Householder’s vintage lightbulbs cause chaos for pilots

Pilots flying in and out of Glasgow Airport reported radio interference between 6000 and 10,000ft in the air.

Vintage: The lightbulbs caused interference for pilots. Ofcom / Pixabay
Vintage: The lightbulbs caused interference for pilots.

A householder caused chaos for Glasgow Airport’s runways after buying vintage lightbulbs online.

Experts from Ofcom’s spectrum assurance team were mobilised by National Air Traffic Services (Nats) to uncover the root of the problem when pilots flying in and out of the city reported radio interference between 6000 and 10,000ft in the air.

The interference swamped the airways and cut off voice communications between the controllers on the ground and the aircraft.

The Ofcom team used flight-tracking software along with vehicle-mounted receivers and handheld equipment to track down the source of the interference – which turned out to be four vintage lightbulbs a homeowner had recently bought online.

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In a report, Ofcom said: “Due to the construction of the bulbs, they were found to be radiating a ‘noise’ when they were switched on that affected a wide range of spectrum, rather than just one frequency. 

“The house was directly underneath the flightpath of the aircraft and therefore every time an aircraft passed and the bulbs were in use, the crew suffered the interference.

“Unfortunately for the owner – but fortunately for the crew and passengers of flights in and out of Glasgow airport – the bulbs were removed from the sockets and checks with Nats and aircraft operators confirm that the area is now free of interference.”

Ofcom said its spectrum enforcement team will follow up the case with the lightbulb supplier, to make sure the bulbs aren’t sold to any more “unwitting customers”.

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