By Russ Niles, Editor-in-Chief
An International Air Transport Association report suggests cellphones and other personal electronics, notably the iPad, can cause alarming disruptions to aircraft systems. The report, obtained by ABC News, is said to document 75 instances between 2003 and 2009 in which flight crews believed interference from passengers using an electronic device caused something to go wrong with the aircraft. Anomalies ranging from autopilots disconnecting to a clock that ran backwards were said to disappear when the electronics were shut off. The report is getting mixed reviews from those who study aviation safety.
John Nance, author and former commercial and military pilot and ABC's own aviation analyst, dismissed the report as a collection of anecdotes that prove nothing. "There is a lot of anecdotal evidence out there, but it's not evidence at all," said Nance, "It's pilots, like myself, who thought they saw something but they couldn't pin it to anything in particular. And those stories are not rampant enough, considering 32,000 flights a day over the U.S., to be convincing." But Dave Carson, of Boeing, the co-chair of a federal advisory committee looking into the issue, said tests have proven onboard electronics can produce signals that are over what Boeing considers to be the safe limit for avoiding interference. Blackberry and iPhone cellphones were both over the limit but an iPad produced signals that far exceeded the standards.