Hazards Aloft

Could a CD player, a laptop computer or a hand-held video game send an airliner off course?

Unless you are born with feathers, flying requires a leap of faith. Passengers have to assume, when they strap themselves in, that a 500,000-lb. machine hurtling through the air is firmly in the pilot's control. That faith was shaken last week by a report that a DC-10 coming into New York's Kennedy airport recently almost crashed when a passenger in first class turned on his portable compact disc player.

The story, first published in TIME, set off what one airline called "a tidal wave" of concern. Can jets really be diverted from their flight paths by something as small as a...

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