Pilot disputes rule that mobile phones should be off while flying

Frequent flyers know the drill - switch your phone to flight mode and make sure it's completely off for take-off and landing.

But we may be suffering the inconvenience for no reason.

An anonymous pilot has reportedly disputed the validity of the mobile phone use ban via a post on Reddit

"The whole 'turn off the cell phone' thing doesn't matter 99.99 percent of the time. However, it's that 0.01 percent of the time that we worry about," the pilot said.

The risk stems from interference a mobile phone can create with radio communications on the aircraft. If you've used an older mobile phone near a radio, you may be familiar with that 'dit-dit-dit' sound that would cut in.

The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) rules in New Zealand state that no one should operate "any cellphone or other portable electronic device that is designed to transmit electromagnetic energy, on any aircraft while that aircraft is operating under instrument flight rules".

An exemption has been granted by the CAA allowing use of mobile phones switched to 'in-flight mode' during non-critical phases of flight, which excludes take-off and landing.  There's also an exemption for any implanted medical equipment that transmits information.

The pilot on Reddit said most modern mobile phones use a different frequency range to those used on an aircraft, but due to the risk of someone using older technology, the rule remains in place.

"It's that one guy with the cell phone made in Mongolia in 1996 that is going to ruin it for everyone," he said.

Some critics of the rule claim it's there to ensure a quieter flight, rather than a safer one. An aircraft full of loud phone conversations might not be pleasant for anyone - especially the crew.

Newer aircraft such as the Airbus A350 allow for internet connectivity throughout the flight, but airlines have mostly restricted that service to data rather than voice connection to the outside world, to ensure a more courteous cabin.