Boeing 737s In-Flight Danger

Boeing 737s

Boeing 737s are undergoing remodeling to eradicate in-flight danger. Various testing has indicated that mobile cellular phones and computer signals may interfere with cockpit screens causing them to go blank. US air safety regulators confirm that satellite Wi-Fi, which enables passengers to access the Internet at 35,000 feet, can be problematic.

Several expensive screens are fitted for the Boeing 737s. The displays are manufactured by Honeywell who stresses that interferences have not occurred while the plane was in flight. According to spokesman Steve Brecken, the occurrences manifested while the grounded plane underwent developmental testing.

Brecken confirmed that concerns about the display hardware voiced in 2012 have been addressed. The latest display hardware is will not experience the former mishaps.

In November 2012, Boeing issued an alert following a notice that interference was observed regarding the “Phase 3” display units. The observation was made by a wi-fi vendor and an airplane operator. An in-flight internet system was cited as the source of the interference. “Phase 3” displays, as it turns out, were susceptible to the very  frequencies used by wi-fi to transmit data.

According to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), mobile satellite communications were thought to disrupt the screens. The FAA was concerned that air surveillance, weather radar, and signals from would also be disruptive.

The displays provides altitude, airspeed, heading and roll and pitch information to  Boeing 737s’ pilots. Failures in the display can lead to a crash. Flight-critical information is communicated through these displays during approach and take-off. The result could be a loss of aircraft control at an incorrigible altitude or when amidst terrain. Boeing recommended changes in 2012.

The FAA The agency discerned that Ryanair, Air France, Virgin Australia, and Honeywell among others opposed the regulations. The companies did not believe there to be sufficient signal strength in the in-flight wi-fi systems and the electronic devices used by passengers to disturb flight deck equipment.

Ryanair specifically complained about the demand’s imposition the operator’s finances. At least 1,300 Boeing 777 and 737 would need modification at a cost of roughly $13.8 million, or $10,000 per installation. Ryanair considered the screen changes unnecessary. Honeywell suggested forcing the installment of new screens if and when wi-fi enabled tablets or similar equipment were operated within the cockpit.

The FAA, seeking to eliminate all risk of interference, rejected the complaints. They maintain that testing proved problems transpired in in-service airplanes using “Phase 3” displays. The FAA places a 5-year deadline on firms involved to modify, if not swap, the components.

Laurie Price says the public should not worry. Price, who is an independent analyst for the aviation industry, admits the 5-year deadline is of insignificant concern.

Southwest Airlines provided data on its Boeing 737s featuring the display units after the wi-fi system installation that showed no in-flight danger. The units ran approximately 2,300,000 hours without errors.

The firms, however, are not given much of a choice. A Ryanair spokesperson says the firm will comply with the FAA directive by the 2019 deadline.

The latest developments with the problematic displays for the Boeing 737s have not put a dent in Boeing’s viability. Africa’s greatest revenue carrier, Ethiopian Airlines Enterprise, agreed to purchase 20 restructured 737 models. At $2.1 billion, the single order is the largest for company.

While modifications are being made, planes are being ordered and Boeing is continuing to thrive. The in-flight danger the “Phase 3” screen poses will have been eliminated from Boeing 737s and 777s in five years’ time. People are still being encouraged to fly and it appears very likely that they will.

By Charice Long

BBC News Technology
Business Week
Industry Week

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