Tablet magnets lure aircraft off course

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An electronic flight bag (EFB) mounted in the cockpit of a R44 helicopter.

Do you fly with an electronic flight bag?

A recent incident in the US is a warning to pilots about the potential for magnets in tablet computers to interfere with flight instruments.

Reported via the National Transportation Safety Board’s, Aviation Self Reporting Scheme (ASRS) and republished by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB), the incident details how a Mooney M20, flying on instruments and in cloud, came to be 15 degrees off its assigned heading.

Luckily, the aircraft was under the watchful eye of air traffic control (ATC) that notified the crew of their heading. The pilot revised the heading indicator to reflect the 15-degree variation and went on to make a safe landing.

An investigation revealed that the source of the compass interference was ‘…caused by a tablet computer which was placed on the glare shield during the flight.’

The report also warned that ‘…tablet computers (have) magnets inside which have been known to cause up to 30 degrees interference when placed in close proximity to the compass.’

The ATSB is encouraging all pilots to share and report any aviation safety hazard they may have experienced. More information can be found via the ATSB’s website.

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