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747-8 must prevent inadvertent or malicious interference with flight-critical systems

Boeing must prove that its new 747-8 jumbo will prevent all unintentional or malicious interference to flight-critical domains from passenger systems in order to receive US FAA certification.

First proposed late last year but published in final form last week, the FAA's 'special condition' to protect the 747-8's flight-critical domains from unauthorised passenger systems access comes at a time when the agency is scrutinising the potential for in-flight connectivity to interfere with avionics after certain Honeywell display units proved susceptible to blanking during electro magnetic interference (EPI) testing.

Boeing, meanwhile, has launched a thorough review of avionics parts numbers to ensure no others are susceptible, and the airframer has deferred the activation of wireless systems that interface with passenger devices until the review is complete.

The e-enabled 747-8 aircraft will incorporate a digital systems architecture composed of several connected networks, which will be used for a diverse set of functions in the cockpit and the cabin, including the capability to allow access to or by external network sources.

Noting the "novel or unusual design features" of this architecture, the FAA in its special condition says: "The [747-8] design must prevent all inadvertent or malicious changes to, and all adverse impacts upon, all systems, networks, hardware, software, and data in the 'aircraft control domain' and in the 'airline information domain' from all points within the 'passenger information and entertainment domain'."

The aircraft control domain includes all flight-safety related control, communication and navigation systems in the cockpit, while the airline information domain covers airline business and administrative support. The passenger information and entertainment domain, meanwhile, covers all in-flight entertainment and connectivity (IFEC) systems in the passenger cabin.

Boeing this week confirmed that the 747-8 Intercontinental passenger aircraft will make its first flight on 20 March. Two flight test aircraft are expected to accumulate 600 flight test hours in the lead-up to the new 467-seat jumbo's certification and delivery by the close of 2011.

Launch airline Lufthansa wants Panasonic's in-flight high-speed Internet system eXConnect and partner AeroMobile's in-flight mobile connectivity system eXPhone to be already installed via linefit when it takes delivery of its new 747-8s, Panasonic has previously said.

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