Just when there are signs of clear skies ahead for mobile devices to be used without restriction in aircraft, a new awkward problem has emerged.
Boeing has ceased installing inflight connectivity systems for its range of airliners because of a test in which Honeywell cockpit Phase 3 Display Units have been blanked out for minutes by interference by systems designed to safely connect passenger electronic devices to the internet.
A technical explanation of the problem has been published here by Flightglobal.
However for those hoping that this impasse is quickly resolved, this story in the Chicago Tribune about blow back by Honeywell might be of some comfort.
Have Boeing and the FAA overreacted? Just how, if at all, do these issues affect other manufacturer cockpit systems and cabin wi-fi systems in Airbus and Boeing airliners? There are a wide range of combinations of cockpit systems that could be potentially vulnerable, and from a wide range of options for assisting in-flight connectivity for passengers, keeping in mind the exceptionally robust systems now used to connect jets in motion to mechanical and maintenance real-time diagnostic tools.
If like the writer, you would much prefer to keep your tablet or mobile device switched on all the time to monitor emails and information services (and moderate comments) while getting to the airport, passing through the airport and flying to the destination, this may seem very frustrating.
However safety is paramount. If Boeing and the FAA are faced with a situation where there is even a minor risk of an air disaster being caused by ‘blanking’ of cockpit displays at a crucial moment, such as a TCAS alert, it has to be a case of back to the drawing boards.
Major airline crashes are so rare today that it would only take one caused by personal electronic devices every few years to make that a substantial and perhaps leading cause of larger airliner deaths.