Well gang, I made my Chicago to Portland flight yesterday, and no one associated with American Airlines that I have spoken to has the slightest idea what the wattage output on their powerports is (that list includes the gate agents, flight attendants, and pilots). This information was similarly unavailable from their customer service reps over the phone and their website.
My impromptu in-flight experiment
After plugging in the DC adapter my power and battery indicator lights both turned green. Both lights remained green after boot up and for the 5 minutes or so that I had my computer on running only Word.
I then proceeded to load a video game (Painkiller) and about 45 seconds into the program (before I had even begun loading), my battery indicator went amber. I loaded up the game and about 1 minute into it, the battery indicator switched off (meaning I was now running on battery power).
I exited the game and after about 30 seconds, I regained DC power and amber light status.
Coincidentally, the man next to me was running his laptop (a Sony PCG-8L3L) off his DC power jack as well, and only working on a Word document and listening to Windows Media music via headphones the entire time.
After I regained DC power, I found myself in a cycle where the DC power would be on for 10 seconds, off for ten seconds. Curiously, the exact same happened for the guy next to me. This cycle carried on for about 6 minutes, at which point the guy next to me, visibly irritated, unplugged his jack and went to battery power. Simultaneously, the on/off cycle ended for me and my DC power continued uninterrupted.
Next, I kindly asked the man in front of me to plug my adapter into his jack, and asked the man next to me to plug his back in. At that point, we both regained uninterrupted DC power for about 5 minutes, at which point I lost power again. The man next to me continued to have DC power.
I turned my laptop off, and then asked the man in front to pull out and plug back in the adapter. The battery began charging. I booted up and 5 seconds into booting I lost DC power.
I shut off my machine, unplugged it from the plug belonging to the man in front, and plugged it into my jack. I left the machine off and the battery charging for fifteen minutes (with no ill-effects to the machine next to me).
Next, (and at this point, I realized I’m a huge nerd) I took a walk up and down the aisle and checked to see if anyone else on a laptop was using the DC power. Me and the man next to be were the only two.
I then turned on my computer and it ran on DC power for about 2 minutes, when it shut off. Every time I unplugged and re-plugged the adapter after I lost power I immediately regained it, only to have power for an interval that ranged from 10-30 seconds or so. Curiously, this time, when I lost power it had no effect on the guy next to me.
My machine is stock with no overclocking. I was using headphones and an external mouse with the LCD at the highest brightness. To see if it made any difference, I unplugged my headphones and mouse, and took the screen down to its darkest setting. No change in the behavior. Then, I was curious if I lost power when the fans kicked in, but there was no direct correlation between the two events, I would lose power if the fans were off or on.
Then, after about 10 minutes of me plugging and unplugging, I maintained DC power for an extended period of about 6 minutes, at the end of which, it fell back into its previous rhythm.
At no point did I regain power after losing it without unplugging and re-plugging the adapter.
The man next to me then proceeded to play a video game (Empire Earth) on his machine and I did not observe him lose power the entire time he was playing, regardless of what I did with my machine.
Putting my machine in standby was similar to turning it off, battery charged while stand-by but lost power once I woke it up.
My conclusion is that I have no idea whatsoever why or how the previous events took place. (Especially the man next to me losing power in tandem with me, and then not at all.) If there are any electrical engineer whiz kids out there, I need you help understanding why that might happen.
Ideas for resolving this investigation of sorts:
Does anyone know if you could touch a multimeter to one of these things and get the wattage?
Are there any software utilities out there that can measure power consumption from the source in watts? (I’m thinking yeah)
Does anyone know that engineer that designed the electrical systems for these Boeing aircraft?
And if it seems like I’ve put too much time and effort into this, it’s because I have, but I was on a 4 hour flight, so cut me some slack.