Updated to report that Alaska Airlines has retracted its statement that it “experienced” the Wi-Fi interference issue with Honeywell Phase 3 display units (DUs), and now says: “We are aware that there has been an issue and we are notusing Gogo in the cockpits. We are only using the iPads as an informationdevice.”
Meanwhile, the FAA says: “We’re aware of the impending service bulletin [from Boeing]. Once we getit, we’ll determine if we need to take some regulatory safety action.”
Boeing has revealed it intends to imminently issue a Service Bulletin to address the problem of Wi-Fi interference with Honeywell’s Phase 3 DUs.
Bret Jensen of Boeing Commercial Airplanes’ engineering communicationsunit tells RWG this evening that the US airframer has “no firm date forissuance of a Service Bulletin, but we are confident that it isimminent”.
He adds that Boeing continues to work with Honeywell “to resolve the issue”.
The susceptibility of Honeywell Phase 3 DUs to Wi-Fi interference was discovered when FAA supplemental type certification for Aircell’s Gogo in-flight Internet solution was sought for American Airlines’ Boeing 737NG aircraft. Blanking of the Phase 3 DUs was observed during required electro magnetic interference testing.
One of the conditions for STC was that 737NG operators (American and 737NG counterparts) had to place placards in the flightdeck saying that Wi-Fi devices are to be powered off. Another condition required 737NG operators not to have Phase 3 displays installed with the presence of in-flight connectivity systems, be they Wi-Fi or cellular-based.
Boeing, in turn, stopped linefitting connectivity systems to its aircraft, and began the tedious process of scrubbing avionics parts numbers to make sure other kits were not susceptible.
But putting placards in the cockpits of aircraft, and Boeing’s suspension of connectivity linefits, are not long-term solutions by any stretch.
Indeed, Gogo customer Alaska Airlines today confirmed that its pilots are notpermitted to use the Internet on their brand new iPads (which are being converted into electronic flight bags) because of FAA protocol.
Other US airlines that want to bring real-time EFB applications to pilots are in the same unhappy boat. Meanwhile, airlines all over the world have been impacted by Boeing’s decision to suspend connectivity linefits.
So now that Boeing has confirmed plans for releasing a Service Bulletin, the obvious questions are – what will the Service Bulletin entail? Will 737NG operators be required to pull out Phase 3 DUs and replace them with Phase 2 or 4, perhaps? Will a Service Bulletin be more far reaching, and involve other types (following Boeing’s own avionics scrub)? When will linefit of connectivity systems resume (a question I’m sure AeroMobile and its customers would like to see answered, as AeroMobile previously obtained offerability on certain Boeing types)?
Bret says only that “it will be clearer once the SB is issued”.
Alaska, meanwhile, is looking forward to bringing connectivity to its pilots’ iPad-based EFBs, saying: “Right now, the [device] is a document reader, and if we are allowed that Internet connectivity we can use it for another whole range of things.”