Boeing 747s still get critical updates via floppy disks

Published by THEVERGE.COM

Boeing's 747-400 aircraft, first introduced in 1988, is still receiving critical software updates through 3.5-inch floppy disks.

Pen Test Partners discovered a 3.5-inch floppy disk drive in the cockpit, which is used to load important navigation databases.

While it might sound surprising that 3.5-inch floppy disks are still in use on airplanes today, many of Boeing's 737s have also been using floppy disks to load avionics software for years.

The databases housed on these floppy discs are increasingly getting bigger, according to a 2015 report from Aviation Today.

Some airlines have been moving away from the use of floppy discs, but others are stuck with engineers visiting each month to sit and load eight floppies with updates to airports, flight paths, runways, and more.

Security researchers are still hunting for vulnerabilities that would allow them to communicate with flight systems from publicly accessible parts of planes.

Modern planes like Boeing's 777X and 787 use fiber networks, where all the avionics plug into this network and are controlled by a pair of computers that run flight critical software.

It's more of a traditional network like you'd find inside an office building, and some of the latest airliners even receive software updates over the air.

Despite modern technology being available, it hasn't stopped floppy disks from persisting in other industries.

The US Defense Department only ended the use of 8-inch floppy disks for coordinating the country's nuclear forces in October, and the International Space Station is full of floppy disks.