Study causes in-flight Wi-Fi scare

There's nothing the world likes more than a good radiation scare but you must look beyond the headlines.
Written by Rupert Goodwins, Contributor

There's nothing the world likes more than a good radiation scare. Mobile phone health panics are quiet at the moment — which could be permanent, like the microwave oven cancer flap that went into spontaneous remission and stayed there. Instead, the burgeoning world of in-flight entertainment beckons as the next fear factory.

Take this story from the generally sensible Flight Global publication; Wi-Fi interference with Honeywell avionics prompts Boeing action. Sounds quite scary, will in-flight internet is the next big thing: will it lead to fiery death? No — well, not unless you're playing some online shoot-em-up. The report gives the lie to the headline: the problem was found during testing at "elevated power levels" and results in one particular variant of a cockpit display panel temporarily blanking out. It came back within an acceptable time period.

Which is how and why you do these tests. Like airframe and engine testing, you push parameters to well beyond operating limits to see if anything goes pop. What the tests have not shown is that there's any real-life problem. At normal power levels, there's no problem. Using any other variant of the display panel: no problem. The actual wi-fi system itself: no problem. Honeywell, which makes the over-sensitive display panel, is working on a fix (slap a cap on it, chaps) and meanwhile, Boeing has put the certification process on hold until everything's OK.

For more on this story, read Aircraft Wi-Fi fears won't fly on ZDNet UK.

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