FAA Orders Airlines To Replace Cockpit Displays

October 1, 2014

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The US Federal Aviation Administration is requiring airlines to replace cockpit displays on more than 1,300 Boeing aircraft to avoid interference from Wi-Fi and cellular devices.

Airlines will need to replace certain cockpit display units made by Honeywell International used on Boeing's 737 and 777 jets within five years, according to an FAA document.

The FAA said the display units were susceptible to interference from Wi-Fi frequencies. Independent tests conducted by the agency and Boeing both showed blanking on the screens when Wi-Fi devices were used near them.

The displays are also susceptible to transmissions from mobile phones, weather radar and mobile satellite communications, the FAA said.

Honeywell spokesman Steve Brecken said no display units had blanked in-flight due to Wi-Fi interference.

"The only know occurrence was during a developmental test conducted on the ground. We worked with Boeing and addressed any concerns in 2012 with new display hardware," he said.

The display units provide crucial flight information including airspeed, altitude and navigation information. Replacing all the units is expected to cost airlines nearly USD$14 million, according to the FAA document.

"Boeing made these recommendations to operators in November 2012. The FAA's directives make them mandatory," Boeing spokesman Miles Kotay said.

A number of airlines and Honeywell asked the FAA to delay or reduce the effects of the directive, but the regulator said the move was necessary to avoid loss of information during take-offs or landings, which could result in "loss of airplane control at an altitude insufficient for recovery."