floppy-disks-airplanes-wingmag©fredy-jacob

Many airplanes still need floppy disks

Johanna Koyser
18.08.2020
2 minutes

Young readers may falter at this word: floppy disks. Far ahead of USB sticks and CDs, they were one of the most important storage media. Until a few years ago, almost every computer had the characteristic floppy disk slot. Today, however, this system is considered more than obsolete. The storage capacity of 3.5 Megabyte per disk alone makes many people smile. However, there are still some aircraft in aviation that rely on this technology.

Many Boeing 737 and 747 still use 3.5 inch floppy disks and have a corresponding drive in the cockpit. While some airlines have converted their airplanes to modern technology, for some others they are indispensable. This is because they are used to regularly load up-to-date navigation data into the cockpit. Data for airports, flight routes, runways and a few more have to be manually uploaded by an engineer every 28 days using eight disks. But why do many still rely on this old technology? Looking at the Boeing 747, the answer is quite obvious. The production of the jumbo jet will be stopped quite soon and thus it is not even worth updating this model series. Furthermore, some people think that using floppy disks is safer than using newer technology.

An interesting insight into this system is provided by this video, which shows the floppy disk drive of a Boeing 747-400 from minute 7:45. Due to the fact that more and more airlines are taking their 747s out of service and older 737s will not fly forever, the days of the floppy disk on board are running out. 

Picture © Fredy Jacob

by Johanna Koyser

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