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Summary:

Hey, what’s the big idea? Does Virgin America have a special pass to use wireless radios while in-flight? I can’t answer that question, but it’s obvious they’re using Motion Tablet PCs to take food and beverage orders while flying. Dave Zatz snapped this pic not long […]

Virginamericamotiontablet_2Hey, what’s the big idea? Does Virgin America have a special pass to use wireless radios while in-flight? I can’t answer that question, but it’s obvious they’re using Motion Tablet PCs to take food and beverage orders while flying. Dave Zatz snapped this pic not long after Virgin America started operations. He placed his food and drink order via the in-flight entertainment system and the info appeared on the LE1700. Did the info get passed over wires through the FlexDock around the Tablet PC or are the orders sent via some wireless technology that doesn’t interfere with flight communications? Maybe it’s standard WiFi and they’ve secretly lined the cockpits with lead to shield the deck from interference as well as Kryptonite. Of course, the biggest question of all is: what meal did Dave request and how many drinks did he order… assuming he wasn’t the designated co-pilot, that is. I suppose we could check with Virgin Atlantic on this one, but my gut says they’ll tell us that the flight attendant is really playing Sudoku on the Motion Tablet… and that the order was sent over the dock. ;)

  1. This is pretty cool. Tablet computers sure are making their way up the food chain!

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  2. that was her pleasant reaction when she noticed i had ordered her for the next 20minutes in the airplane bathroom, wah haha

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  3. For the record, WiFi is low enough power to be used on airplanes. Lufthansa even carried free wireless internet on some of its transatlantic flights for a few months last year before dropping the idea. Pretty funny to be chatting with someone when you know he’s at 35000ft above the amiddle of the atlantic and moving at 900km/h at that moment.

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  4. The new 787 will have Wifi for crew use when it is delivered. It was supposed to have the option for passenger Wifi, but with the demise of Boeing’s Connexion Internet service, that became moot.

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  5. This was covered by Engadget when they reviewed the Virgin America’s Airbus A320 as a gadget…

    Apparently, the orders are either sent from the tablet to the on-board server wirelessly (or when the tablet is docked – can’t remember) and transactions are then processed after landing!

    Also, Virgin America will be implementing WiFi in most (if not all) of its fleet shortly.

    http://www.engadget.com/2007/02/10/mega-hands-on-virgin-americas-airbus-a320-with-red-in-flight-e/

    http://www.engadget.com/2007/08/10/hands-on-with-virgin-americas-red-in-flight-entertainment-syste/

    http://www.engadget.com/2007/09/13/aircell-set-to-hook-up-virgin-america-with-in-flight-broadband/

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  6. turn.self.off Monday, March 24, 2008

    im guessing its the same here as with mobile phones in hospitals. better safe then sorry…

    as in, the staff and so on can use it, as their stuff have been tested. but who knows what happens when some random device is dragged within range?

    but then there is also the mythbusters episode when they try to test out the stuff, and get to talk to a technician. from what i recall there had been episodes where the strobes on the outside of the aircraft had interfered with instruments inside…

    so i suspect its more a case of covering their asses in face of some insurance claim then anything else…

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  7. As a former pilot, I can attest that wireless devices can interfere with aircraft systems. Its happened to me twice while in flight. One of those times was with a wifi device.

    First timne caused my VOR ( Navigation Receiver) to indicate I was off course. Since the autopilot was coupled to the VOR receiver, the plan started a nice coordinated turn to “correct” my course. When the passenger’s laptop was powered down, all was well.

    The other time was a cell phone turned on while I was in final approach to the airport. Caused the ILS ( another navigation receiver used when landing in bad weather) to indicate I was off course. Not cool when trying to land in instrument conditions. Again, use of the off button cured all worries.

    I will qualify the above events. I was not flying an airliner. I was flying larger charter aircraft. (King Air 200′s.)

    I’ve heard stories from friends who do fly Airliners about cell phones, computers and even a cheap dvd player that messed with aircraft electronics.

    If the Aircrew says turn it off, please turn it off. I’m sure these tablets the flight attendants use for Virgin Atlantic have been throughly tested in the make and model of airplane and shown not to interfere with aircraft systems.

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  8. One of the main reasons that mobile phones are not allowed on planes is because if they were, you’d have 300 people yapping away for the entire flight, and everyone would murder one another. It’s bad enough having to listen to other peoples useless banter on buses and trains, but on a flight, it would be just cruel.

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  9. Just as a note: British Airways allows passengers to use Bluetooth devices during flight.

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  10. Haha. Although I will say that there is a possibility that some of these devices may interfere with the instruments, the possibility is rather small.

    I know of a flight where 300+ people in an airplane all played some game in groups on Nintendo DS over wifi. That’s 300+ wifi connections.
    Plane landed safely … no intereference.

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