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Cabling concerns spark airline laptop shut-off

Rewirings all round...

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When you're flying, isn't it great to be able to plug your laptop in at your seat, get some work done and recharge your battery at the same time? Well, not necessarily, according to a piece in today's Wall Street Journal.

The WSJ reports that United Airlines had shut off the outlets on all its Boeing 777s pending safety checks. American Airlines is meanwhile checking its way through its fleet, after a transatlantic Airbus A300 experienced a shower of sparks situation at one outlet, and diverted to Shannon.

So maybe all this extra wiring isn't such a smart idea after all. Maybe we should go back to the good old days when we'd occupy the toilet for two hours while the notebook charged from the shaver socket.

The problem, where it exists, seems to be to do with the routing of the wiring. The American incident was caused by wiring rubbing against the underside of the seat and fraying (are you sitting comfortably, still?) and this surely raises rather broader questions about safety, given the increasing amount of electrical equipment that's being installed in airline seats.

And there may be problems with power supplies damaging your laptop, as well. In 1998, says the WSJ, several leading (surely nicading? - Ed) battery companies warned the Federal Aviation Administration and 20 airlines that equipment failures "could result in elevated battery temperatures, noxious fumes and even fires on board aircraft." ®

Full WSJ story (subscription required)

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