Airplane Mode: What Happens if You Forget to Turn it On?

I am sure you have heard or seen the warning sign to turn of your mobile devices when you’re about to take off in an aeroplane.


But what if you didn’t switch off your mobile? Will you cause an accident?

Apparently NOT.

Flying would be very scary if anyone one of us did not switch off our phone during a flight. If that was really the case, then airplanes would have those devices seen in movies where mobile signals are blocked within a certain radius.

But if mobile phones are harmless, then why do they ask us to switch off or put our phones on Airplane Mode during each flight.

The problem lies with your mobile phone trying to make contact with the nearest ground tower. According to Wikipedia, “In the United States, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) restricts cell phone usage on aircraft in order to prevent disruption to cellular towers on the ground.”

The premise given is that most mobile phone towers were not designed to keep track of mobile phones whizzing around them at around 400 km/h. Most mobile phone towers have a donut shaped range – any handphone in this range gets captured by the mobile tower.

Source of pictures: Datasync


The vertical range is about 8000 feet or 2400 meters.



A plane traveling at an altitude of  1000 feet or 300 meters at 500 knots will have a window of opportunity to get a signal in the white region shown below. The grey region is the region with no signal due to the Doppler Blocking effect.


At a slower speed, the window of opportunity widens.


In other words, during take off and landing is your best chance to make calls as the window of opportunity to get a decent cell phone signal drops of as the plane speeds up. Even then, at 500 knots and a 5-second gap, several hundred mobile phones trying to make contact with a mobile phone tower is a pretty traumatic event for the mobile tower.

Another amazing fact is that phone signals can only escape from an aeroplane via its windows. The aeroplane is encapsulated via a law attributed to Michael Faraday known as Faraday’s Cage:


A Faraday cage or Faraday shield is an enclosure formed by conductive material or by a mesh of such material. Such an enclosure blocks external static and non-static electric fields by channeling electricity along and around, but not through, the mesh, providing constant voltage on all sides of the enclosure. Since the difference in voltage is the measure of electrical potential, no current flows through the space. Faraday cages are named after the English scientist Michael Faraday, who invented them in 1836.

Scientific reasons are not the only explanation why mobile phones are not allowed on planes. A social explanation is that passengers expect quietness on the plane. Just imagine if everyone was allowed to use their mobile phones in a confined aeroplane. It would be a disaster.

Furthermore, an economic reason is that aeroplanes have always provided telephone services at a cost. Why lose this stream of revenue?

So, the moral of the story is that your mobile phone, if it ever rings on the plane, will not bring the plane down. But having the mobile phone off during flights gives passengers a peace of mind during their “confinement” in the plane.

And that is priceless!


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Important Social Skills

Have you taken the public transport lately?


What have you observed? People staring at their mobile phones.

We seem to have lost the art of socializing these days. Gone were the days when people mingled with those around them face to face and not through a small screen.

So here’s a refresher course on some basic social skills:

  1. Smile – this is an instant ice breaker (when someone doesn’t smile at you, it doesn’t mean their mean or grumpy. People will low self-confidence never make the first attempt to smile.)
  2. Be humble.
  3. Shake hands with confidence. This step is important to counter balance step number 2 because power players may think of your humbleness as a sign of weakness.
  4. Ask questions. A wise, fat man once said that everyone is only interested in themselves. Thus the one that asks questions is the one who controls the conversations.
  5. Never interrupt the speaker. I have seen people who can’t wait for the speaker to finish speaking before they can say something. This puts you in a very bad light. Always take a second or two after the speaker has finished speaking to provide your reply. This shows that you’re thinking about your reply before replying.
  6. Empathize with the person you’re speaking with. Understand what’s important to them.
  7. Maintain eye contact. Don’t look over them, around them or at their chest. Look at them. People tend to note your eyes to see if you’re interested in what they’re saying.
  8. Maintain interest.

A long time, Dale Carnegie wrote an excellent but simple book, “How to win Friends and Influence People“. The book became a best seller and was translated into many languages. It’s still one of the best and simplest book you’ll ever find on this subject. This book was originally published in 1937 but it’s still one of the best sellers on Amazon. It was recently updated in 1998.

Financial success, Carnegie believed, is due 15 percent to professional knowledge and 85 percent to “the ability to express ideas, to assume leadership, and to arouse enthusiasm among people.”

But most importantly, people like to be valued. No one likes to be attacked, especially in public. And it’s always easier to convince someone of your ideas by speaking to them gently than either berating them or humiliating them.