If you’re a nervous flyer, look away now: Boeing has discovered a bug in its software that could potentially shut down a plane’s power units without warning. If that happened while the aircraft was 30,000 feet up in the sky there wouldn’t be a lot that the pilot could do about it.
Before you cancel your vacation plans, you should know that Boeing and the FAA have issued new guidelines that should prevent this from ever happening. The bug comes into play after 248 days of continuous “power-on” mode, so shutting down the plane on a regular basis is enough to stop it from occurring.
The Dreamliner aircraft should already be powered down and back up long before this 248-day limit is reached, but with other technical glitches causing problems after a plane reboot, airlines might be tempted to leave them on longer than they should. The new FAA regulations now insist that checks are made to ensure the power is cut regularly while the 787s are safely on the ground.
If you’re interested in the technical aspects of the software glitch, it involves an integer overflow error that occurs when the systems have been running continuously for 248 days. The on-board computers then have nowhere else to store data and automatically shut themselves down — not ideal if you happen to be between airports.
Boeing is promising a software update that will wipe out the bug for good but in the meantime all the affected planes are getting rebooted in the best IT troubleshooting traditions. Let’s be thankful that the glitch was caught in the aircraft maker’s test laboratories rather than after a crash.
[Main image courtesy of Boeing]