On Friday, at 24,000 feet over the Irish Sea and travelling at 300 knots, the 20-year-old Boeing aeroplane experiences what many experts in radio interference might regard as a “nightmare scenario”.
Not only have the passengers been allowed to use cellphones in flight – not dreadful in itself perhaps – but the plane is stuffed with the latest technology, all potentially interfering with the plane’s electronics. Wi-Fi transmitters pepper the ceiling and live television and internet signals are being delivered through a 1-metre-wide satellite dish in the top of the plane.
Boeing was demonstrating two of the technologies it thinks will make flying more fun. The plane – Connexion One – is the company’s in-flight entertainment test aircraft, and New Scientist was hitching a ride.
Boeing’s entertainment wish-list includes a technology it began rolling out to airlines on Friday: delivering live satellite TV news to passengers’ laptops via an onboard Wi-Fi connection.
Boeing director Mike Woodward says the research is fuelled by passengers’ desire for live news, as opposed to mere recorded comedies and movies during flights.