Boeing 747-400 planes use floppy disks for major software updates #VintageComputing #Aviation

Interesting Engineering reported last year that the 747 uses floppy drives as a navigation database loader and planes require an update every 28 days, according to Gizmodo. This means there exists an engineer who makes monthly visits to every 747-400 — flopping floppy disk in hand — and manually deliver every update, personally.

Additionally, the majority of Boeing 737’s are also updated with floppy disks, reports The Verge. Operators of these planes carry binders stuffed with floppy disks for “all the avionics that they may need,” according to a 2014 Aviation Today report. This means important information about runways, flight paths, airports, and waypoints pilots need to write flight plans.

This has been widely-known since 2014, which raises the question: why hasn’t anyone brought the aviation industry up to speed with the 21st century? An Aviation Today report noted that even now a “significant number of airlines are still using floppy disks for software parts loading.”

Of course, we should say that the 747-400 is an aging plane — its first flight happened 32 years ago, when floppy disks were cutting-edge, in 1988. Now they simply maintain commercial and industrial legacy systems — economic sectors built to last and not adapt to changing standards of computing technology.

You can see the article here and a DefCon video tour of the aircraft

Stop breadboarding and soldering – start making immediately! Adafruit’s Circuit Playground is jam-packed with LEDs, sensors, buttons, alligator clip pads and more. Build projects with Circuit Playground in a few minutes with the drag-and-drop MakeCode programming site, learn computer science using the CS Discoveries class on, jump into CircuitPython to learn Python and hardware together, TinyGO, or even use the Arduino IDE. Circuit Playground Express is the newest and best Circuit Playground board, with support for CircuitPython, MakeCode, and Arduino. It has a powerful processor, 10 NeoPixels, mini speaker, InfraRed receive and transmit, two buttons, a switch, 14 alligator clip pads, and lots of sensors: capacitive touch, IR proximity, temperature, light, motion and sound. A whole wide world of electronics and coding is waiting for you, and it fits in the palm of your hand.

Join 35,000+ makers on Adafruit’s Discord channels and be part of the community!

Have an amazing project to share? The Electronics Show and Tell is every Wednesday at 7pm ET! To join, head over to YouTube and check out the show’s live chat – we’ll post the link there.

Join us every Wednesday night at 8pm ET for Ask an Engineer!

Follow Adafruit on Instagram for top secret new products, behinds the scenes and more

CircuitPython – The easiest way to program microcontrollers –

Maker Business — Challenges in trade between China and U.S. highlighted by forced labor bill

Wearables — Zip it, zip it good

Electronics — When to opt for alkaline batteries

Python for Microcontrollers — Python on Microcontrollers Newsletter: Retrofitting old computers, Pinguin and much more! #CircuitPython @micropython @ThePSF @Raspberry_Pi

Adafruit IoT Monthly — BBQ Smoker, Emoji Telegraph, and more!

Microsoft MakeCode — MakeCode Thank You!

EYE on NPI — Maxim’s Himalaya uSLIC Step-Down Power Module #EyeOnNPI @maximintegrated @digikey

New Products – Adafruit Industries – Makers, hackers, artists, designers and engineers! — New Products 9/21/2022 Featuring Adafruit ENS160 MOX Gas Sensor – Sciosense CCS811 Upgrade – STEMMA QT / Qwiic

Get the only spam-free daily newsletter about wearables, running a "maker business", electronic tips and more! Subscribe at !


  1. Not surprised. It’s just not cost-effective to engineer an updated replacement system that requires a costly and lengthy already inundated FAA certification process for a dated, shrinking product population (~694).

  2. There is a floppy disk dataloader installed on every 747-400, but not all operators still used these. There are a number of other options, including laptops and dedicated portable dataload devices. Many so-called hackers make much of the vulnerability of these systems, but there has never been a successful exploit of these. This is one case were security by obscurity has worked quite well.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.