If you’re going to take a stab at improving your in-flight wireless capabilities, then you’re going to need to test the signals. But when testing, you have to ensure that the plane is exactly the same as it would be 35,000 feet up in the air, which means you need passengers. Any travelers out there willing to sit still in a plane for a few days without ending up in an exotic destination? Didn’t think so.
Unsure of where they would find people willing to sit still for days on end in an airplane to endure wireless signal testing, Boeing engineers employed potato sacks instead. According to the Associated Press, because of their water content and chemistry, potatoes absorb and reflect radio waves in a very similar way to how people do. To fill their test planes the Boeing engineering team invested in 20,000 pounds of potatoes.
Those potatoes, plus the usual high-tech research and statistical analysis that Boeing is known for, resulted in a proprietary system for fine tuning Internet signals so that there would be a strong connection no matter where a laptop was in the plane.
Which means that next time you’re surfing the Internet above 10,000 feet, thank a potato.