The Airplane Mode is one of those few things that are unfortunately still relevant in the 21st century. Frequent fliers are all familiar with the earnest requests over the intercom and then the stern orders from the cabin crew, to turn off our phones during take-off and landing, but what exactly does airplane mode do, and how is it helpful to pilots?
While its true that failing to put a device on airplane mode won’t make the plane fall out of the sky, the aviation industry has good reason to impose the rule. No matter what device you are using – Android, iOS or Windows, the airplane mode turns off the radio hardware of the device, preventing the devices to emit radio signals mid-air. The airplane mode turns off the cellular signal, Wi-Fi, bluetooth and the GPS.
This prevents the device from communicating with cell towers and that means no calls, sms or internet. Phones will also stop scanning and attempting to join Wi-Fi and Bluetooth networks. All these are confirmed by the airplane sign on the notification bar of your device.
Over the years, we have been made to believe that a failure to turn the airplane mode on prevents the cockpit-instruments from functioning properly and interferes with the pilot from communicating with the ground staff, basically leading to a gruesome end to our lives and that of our co-passengers as well. But try to sneakily keep a device on during a flight and you’ll soon realize how miraclously you survived the flight. So what exactly is the real reason behind the widespread imposition of this rule?
A pilot happened to come onboard Quora and cared to explain for all of us to know:
Do you recall that annoying sound you hear everytime you get an incoming call near a speaker? The migraine-inducing, nerve-wrenching brrrp..brrp..brrpp sound is the one I’m talking about. Now imagine that sound on the pilot’s headphones when he is trying to decipher an important bit of information from the air-traffic control, and it will suddenly dawn upon you why the airplane mode is so strictly imposed. The pilot will experience the annoying noise on his headphones even if a single phone is turned on and desperately searching for cell towers mid-air. That noise times 50 desperate phones will equal to the pilot simply saying “Fuck this shit”, grab his parachute and jump off the plane.
So, while the cockpit equipments won’t suddenly start to malfunction, keeping the pilot sane during the course of the journey is something an airlines just can’t do without. And if you dont consider this piece of revelatory information important enough, consider this: You know there’s no use searching for a signal 17,000 feet up in the air, but your phone doesn’t. It will continue to use full power to get the slightest signal to please its master and soon enough, for no fault of your smartphone, it will run out of power before you can attempt to take that hazy selfie after you land.
The next you fly and crib about how you can’t glue yourself to your screen for the entire duration you are up in the air, do us all a favor and look out the window to take in the breathtaking view, or better yet, read or even better, sleep.