Entries with tag commercial aircraft.

US Agency Orders Airplane Cockpit Technology Retrofits

US airlines must replace or modify the cockpit-display units in 1,326 Boeing 737 and 777 jets during the next five years to prevent signal interference that could cause screens to go blank, according to a new US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) directive. The agency says its tests showed that Wi-Fi signals could interfere with Honeywell Phase 3 cockpit displays, which show essential aircraft information such as airspeed, altitude, and heading. However, Honeywell says that in 2012, it fixed the only known problem of this type, which occurred during a test while an aircraft was on the ground. Virgin Australia, Air France, Ryanair, and Honeywell have opposed to the new FAA rules, saying Wi-Fi signals are not sufficiently strong to disrupt the cockpit display’s operations. The FAA estimates that mandated retrofits will cost roughly $13.8 million. (BBC)(Engadget)(Reuters)(The Federal Register)

Potatoes Help in Wi-Fi Signal Testing

Boeing, which builds sophisticated and complex commercial aircraft, recently focused on improving its on-board wireless systems such that passengers will be able to have better connectivity for their personal electronic devices while in the air. To do so, it used 20,000 pounds of potatoes heaped in the seats of a decommissioned plane. It seems potatoes mimic the way the human body responds to electronic signals. The Boeing engineers used them rather than hundreds of people in initial testing. They later validated the results with human subjects. Beyond the novelty of using potatoes rather than humans during testing, the engineers say they “created a new process for measuring radio signal quality using proprietary measurement technology and analysis tools, which enables engineers to more efficiently measure how strong a signal is and how far it spreads,” notes eWeek. The tests identify strong and weak signal areas in the airplane and can be used to adjust the connectivity system. It was originally developed to ensure signal propagation meets regulatory standards. The company says the process increases both safety and reliability, but also, more importantly, reduces the testing time from more than two weeks to  roughly 10 hours and can be used for testing the safety and reliability of other types of electronic devices. The potatoes used in the tests were donated to a local food bank, says Boeing. (eWeek)(CNN)

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