Questions over laptop safety?
3 July 2000: According to a recent report in the Wall Street Journal, worries concerning the safety of in-seat power supply systems for laptop computers have prompted United Airlines to no longer offer this service on its 777 fleet, while a recent incident on an American Airlines flight prompted the carrier to undergo inspections of laptop outlets across its fleet of 700 aircraft.

The American Airlines incident occurred in mid-May, when an Airbus A300 travelling from London to Boston was diverted to Shannon, Ireland after sparks leapt from one of the in-seat power outlets. Mechanics later discovered that chafing of the wires against the underside of the seat had caused the event. American is now carrying out inspections across its fleet and is planning a design change to ensure that wiring can not be accidentally damaged by vibration or passengers' carry-on luggage.

United took the decision in May to bar laptop recharging on its 777 fleet, and will not reconnect the units until certain wiring maintenance has been carried out by the end of the year. The airline took the decision after a maintenance check revealed that wiring for the in-seat power outlets was improperly routed too close to other wires that run along the top of the cabin on 777s and are designed to supply backup power to various parts of the aircraft. United points out that it has had no reports of incidents, shorts or malfunctions, but took the step as a matter of extreme caution.

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July 05, 2000

Twenty-four affected aircraft should have power restored by early 2001


Chicago, July 5, 2000--United today announced that it had recently deactivated the laptop power system on 24 of its international Boeing 777 aircraft because of a design inconsistency in the wiring.

United discovered the problem during a routine aircraft maintenance visit and voluntarily reported to the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) that it was deactivating the systems until a design modification could be made. The affected B777s will be modified beginning later this year and should be completed by early 2001.

United apologizes in advance to customers for any inconvenience that this may cause. While the airline never experienced an incident or complication on any of affected aircraft, some wires were too close to others and did not meet Boeing specifications. Until the modification is complete, customers can recharge their batteries at electrical outlets in Red Carpet Clubs and other United airport locations.

The airline's 16 other international B777s have not yet had laptop power installed, and there is no problem with the laptop power on United's two-class North America B777s, B747-400s, B767-300s, B757s or A320s.

United Airlines offers more than 2,400 scheduled flights a day to 135 airports in 26 countries and two U.S. territories.


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