Boeing Uses Potatoes to Conduct In-Flight Wireless Tests

December 20, 2012, By Sanjeev Ramachandran

Potatoes are more than just edible things. They are now the favorites of airline companies to conduct in-flight tests.

Airplane manufacturer Boeing is depending on sacks of potatoes to make wireless signals in their airplanes better. And they say they have made significant “breakthrough” in the process of evaluating the wireless signals in cabins.

According to the aviation giant’s press releases, their tests make “it possible for passengers to enjoy more reliable connectivity when using networked personal electronic devices in the air.” To provide their passengers with the best cabin atmosphere, Boeing took to the skies with 20,000 pounds of potatoes, piled on to the seats of a decommissioned plane.


Potatoes were used because they respond similar to a human body when exposed to electronic signals, so Boeing’s Test & Evaluation Laboratory engineers went the spud way without having to involve hundreds of people onboard an aircraft. After having tested their methods, they were able to confirm the data recorded by having humans fill the place of potatoes.

With the new procedures in place, Boeing says that the time taken to test wireless signals can be reduced from two weeks to 10 hours. Boeing spokesman Adam Tischler said that with the improved testing, they can now describe with accuracy both the strong and weak signals.

Engineers who are concerned primarily with operational safety of an airplane can see if the strong signals are safe for the airplane’s communication and navigation systems. Meanwhile, an engineer who is concerned with getting every passenger a really good network signal can see if the weak signals are propagating through the airplane with enough power to provide a good usability experience,” he explained.

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