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Why Do I Have to Put My Phone in Airplane Mode?

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When you fly on an airplane these days, you more than likely have access to Wi-Fi. That means you can peruse Facebook, catch up on the latest trending topics on Twitter, feel bad about yourself after two minutes on Pinterest, and even stream music and movies (on certain airlines).

With such impressive in-flight technology improvements, why are cell phones still limited to airplane mode only?

The assumption has long been that mobile frequencies could interfere with the plane’s systems, causing them to malfunction to the point of crashing the plane. While that may be a stretch, phone signals can—and do—interfere with the radio frequency. It doesn’t happen often, and when it does, it’s brief; Condé Nast Traveler describes it as “the sound of a CD skipping.” Still, when pilots and air traffic control are trying to communicate vital information, even a split second of confusion is too risky.

However, there may be a loophole, if airlines decide to allow it. That amazing Wi-Fi we were just talking about? It can be used to make calls, too. Most airlines have banned the practice, not because of signal or interference issues, but because of common human courtesy issues: No one wants to sit next to someone who spends a three-hour flight loudly chatting to someone on Skype. So while it may be technically possible, you probably won't be making phone calls from your window seat any time soon.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.


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This Just In
Flights Grounded After World War II Bomb Discovered Near London City Airport
Dan Kitwood, Getty Images
Dan Kitwood, Getty Images

London City Airport grounded all flights on the night of February 11, after a World War II bomb was found in the neighboring River Thames, The Guardian reports.

The half-ton bomb was revealed Sunday morning by development work taking place at the King George V Dock. Following its discovery, police set up a 702-foot exclusion zone around the area, closing local roads and shutting down the London City Airport until further notice. According to the BBC, 261 trips were scheduled to fly in and out of London City Airport on Monday. Some flights are being rerouted to nearby airports, while others have been canceled altogether.

The airport will reopen as soon as the explosive device has been safely removed. For that to happen, the Met police must first wait for the river's tide to recede. Then, once the bomb is exposed, they can dislodge it from the riverbed and tow it to a controlled explosion site.

The docks of London’s East End were some of the most heavily bombed points in the city during World War II. Germany’s Blitz lasted 76 nights, and as the latest unexpected discovery shows, bombs that never detonated are still being cleaned up from parks and rivers more than 75 years later.

[h/t The Guardian]

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History
Why Amelia Earhart Is Remembered as One of History's Most Famous Female Pilots
Fox Photos/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Fox Photos/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Amelia Earhart was a legend even before she mysteriously disappeared in 1937 while flying around the world. But the aviator's fame wasn't entirely based on skill alone. As Vox explains, Earhart's reputation eclipsed that of several contemporaries who were equally—if not more—talented than “Lady Lindy." So why did Earhart's name go down in history books instead of theirs?

In addition to her talent and courage, Earhart’s international fame could be chalked up to ceaseless self-promotion and a strategic marriage. It all started in 1928, when socialite Amy Phipps Guest and publishing juggernaut George Putnam handpicked the then-amateur pilot to become the first woman to be flown in a plane across the Atlantic Ocean. Earhart wasn't involved with the actual flight process, but the trip still established her as the new female face of aviation (and introduced her to Putnam, her future husband).

After completing the transatlantic journey, Earhart’s profile rose sky-high as she gave public lectures, wrote an aviation column for Cosmopolitan magazine, performed stunts like flying solo across the Atlantic (a feat that was first achieved by Charles Lindbergh in 1927), and endorsed everything from cigarettes to designer luggage. Her celebrity was ultimately cemented with her marriage to Putnam, who orchestrated savvy promotional opportunities to keep his wife’s name in the paper.

Learn more about Earhart’s rise to fame by watching Vox’s video below.

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