The Realities And Necessities Of Flight Mode On Phones & Other Devices

flight mode or airplane mode

What is flight mode or airplane mode? Can phone usage on-board airplane without activating the flight mode crash the plane? What are the available alternatives for phone users?

Flight mode, airplane mode, aeroplane mode, offline mode, or standalone mode is a setting available on many smartphones, portable computers, and other electronic devices that, when activated, suspends radio-frequency signal transmission by the device, thereby disabling Bluetooth, GPS, telephony, and WiFi.

The name comes from the prohibition by many airlines of using equipment transmitting radio-frequency signal while in flight; using airplane mode prevents devices from transmitting voice and text signals and others like Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.

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The Myth Behind Flight Mode

It has been widely and erroneously believed that phone’s network signal can cause a plane to crash if the flight mode was not activated before flight take off.
The one million dollars or one billion naira question remains – can a phone’s signal really take down a plane. The answer is a capital NO.

The radiation from phone signal cannot interfere with the plane’s operating system to the extent that it will cause the whole thing to almost immediately develop critical fault and end up crashing. So even if lots of terrorists kept their phones on and watched huge online videos onboard, it can never take down the plane.

The Realities About Flight Mode

The main reason flight attendants insist you have your phone switched off or in flight mode is to prevent the pilot and other radar attendants from being distracted by interference noises being emitted from your phones, thereby hampering clear information exchange.

Whatever device you’re using — an Android phone, iPhone, iPad, Windows 8 tablet, Nokia touch, PC or even the lowest “chiboy” — airplane or flight mode disables the same hardware functions on each device. The communication functions that airplane mode can disable include:

Cellular: Your device will stop communicating with cell towers. You won’t be able to send or receive anything that depends on cellular data, from voice calls and SMS messages to mobile data.

Wi-Fi: Your phone will stop scanning for nearby Wi-Fi networks and attempting to join them. If you’re already connected to a Wi-Fi network, you’ll be disconnected.

Bluetooth: Airplane mode also disables Bluetooth, a wireless communication technology most people associate with wireless headsets. But Bluetooth can be used for many other things, including keyboards and mice.

GPS: Flight mode also disables GPS-receiving functions, but only on some devices. This is a bit confusing and inconsistent. In theory, GPS is unlike all the other technologies here — a device with GPS turned on is only listening to GPS signals it receives, not transmitting any signals. However, some aircraft regulations do not allow the use of GPS-receiving functions for some reason.

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When airplane mode is enabled, you’ll often see an airplane icon in your device’s notification bar — this appears on the top bar on Android devices, iPhones, and iPads. You can still use devices on the aircraft — even during takeoff and landing — as long as airplane mode is enabled. You don’t have to power them off.

The Necessities of Flight Mode

Regulations in many countries prohibit the use of devices that transmit signals on commercial aircraft. A typical phone or cellular-enabled tablet is communicating with several cell towers and attempting to maintain a connection at all times.

If the towers are far away, the phone or tablet has to boost its signal so it can communicate with the towers. This sort of communication could interfere with an airplane’s sensors and potentially cause issues with sensitive navigation equipment. That’s a concern that brought these laws about, anyway.

In reality, modern equipment is robust. And even if this kind of interference does eventually cause problems, the plane won’t fall off the sky because a few people forgot to enable airplane or offline mode!

air peace plane take off
– Airplanes can still take off with hundreds of phones receiving signals

A more understandable concern is that, while on air, all the phones on the plane would be constantly pinging network signals from cell tower to cell towers. This would interfere with the cellular signals tha radar agents and operators on ground receive, which may interrupt communication, even in most critical conditions. You wouldn’t want your phone to do this hard work, because it would drain its battery, and yet wouldn’t be able to maintain a proper signal – the disadvantage.

Airplane mode can help even when you are on ground. It’s an excellent way to save battery power on your device. The radios on a device use a large amount of power, communicating with cell towers. Activating the flight mode can therefore save your gadget battery power from constant drainage, when the need arises.

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Wi-Fi and Bluetooth Can Be Enabled in Flight Mode

Wi-Fi is allowed on some airplanes — in fact, many airplanes now offer in-flight Wi-Fi you can pay for. Enabling airplane mode always disables Wi-Fi. However, on most devices, you can now enable Wi-Fi after activating flight mode. Cellular signals will still remain deactivated, but Wi-Fi will be working so you can connect to that in-flight Wi-Fi network.


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Thank God, this is one thing that scared me much…. about flight initially. Great piece…….

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I had taught as much, otherwise, those terror mongers wouldn’t need much effort to bring down most air planes.

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