Boeing says WiFi affecting cockpit display

March 10, 2011 at 5:21 PM
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SEATTLE, March 10 (UPI) -- In-flight WiFi and cellphone services being offered by a growing number of airlines can interfere with flight-critical electronics, Boeing says.

The manufacturer says that while testing in-flight WiFi equipment for use on its next generation 737 twin-engine airliner, it discovered that a certain type of new, brighter cockpit display could go blank when an in-flight wireless system was used nearby, NewScientist.com reported Thursday.

The display made by Honeywell of Torrance, Calif., malfunctioned when an in-flight wireless system made by Aircell of Itasca, Ill., was activated, Boeing said.

"Blanking of the display units was reported during electromagnetic interference certification testing of wireless broadband systems (WiFi) on various 737NG airplanes," Boeing said in a statement issued Thursday.

The firm said it has not delivered any aircraft using the technology and will not use any passenger WiFi systems in future planes until Honeywell has made its new displays WiFi proof.

Commercial pressures to allow lucrative wireless services on board has resulted in the development of electromagnetic shielding designed to ensure electronic devices like smartphones and laptops using 3G and WiFi connectivity do not cause problems.

It was while testing to the Federal Aviation Administration's relevant standard that Boeing found the Aircell system interfering with the Honeywell displays, the company said.

While the interference occurred at WiFi signal levels higher than usually emitted by phones and laptops, Boeing says, it is quite possible for consumer equipment not to perform to specification and kick out too much power, so it was taking no chances.

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