Posted by: GW7AAV | October 28, 2009

Cartoon watcher endangers aircraft landings

According to an article in the Daily Telegraph OFCOM raided to bedroom of 12 year old Nickie Chamberlain after planes at Luton Airport complained they lost contact with the control tower as they were landing. The communication problem was first noticed on October 6th by air traffic controllers with aircraft on a fight path over Nickie’s house. OFCOM tracked the signal down to a set top aerial with a preamplifier. The signal booster had gone in to self oscillation and was transmitting a signal that was at times on the same frequency as that used to communicate with landing aircraft. The interference was described as similar to the feedback you get when a microphone is placed in the path of a PA speaker. Ouch!

Nickie’s Father was somewhat surprised when he came home to find an OFCOM engineer waiting for him and had to check is credentials thoroughly as he found the idea that something in his house was interfering with landing aircraft bizarre. He said ”Then we went inside and he followed the signal using a special reader to my son’s bedroom and his booster aerial – I was absolutely gobsmacked.” Mr Chamberlain was told to dispose of the £15 aerial, which Nickie had been using for two years in the bin.

Nickie said: ”When I found out what happened I was upset because I couldn’t watch cartoons or the television for a while – but it’s better than causing a plane crash.”

National Air Traffic Control said: ”The planes have multiple back-up communication systems and this is not something where any passengers were in any danger. Obviously safety is our major concern.”

Looking at the picture in the Telegraph the antenna is a Telecam TCE 2000, which is sold by Argos and various supermarkets in the UK as both a set top antenna for around £2.99 and together with signal booster for around £17.99. OFCOM say the problem is not common but bearing in mind the hundreds of thousands of these sold I would ask how many similar devices are causing interference on frequencies such as the amateur bands where complaints are less likely to receive a visit from an OFCOM engineer?

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