TIME Aviation

No One Made Phone Calls From the Missing Jet, and This Could Be the Reason

Here's one theory to explain why no one was using cell phones as the plane disappeared

There has been much discussion about the lack of cell-phone calls from Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 as it went missing this month, which seems especially surprising following the flurry of such calls that came from passengers aboard the airplanes hijacked on 9/11.

One theory is that a deranged pilot depressurized the aircraft, causing oxygen deprivation that knocked the passengers out in a matter of minutes. Others cite the plane’s altitude for the dearth of calls, and note that some of the calls made on 9/11 came from radiotelephones no longer in use.

But as anyone whose dinner, movie or recital has been interrupted by cell-phone calls can attest, there must be a way to thwart such calls. All you have to do is visit PhoneJammer.com to see a variety of such portable devices on offer.

“A phone jammer transmits low-powered radio signals to cut off communications between cell phones and cell base stations,” PhoneJammer.com says. “It does not interfere with any communications other than cellular phones within the defined regulated zone. Upon activating a phone jammer, all idle phones will indicate ‘NO NETWORK.’”

The portable units available from PhoneJammer.com include the Palm Mini Jammer (a cell-phone-size unit for $149 with a 5-m range, available in black, silver, beige and green), the High Power Portable Jammer (a smaller device with a range of up to 20 m for $205) and the Portable Adjustable Power Jammer ($395 with a range of up to 30 m and five-hour battery life).

PhoneJammer.com doesn’t specify where it’s located, although it appears that most of these devices are manufactured in — where else? — China (check out JammerFromChina.com for evidence). True, they’d have to be sneaked through security, and it might take two or three to shut down cell-phone calls from the entire aircraft. But it would seem to be a far surer way of cutting off communication than cutting off oxygen.

Passengers flying in the U.S. and Europe can rest easy: they can’t be shipped there “due to FCC [Federal Communications Commission]/CE [Conformité Européenne] restrictions,” PhoneJammer.com says.

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