Airplane laptop-power systems

Rohit Khare (
Sun, 7 Apr 96 22:09:47 -0400

Now, if they'd just install 10BaseT wiring....


Fliers who work on laptop computers know they have a few hours at most to
work before the battery goes dead. That window may be about to widen.

Redmond, Wash.-based Olin Aerospace says it is close to marketing a system
that delivers enough direct current to aircraft seats to power a laptop for an
entire flight and recharge laptop batteries. Fliers would plug their laptops
into sockets built into the arms. Olin's EmPower system works off a plane's
power once the plane is above 10,000 feet. It will be installed on a U.S.
airline before the year's out, says program manager Susan Nellis. She won't
name which airline. AIRFAX, an airline newsletter, says it will be American.
Another company, BE Aerospace in Irvine, Calif., has produced a similar
product called PowerPort. The Federal Aviation Administration hasn't approved
either system yet.

Some airlines are skeptical. "It's something we did look at. We felt a very
small segment of the market would want or use the outlets and the cost was too
large to install it on the aircraft," says British Airways spokesman John

Nellis says some airlines are talking about offering the outlets free in
business and first classes and for the cost of a headset in coach.

The most sophisticated batteries can last up to 4 hours, but that power is
eaten up by increasingly sophisticated software, CD-ROM drives and large
screens, says Rik Fairlie, managing editor of Mobile Office.