashire, the judge called for all mobiles to be confiscated as passengers board an aircraft.

Judge Timothy Mort, sitting at Manchester's Minshull Street Crown Court, said the switching on of a mobile during a flight could prove fatal.
It could cause the autopilot to malfunction and affect the communications system, said the judge.

Someone has gone to real extents to prove a point here... Modern, civilian electronic flight systems are among the most well-isolated and safe in existence (beaten, of course, by military installations and aircraft). Wired reported a while back:
If a passenger were to ask anyone in the aviation industry why mobile phone use is not permitted in flight, the likely response would be that cell phones "may interfere with the communication and navigation systems of the plane."

In fact, most airlines issue such warnings before takeoff.

However, what the industry doesn't tell passengers is that there is no scientific proof to support these claims.

What also isn't widely known is that pilots have blamed portable voice recorders, heart pacemakers, electric shavers and hearing aids for interfering with their cockpit controls, yet there are no restrictions on their use during flights.

The industry's evidence of cell phone-caused interference is purely anecdotal -- instances engineers have tried but failed to duplicate under "controlled conditions."

What happened to reasonable doubt? Double blind tests? Skepticism? Fairness in courts?

I have flown with one of my cellphones on a number of times, each time accidentally, of course. Having 2-3 phones at the same time it's easy to forget to swich one off before flights. One of my phones also has an auto-turn-on every morning at 07.30am, and if I'm in flight then, it happens that it turns itself on if I've forgotten to disable the function before take-off. I know it's not following the rules. I also know it's not particularly dangerous; at least that there is no scientific proof that phones interfere with the inflight electronic systems. Should I go to jail?

I'm not defending Mr Chopdat's actions - no matter how excited he was after his honeymoon, he should still follow the instructions from the flight personnell; but still - a more thorough investigation need to be made into inflight interference before people go to jail for it...?

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Anders - what the story doesn’t say a word about is how Mr Chopdat behaved in the situation. I can hardly believe you’ll get busted for the fact of playing with you’re (Ericsson??) phone.

I can imagine situations of rude people arguing about if its dangerous or not, and also are able to see this as an action you’ll get sanctioned for. Maybe this some of the story Ananova didn’t told?

Anyway – tomorrow is coming with people wearing more and more gadgets with built in transmitters. Airlines does announce you’re not permitted to use receivers and transmitters during takeoff and landing. Receivers are permitted during flight. What about us wearing wrist watches radio synchronized? Breaking the _law_?

Personally I’ve been using my palmtop with a WLAN connection. Bluetooth phones – PCMCIA cards and gadgets on board. Stewardesses ain’t able to report if the thingy is transmitting or not. With enough people doing this – the whole idea of rejecting transmitters and receivers will fall apart. At least I will be able to have someone to play multiplayer games with during boring flight hours.

Posted by: Håvard Ravn Ottesen on September 11, 2002 09:21 PM

I always *wondered* if that was true...

Posted by: srah on September 12, 2002 02:15 AM


I've never consciously left a phone on during flight, nor do I encourage people to whip out their phones and start playing inflight either.

If Chopdat resisted / ignored cabin crew's instructions, that is punishable and certainly not up for discussion while in flight. Whether they tell you to put out a cigarette ("I'm not going to put fire on anything!") or leave your gun off the plane ("I'm not going to shoot anyone! Promise!") they have their non-negotiable instructions to follow, and by following them, they ensure inflight safety.

People should not run off trying all their gizmos inflight to piss off airlines or stewardesses - it just doesn't get you anything but trouble. What we SHOULD do is encourage Boeing/Airbus and the FAA (I think they are the ones responsible in the US?) to really get experimental data on how RF noise interferes with electronics and then proceed with improved shielding if there indeed is aneffect. Banning more and more gear is just not going to work for ever (what's next; a hijacker flips out an electric shaver and a phone and shouts: "Hey! I've got a shaver! Do what I want or I'll fuck the autopilot by turning it on!" ?!?! ;-)

Just my 2 cents as usual...

Posted by: andersja on September 12, 2002 12:35 PM

An element of the situation here is that the flight took off from Luxor, a city where terrorists have killed European tourists in the past. Perhaps if the flight was from Copenhagen to Oslo it might not have generated such strong feelings. Also, this actually led to a fight on the plane. So to a certain extent it transcended the initial aspect of what the violation was into violations related to disregarding directives and creating disorder. And you carry three mobile phones! How many ears do you have?

Posted by: Charles Wankel on September 15, 2002 01:40 PM

Thanks for the additional info, Charles. I suspected it was the "not complying" part that was causing the problems, not the phone...

As for 3 phones; 1 French, 1 Dutch and 1 Norwegian... While GSM cell phone roaming may be a nice idea technically, it is exceedingly expensive when travelling a lot...

Posted by: andersja on September 16, 2002 01:04 AM

The Travel Technologist: Why Do Gadgets Have to be Turned Off?

Posted by: andersja on September 25, 2002 10:53 AM

I'm an airline pilot flying 757's and 767's. I can tell you that we regularly leave our phones on during flights, not intentionally mind oyu, but because we forget to turn them off. They cause absolutely no iterferance with the autopilot or anything else. I've even held my phone up next to the various video tubes that display the cockpit instrumentation and I can tell you that there's no interference whatsoever. I really believe that the reason the airlines tell you that they want all phones off is so you're forced to use their overpriced seat back flight phones. I can also tell you that your mobile phone will lose its signal for the most part, out of about 3000 feet after take off, sometimes a little lower, sometimes higher, but that's a good general rule from what I've noticed. If interferance from mobile phone use was such a potetially serious problem, they would be sweeping the cabins with electronic detectors after oarding, to be certain that all phones were shut off and they don't do they?

Posted by: Andy on January 24, 2003 05:07 PM

I would personally have to see tests done that say that things like cell phones will disrupt instruments in flight. As a pilot myself (private only) I use my cell phone all the time while i'm piloting and have never seen anything that is disruptive.

Posted by: tucex on January 24, 2006 07:37 PM
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