Cell Phones


Airlines will not allow you to have your cell phone turned on during flight due to supposed interference with their instruments (a worthy safety measure), but is it against the law? If I am flying a single engine airplane, can a passenger use his/her cell phone if I am flying VFR?
If cell phones DID interfere with instruments, what instruments would be affected? I can’t imagine your airspeed indicator or attitude indicator would have any issues. What about the OBS/Nav radios/GPS?

An additional comment on this from a non pilot…If cell phones DID interfere with your instruments, wouldn’t you be able to tell?


Originally it was the FCC that said no cell phones while airborne, it tied up too many cell towers. You may want to research that angle also.


VFR yes, IFR no.

Frank Holbert


Federal Aviation Regulation (FAR) 91.21 covers any portable electronic device, not just cell phones.
Frank is right, VFR is ok but not IFR.

To answer the last part of your question, no you may not notice a subtle change. It most likely would be interference with either navigation or communication signals depending as much on your proximity to the aircraft antenna’s as anything else.


No and no.

Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rules prohibit the use of cellular phones using the 800 MHz frequency and other wireless devices on airborne aircraft. This ban was put in place because of potential interference to wireless networks on the ground.

In March 2007, the FCC terminated a proceeding that it began in late 2004 to consider potentially lifting this ban. The FCC determined that the technical information provided by interested parties in response to the proposal was insufficient to determine whether in-flight use of wireless devices on aircraft could cause harmful interference to wireless networks on the ground. Therefore, it decided at this time to make no changes in the rules prohibiting in-flight use of such devices.



Some of this may be cell phone / service dependent.

Only my radios (COMS) did I notice any interference, when the phone would lose and reconnect to towers would I hear a repetitive clicking noise whe I had Nextel. My current phone with Verizon does not interfere either with NAV or COMS thus far. I have only been on one flight so the jury may still be out on this.

It did not interfere with my NAV or GPS equipment.

I found talking on the phone distracting to me, never had a passenger use their phone while in flight so can’t say how that would work.

I did find that lower altitudes was better for service especially outside in rural areas. I think as I got closer to urban areas, the phone was confused by hitting too many towers rather then just one, so it just didn’t work.

Since the advent of Flight Aware, I have not used my cell phone, but prior to Flight Aware, I would text my position to “land lubbers” so they could time their “approach” to the airport to pick me up. 8)


Is that advisory for only for the 800 mhz frequencies? I was under the impression my Nextel phone was under 900 mhz frequencies, especially the walky talkie part and would be ok to use in flight?


see longer discussion at discussions.flightaware.com/view … cell+phone