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07 October 2010
Commercial Aircraft

Paving the way for on-board mobile phones

Summary

A standardised testing method developed by Airbus expert Dr. Robert Kebel is leading to more aircraft being cleared for the use of mobile phones during flight.

An Airbus expert has been recognised for pioneering efforts that have resulted in more aircraft being classified as “immune to electromagnetic interference” and safe for the use of mobile phones during flight.
Dr. Robert Kebel, head of lighting protection and electromagnetic compatibility at Airbus’ site in Hamburg, Germany, devised the internationally-uniform procedure in close cooperation with major manufacturers of aeronautical equipment and aviation authorities.
This testing method has become increasingly important as handheld technologies continue grow in popularity. The first commercial mobile phone call was made in the United States during 1982, however such devices were not in wide circulation until more than a decade later. As a result, proof of immunity to interference from mobile phones was not required for type certification of the A320 and other aircraft then entering production.
At the 2010 international annual meeting of the IEEE EMC Society (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Electromagnetic Compatibility Society) in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA, Dr. Kebel's work was acknowledged with the Technical Achievement Award – one of the most important distinctions in the field of electromagnetic compatibility.
“We are now closing the gaps in the verification process,” explained Dr. Kebel. “We tested the properties of all radio standards such as WLAN, Bluetooth and GSM telephony, their signals, frequency bands and electromagnetic interference potential. Then, from these we developed suitable test specifications for the on-board electronic systems.”
There are additional benefits to such standardisation, according to Dr. Kebel: “We have created the basis for building aircraft like the A350 XWB, which no longer need any expensive and time-consuming testing of this kind because their immunity has been proven.”

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