Ask The Pilot: Can I use my mobile phone on a private jet?

Civil Aviation Regulations state mobile phones must be switched off for aircraft take off and only used whilst airborne if operated in ‘flight safe mode’. However most private jet pilots will turn a blind eye to customers on the phone. PrivateFly investigates why.

Many people wonder if mobile phones really can play havoc with a plane’s systems and avionics. The ultimate answer to the question is yes, they can.

But the interference is limited. Just as when a mobile phone is placed next to a conventional radio, a pilot’s radios can have a drumming interference noise when they transmit next to a mobile phone that is searching for a signal.

Hear the sound of mobile phone interference.

This can also be heard by Air Traffic Control and other pilots on the shared frequency. Actually it is relatively common to hear this interference as often pilots leave their own mobiles on!

The effective distance that a mobile phone can affect the pilot’s radios is very short, less than a metre in most cases. With passengers much further away than this, the impact of a passenger’s mobile phone on the aircraft systems is negligible.

The same logic applies in hospitals to medical equipment. But in most hospital wards most mobile phone usage is now permitted, as medical staff have measured the dangers as almost insignificant.

Mobile phones on planes

Mobile phone use is prohibited on most airline flights

Most pilots accept that on every commercial airline flight many mobile phones are left on accidentally in passengers’ hand luggage. Therefore it is almost impossible to stop any mobile phone signals in the cabin, though of course regulations currently state that they cannot be used.

American regulations allow the use of mobiles as soon as the aircraft lands and proactive airlines will announce this to encourage customers to switch on their handsets.

While safety is still the primary consideration, Private jet travel is hugely focussed around VIP customer service. So with the crews of private jets being much more customer-focussed than their airline colleagues, don’t expect to be asked to switch off your phone on-board a private jet.

But shh, don’t tell the authorities, it’s a PrivateFly secret!