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Old 12-27-2012, 10:12 AM   #1
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Boeing and spuds

Hey Marin,
What is this thing about potato's and wi fi on a Boeing airplane.

I thought cell phones and personal electronics were taboo on commercial flights.

Do you have anything to do with that?

sd
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Old 12-27-2012, 11:21 AM   #2
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That's actually my group at Boeing. This all happened last summer when they were writing up some issue papers for the FAA. We've worked hard to get WiFi and cellular on all our commercial aircraft. One of engineers came up with the funny acronym form what they were doing, Synthetic Personnel Using Dielectric Substitution (SPUDS).

We've gotten several broadband providers certified and are working hard to get cellular on as well. We certified our first 787 inflight cellular system just a few weeks ago.

You'll soon be able to text or call your family, or even keep up with TF on your next flight (on a cell phone). The SPUDS testing is being re-used to seek & obtain approval to use these technologies below 10,000' (which currently is not available).
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Old 12-27-2012, 11:43 AM   #3
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I think Mythbusters did a bit on cell phones on a airplane.

I don't they were able to find a cell phone that was able to do anything to a commercial airline.

Is this true?

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Old 12-27-2012, 12:40 PM   #4
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I used to believe this (and I'm a huge Mythbusters fan) until I joined the group I work in now. The problem is really really in how the cell phones are designed and where we're using them. If 250 people come aboard with working phones in their pockets, and we lock them all in an aluminum tube, they all start to work very hard to keep that connection with their cell tower.

Since output levels vary around the world, that may mean anything from 1mW to upwards of 2W. When you multiply that by 250, you're now outside of what Boeing certified to be safe from an EMI standpoint (Electro Magnetic Interference). So... the way the cell phone companies dodged the liability was creating "airplane mode". It was originally thought the plane would command this mode on, but it wasn't reliable enough, so the airlines dodge the liability by asking we turn everything off below 10,000'

Now, we've come full circle and our customers (and their passengers) want to be able to use all their toys. We solved the cellular problem by installing what is called a picocell and leaky feeder network on the plane. We trick your phone into thinking its on a network, so it never goes into high power. The next step (which is being done as we speak) is to get bandwidth to the picocells and provide you with your home network (ATT, Verizon, whomever) while in flight.

The limitation of "below 10,000 feet" is tricky and that's what the potatoes were helping to prove.
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Old 12-27-2012, 01:04 PM   #5
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Gotcha.
Now I understand a little more.

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Old 12-27-2012, 04:13 PM   #6
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Wifi on board is already a reality, of course. Norwegian is the only airline in Europe offering free wifi. When we filmed on board one of their revenue flights last year between Oslo and London the entire plane was on Facebook, Twitter, e-mail, and the web the moment it was announced they could do so.

But this is all silent communication.

Now imagine an entire planes-worth of passengers yammering on their cell phones the whole fight. How long would it be before you punched out the lady next to you who for the last two hours had been calling her girlfriends and describing in minute detail her latest shopping trip and the new dresses she bought in a loud annoying voice?

While I think connectivity is great and what SomeSailor's group is doing is really cool (I've been exposed to a different aspect of it in the last year), I wonder if the airlines allow unrestricted phone use on their flights it will lead to a new term-- "plane rage." One more thing the cabin crews will have to contend with....
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Old 12-27-2012, 04:54 PM   #7
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Wi-Fi and Cell phones

We just had a SW 737 taxi off the taxiway into the mud. Both heads down at the same time. One on his cell phone and the other on the I-Pad. I know we will have a accident with the loss of life because of BAD cell phone/Ipad use in the cockpit. Prior to aircraft taxi check list, Cell phone OFF.
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Old 12-27-2012, 07:21 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Marin View Post
Wifi on board is already a reality
There is a long line of competing systems out there all wanting this to become a reality. Just off the top of my head: Go-go, Inmarsat, Intellisat, Row44, Thales, Swift Broadband and many others are vying for this market.

Wifi is easy enough. The common thread is a seamless customer experience. You'll be connected from home, to the airport, on the flight, in the terminal and to your destination... seamlessly.

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One more thing the cabin crews will have to contend with....
Easy to shut off too.
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Old 12-27-2012, 07:37 PM   #9
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We just had a SW 737 taxi off the taxiway into the mud. Both heads down at the same time. One on his cell phone and the other on the I-Pad. I know we will have a accident with the loss of life because of BAD cell phone/Ipad use in the cockpit. Prior to aircraft taxi check list, Cell phone OFF.
Are you guessing at all that? The iPad for example would be a Class 2 EFB and is mounted in each window frame on a 737. Someone would be on the tiller if taxing, I doubt they'd have the dexterity for rudders, throttles, tiller and and Angy Birds on the iPad, but ya never know.

If what you're proposing is true, it's a problem with the crew, not the design. An iPad or a smartphone would be considered a Class 1 device and would be required stowed below 10,000'.
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Old 12-27-2012, 07:57 PM   #10
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Hey Marin,
What is this thing about potato's and wi fi on a Boeing airplane.
SD-- the story I heard on the local news the other week is that a sack of potatoes has much the same effect on wireless signals as the human body. So we (Boeing) are using sacks of potatoes in the seats to represent a plane load of passengers so our engineers can study and determine the best way to establish wireless connectivity in the cabin. This was a news story so that was all the info I heard. I don't know if this testing is being conducted in an actual plane, a mockup, or a lab.

SomeSailor can provide more detailed or accurate information if it's not proprietary with regard to the use of potatoes in this testing as it's his project, but the above is what I heard.
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Old 12-27-2012, 09:54 PM   #11
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I saw the same news story the other morning, and my guys a couple of cubes over said that was all done last summer down in BT&E land down in in Arizona on an old DC10. I'll have to ask when we get back if they're doing anything more or the news guys are running old footage. We've got a lot of cert activity going on, but not sure their abusing any potatoes lately.
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Old 12-28-2012, 02:14 AM   #12
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This was a bit on KOMO radio. They said nothing about whether this was a current round of testing or something that had happened in the past. It was a "Now why would Boeing be testing sacks of potatoes?" sort of semi-humorous story.
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Old 12-28-2012, 09:55 AM   #13
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Yeah. I caught a bit of it as I walked out right before we went on break. The Manager for the group thought it was an older story and referenced what they'd done with BT&E a few months back down in AZ.

They are running cert quals over the break to get two more customers their cellular systems in service on the 787.

It won't be long and you'll be seeing folks using their cell phones in flight across the board. (don't know if that's good or bad)
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Old 12-29-2012, 12:58 AM   #14
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Yeah. I caught a bit of it as I walked out right before we went on break. The Manager for the group thought it was an older story and referenced what they'd done with BT&E a few months back down in AZ.
Being the news, it is their duty to not tell us anything we might actually want to know.
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Old 12-29-2012, 09:04 AM   #15
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The irony is those tests were to determine how many access points it would take to get decent WiFi in an airplane. Human bodies were a problem in that scenario (they soak up RF). In this trade study, they're actually being used to help us demonstrate that more bodies makes more cell phones even less of a problem.

I always wondered what they did with the spuds? Did we buy them? Lease them? Throw them away? Hmmm...
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Old 12-29-2012, 09:16 AM   #16
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I always wondered what they did with the spuds? Did we buy them? Lease them? Throw them away? Hmmm...
Radiaded fries with the burger sir?
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Old 12-29-2012, 10:33 AM   #17
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I eat a lot of Chicken Strips and Fries in the factory... now I know where they got them.
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Old 12-31-2012, 08:53 PM   #18
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Originally Posted by SomeSailor View Post
That's actually my group at Boeing. This all happened last summer when they were writing up some issue papers for the FAA. We've worked hard to get WiFi and cellular on all our commercial aircraft. One of engineers came up with the funny acronym form what they were doing, Synthetic Personnel Using Dielectric Substitution (SPUDS).

We've gotten several broadband providers certified and are working hard to get cellular on as well. We certified our first 787 inflight cellular system just a few weeks ago.

You'll soon be able to text or call your family, or even keep up with TF on your next flight (on a cell phone). The SPUDS testing is being re-used to seek & obtain approval to use these technologies below 10,000' (which currently is not available).
For a price $$$$
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Old 12-31-2012, 09:16 PM   #19
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For a price $$$$
Of course.

Everything I do has to buy it's way on to a program. The business cases on all of these are huge.
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