The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has issued an advisory for Boeing's 787 because a software bug shuts down the plane's electricity generators every 248 days, even if the plane is mid-flight.
“We have been advised by Boeing of an issue identified during laboratory testing,” the directive says. “The software counter internal to the generator control units (GCUs) will overflow after 248 days of continuous power, causing that GCU to go into failsafe mode.”
That's be bad news if all four of the GCUs are powered up at the same time, because all will then shut down, “resulting in a loss of all AC electrical power regardless of flight phase.”
As the 787 runs on fully electronic, fly-by-wire systems, flight controls, navigation, lighting, climate control and in-flight entertainment will all be shut down as well.
In short, the multi-million dollar aircraft will turn into a flying brick.
The fix outlined by the FAA is rather simple: make sure you turn the GCUs off before 248 days elapse.
Boeing is working on a permanent fix and the FAA says “Once this software is developed, approved, and available, we might consider additional rulemaking.”
Travelers are unlikely to be affected by the issue but it highlights that as technology progresses into nearly every system we use to travel,drive,cook,communicate or measure our health, there are lots of opportunities for issues to crop up that are life or death. Thankfully for the aviation space the regulations are extremely strict and procedures are in place to both catch and rectify serious issues like the one found this week.
The same cannot be said for all industries which is food for thought as we go bravely into this new world.