I am aware that it has been many months since I have Blogged and obviously a lot has been going on in that much time(shifting to Infosys, Mysore; completion of Infy training; posting to Bangalore; getting a project). But there are certain moments in life which often take precedence over many a months of work. One such event occurred on a flight from Bangalore to Delhi on 23rd April 2010 when I was coming home to Chandigarh for a quite holiday with my family. I had been pondering upon the question as to whether truly making phone calls from within an aircraft can cause a disturbance in their communications or was it just a hoax created by airlines who wanted people to use the onboard phone lines which they provide at a premium to their users. I had concluded that the second was more plausible as airlines have always had a dearth of money and need all that extra revenue they can get.

Obviously, the person sitting next to me disagreed with my thoughts and as the plane prepared for take off and I pushed ‘Send’ on my mobile to send the last message before I went into roaming, he requested me calmly to switch off the mobile. I, being my haughty self, told him that I, being an electronics engineer knew better than him and could saw with confidence that since mobiles and airline communications worked at different frequencies, there was no way possible that my mobile could affect the flight in any way. I had noted the tone in which he had requested me to switch off my cellphone- it was calm but stern and it felt that he had done this exercise many times earlier too. Thus it seemed fit for me to snub him in such a way. But upon hearing me say my qualifications, he took greater interest in my argument and asked me to expain my side of the debate.

Here I knew I had two choices- spend the flight fighting with this fellow about how much I knew about Communications(or how little, after all, what quality is left in today’s engineering courses!) OR accept that he knows more than me and ask for his knowledge. Lucky for me, i chose the latter, as this Radio Engineer knew more about our current debate than I could have ever imagined. 

He explained that it is not the calls or the smss which bothers the airlines much but instead, the small ElectroMagneticPulse(EMP) generated by our mobiles which can disrupt the electronics circuits onboard. This is a very small chance with the new and advanced circuits coming into use nowadays but as always, in terms of space and air travel, it’s much better to be safe than really sorry. He further commented that in his time the biggest fight was against EMP and the biggest contest was to be able to transmit voice across the globe at less than 10 Watt power. 

Ah! It was good to finally hear this explanation from someone who was confident and direct about the facts instead of just saying that it’s part of the rules and at the end of the flight I thanked him, Ashwat Dharampuri, Managing Director of W. Diamant India Ltd, a unit of Winterstone, an international diamond tool manufacturing company and walked off the flight content that I had learnt something new simply by opening my mouth and showing my ego to someone who I knew would educate me instead of cursing me.

Indeed, miracles do happen!