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US orders airlines to replace cockpit computer screens that could break from Wi-Fi

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Maxene Huiyu / Shutterstock

The Federal Aviation Administration has ordered airlines to replace cockpit displays in over 1,300 Boeing aircraft that may go blank when interfered with by Wi-Fi signals. The screens at issue are used to display airspeed, altitude, and other navigation information to pilots, which the administration says could lead to a crash should it happen during takeoff, approach, or landing. The displays are made by Honeywell, and it turns out that they don't meet the FAA's required tolerance levels for Wi-Fi.

The flaw seemingly shouldn't be troubling

Though the issue sounds troubling, it seemingly isn't that huge of a deal: the administration is giving airlines with one of the Boeing planes five years to fix or replace the displays. On top of that, the issue has been known about since 2012, at which point Boeing and Honeywell switched over to new hardware. Speaking to Reuters, Honeywell says that the issue has so far only been seen in on-the-ground tests, and Boeing says that it made the recommendation that airlines change the displays back then — now it's just being made mandatory to do so.

Honeywell also thinks that the order is somewhat unnecessary, particularly given that airlines can chose not to use Wi-Fi devices inside the cockpit, thus mitigating the risk. The FAA disagreed with its argument, however, and felt that it was appropriate to mandate the changes for safety reasons.