Now in its fourth year, the premier conference and networking forum to discuss the vital strategic issues surrounding cabin innovation, consumer expectations and strategies for profitability within the cabin returns to Hamburg, Germany on 13th April 2015, hosted by the Aircraft Interiors and World Travel Catering & Onboard Services Expos.

It’s no secret, Aircraft Interiors (AIX) is one of the best and biggest international IFEC & Catering shows in the world and we want to get a few updates to our readers who are not up to speed on it yet. We wanted to make this Hot Topic a “one stop update” for our readers and we note that most have already set in motion their trip. However, for the late-goers, we hope this issue will convince you to make the journey to Germany.

One word a reader used about AIX really stood out. “Un-missable,” she said, but you be the judge, at least based on the information we have included in this IFExpress. We also note that our own industry experiences at the AIX have caused us to call it “un-missable” too. From new product rollouts, to meeting new industry players, to the one-on-one meetings and get-togethers… it all adds up to the kind of show that IFEC is all about. In accordance with being be a bit biased, we asked a few readers to give IFExpress a short sentence or two on their view of AIX and we have included their thoughts in this Hot Topic as well.

“The AIX Hamburg Conference is a tremendous event as it is well attended from both visitor and exhibitor perspectives and is surrounded by other strong activities the day before such as the Passenger Experience Conference and the Crystal Cabin Awards.” Lori M. Krans

To get a better view, we talked to Katie Murphy, Senior Exhibition Director for Aircraft Interiors Expo and asked a few questions that might help readers decide to go. She told IFExpress: “Aircraft Interiors Expo has long been recognized as the premier forum for new ideas to meet the needs of this vibrant and dynamic industry. We are confident that visitors to our 2015 show will find a wealth of innovation in key areas such as IFE, seating and cabin design. The opening and closing plenary sessions at this year’s Passenger Experience Conference will be a major highlight for delegates as it includes stimulating and thought-provoking discussion from Virgin Atlantic, Air Baltic and Seymourpowell. There is no doubt the lineup to-date is already impressive and will be an occasion not to be missed.”

Q. Why should our readers go to AIX in Hamburg (April 13 through 16) and what will they see?

A: This will be the 16th edition and it will be the largest passenger experience event as Aircraft Interiors Expo has now expanded from five halls to seven which means that the World Travel Catering & Onboard Services Expo will be taking place in the A halls at the Hamburg Messe.

The Passenger Experience Conference, now in its fourth year, takes place on 13th April and will feature two new motivating plenary sessions, one from Richard Seymour, Founder of Seymourpowell and one from Reuben Arnold, Brand and Customer Engagement Director at Virgin Atlantic Airways. Richard Seymour’s “Blue Sky” presentation entitled ‘Clippers in the Clouds – Rediscovering Romance in the 21st Century,’ will investigate the theory of “Emotional Ergonomics” in the air and reflect on how much can actually be achieved within the technical confines of a modern airliner in the decades to come.

Of course IFE is key for many airlines when it comes to enhancing the passenger experience and Hamburg will be the place to be as the largest ever IFE Zone – some 25% larger – will showcase 71 exhibitors including 13 new companies. The latest and most innovative IFE technologies will be displayed by a range of companies such as Astronics, Blue Box Avionics, Lumexis, Molex, Panasonic Avionics, Thales, Turkish Technic, ViaSat and Zodiac – to name a few. 67% of visitors at last year’s event confirmed their interest in IFE-related products so there is no doubt that the IFE Zone will again be a significant attraction at Aircraft Interiors Expo 2015.

Q. What changes can regular visitors expect this year – what’s new?

A: There will be a new and exclusively designed US Pavilion in Hall B1 as well as a new feature called CabinSpace LIVE in Hall B6, a face-to-face platform with direct access to airlines, operators, buyers and specifiers from the industry – it will offer a dedicated area for the exchange of information and best practices and all sessions are free to attend. In co-operation with COMPOSITES EUROPE, we’re also delighted to introduce the Composites Zone located within Hall B1 this year where decision makers, buyers and designers from the most important application industries will find the very latest material solutions and technologies.

Q Besides IFE, what else is featured at AIX and a good reason to go?

A: To help visitors unwind during a busy day, the Relaxation Zone in Hall B1 will be offering free massages every day from 1100 to 1500 and you can ‘Meet at the Bar’ also in Hall B1 and have a seat and use the free WI-FI in the seating area in Hal B6.

Networking is an essential part of everyone’s time in Hamburg. The Industry Networking Party follows the Passenger Experience Conference and will be an opportunity to meet new contacts, strengthen existing relationships and meet peers and other industry professionals in a relaxed atmosphere. In addition, all exhibitors and visitors are invited to attend the hospitality evenings in the exhibition halls on the 14th and 15th from 1700 to -1900. We would also encourage everyone to visit the Crystal Cabin Award Gallery in Hall B6, which is sponsored by Aircraft Interiors Expo. In its ninth year, the competition, initiated by Hamburg Aviation, received a record 68 entries from 18 countries that secured a place on the prestigious shortlist. Innovations across seven categories will be on display in the Gallery and the winners will be presented with their trophies on 15th April at 11am.

Q. Are there any deals you can or are able to mention about close/reasonable accommodations?

A: We suggest that anyone wanting to book hotels should contact our official house partner via the website – INTERPLAN AG Hamburg – as they can offer a special rate to attendees at Aircraft Interiors EXPO 2015.

Q. How many square feet of IFE space – how many vendors do you expect?

A: This year there will be 71 exhibiting companies in the IFE Zone covering Halls B2, B3 and B4 at a total growth of approx. 25%

Q. How about the Pax Experience Event (April, 13th) – any thoughts for our readers?

A: One particular session we’d like to highlight is the “IFEC Debate: The Future For Inflight Content” which will feature an impressive platform of panellists to include Don Buchman, Vice President, ViaSat; Robin Cole, Vice President Global Business Development, Global Eagle Entertainment; Al St. Germain, Senior Vice President USA, Spafax and Dimiter Zahariev, Development Manager, Passenger Department, International Air Transport Association. Here is a link to the PEX Schedule – download it and take it with you: PEX Schedule/attached

Q. What does it cost to attend as a visitor? Do they need to register ahead and how if needed?

A: We advise to register before the event to avoid queuing on the opening days

Free of Charge to attend the exhibition
14 – 16 April
Hamburg Messe

Passenger Experience Conference and Industry Networking Party the prices are:

Passenger Experience Conference
Book by 12 April: €449 + VAT
Book after 12 April: €600 inc VAT

Industry Networking Party
Book by 10 April: €99 inc VAT
Book after 10 April: €120 inc VAT

Exhibitors
Book by 10 April: €85 inc VAT
Book after 10 April: €100 inc VAT

FREE to attend for Conference Delegates and Airline VIPs

Q. How can readers get more info?

A: Our website has a lot of useful information but if anyone wants to get in touch they can call our Customer Services Helpline at +44 (0) 208 271 2174.
The website also has a link to download a free app before, during and after the show, the app provides a full event schedule, personalized agenda, exhibitor listings, floor-plan maps, social networking, speaker listings and many other features.

Q. Is there a way for last minute vendors to get a booth?

A: Currently the show is 98% sold out so although we’ve very little room left, if anyone is interested in exhibiting we suggest they contact us as soon as possible and we’ll do our level best to see how we accommodate them as we’d love them to be with us in Hamburg!

View the list of worldwide sales managers that are here to help you.

“AIX is always one of the big shows for us each year. Hamburg is a great location, and a wonderful opportunity to meet all the movers and shakers from the whole Interiors industry.” Geoff Underwood – IFPL

Here are some links IFExpress found to make you AIX search a bit easier:
Website
Registration
IFE Zone link
IFE Floor Zone link
Find Exhibitors link
Here is a link to the AIX app

“We are thrilled to showcase our latest destination-related contents at AIX, since this expo is one of the major yearly events in the industry. With so many PaxEx managers attending the expo, it is for us a mandatory milestone to open the path to long lasting relationships with airlines for both passengers’ and airline’s benefits.” Cyril Jean, PX Com

See you there… and you can contact IFExpress at the show via text message to: +1 206 229 7899 or email plwiseman@gmail.com

“AIX is an opportunity to see the latest IFEC systems – to see and hear about new products being launched – including exciting news from Lumexis. AIX is opportune for both airline and vendor meetings – airline meetings are most important of course, but vendor–vendor meetings are a close second – it’s a chance to meet with IFEC and seats vendors from all over the world, all in one place.“ Rich Salter, Lumexis

Sun Valley, Idaho | March 30, 2015– After a difficult bankruptcy auction process, the purchase of SkyMall’s brand name was announced last Friday, March 27th for $1.9 million, despite the fact that the loss of deals and mounting debts to airlines is what drove SkyMall into bankruptcy.

Plans have not been publicly announced for how the new owners of SkyMall intend to get the kitschy catalog company airborne again, but one fact is clear: SkyMall no longer has a monopoly to sell in the skies.

Scott Jordan, CEO and Founder of multi-pocket travel clothing company SCOTTeVEST intends to fill the vacuum created by SkyMall’s loss of exclusive deals with the airlines by launching a new in-flight shopping experience: SKY2BUY. It will be in planes in test markets around the U.S. in June or July of this year.

Backed by Jordan, SKY2BUY is being developed as a special advertising section in airline magazines that are already onboard every flight.

The model is radically different from any seen before, since SKY2BUY is targeted specifically at travelers and rewards them with discounts. One is considered a SKY2BUY traveler when (s)he is in an airport, on an airplane or has arrived at his or her destination within the past 24 hours. The savings are made possible by selling direct to customers and working with airline magazines instead of creating standalone catalogs.

This unique, location-based model rewards travelers. The discounting concept is similar to a duty-free shop: a shopper can buy the same goods elsewhere, but only gets a special discount when traveling.

SKY2BUY will dial up the entertainment aspect that made SkyMall enjoyable by embracing creative content and making it more than just a catalog SKY2BUY’s emphasis is on creating a high-end travel magazine with relevant shopping opportunities for travelers.

“This summer, fly with SKY2BUY, your new mall in the sky,” said Jordan.

  • Imagik and Thompson Aerospace announce joint venture launch of Allure Inflight Entertainment System with industry leading technology for Passenger Interactive Experience and lowest cost content management.

Irvine, CA | March 31, 2015– Today, Imagik of Miami, Fla and Thompson Aerospace of Irvine, CA announced the joint venture and launch of the Allure Inflight Infotainment System, with 1NET Private Cloud Technology. The Allure is the lightest weight and lowest cost complete Inflight System offering the full complex for entertainment and infotainment.

On April 14-16, Imagik will be unveiling the new Allure In-Seat line as well as a USB charging system at the Hamburg Interior Show. The Allure features a 10.1 inch HD touch screen,row-centric architecture, together with the lightest weight and lowest cost for a full complex for flight entertainment. The QUATRO in seat USB outlets support personal device charging, and can be installed with the IFE system or as an independent charging system, providing airlines with the unique capability to enhance the passenger experience.

With almost 20 years of experience in the airline In Flight Entertainment business, Imagik is one of the world’s leading suppliers of flat panel In-flight entertainment monitors, with products flying on many of the world’s most prestigious airlines.

As the leading company in commercial aircraft IT security and data management solutions, Thompson Aerospace has developed a unique method of content management providing airlines the ability to update content from the cloud anytime the aircraft is connected to GSM/LTE. This allows for providing passengers up-to-date and relevant information on their destination or world events. In a similar environment as browsing, the web passengers will be able to click on different features such as the points of interest on the 3D map, gaining a more in-depth view of available attractions or local information.

Mark Thompson stated, “Entertainment solutions are big data solutions and with our partnership with Imagik allows us to focus on the data to provide the best value to airline customers. Our innovative 1Net Private Cloud technology enables the airline to tailor content solutions and enrich the infotainment experience similar to personal devices”.

Imagik and Thompson Aerospace have reached an agreement to combine and market their unique capabilities and offer a one of a kind system that is within reach to all commercial airlines.

Pablo Vadillo of Imagik stated: “With this agreement we can offer our customers almost every option they can look for in an IFE system, from movies, to e-commerce to global tracking.

Thompson Aerospace will focus on security, data management and connectivity with their new CSUv2 server that is the core of the 1NETv2 Airborne Local Area Network. The “Always Connected” secure data solution is an ecosystem for managing all aircraft data including position tracking1, performance, ACMS, FOQA and other required data while simultaneously maintaining the capacity for streaming passenger content.

++1 Thompson Aerospace provides secure IT management solutions with service level agreements allow airlines to pay for the service not the equipment. These services include 15 minute aircraft tracking, virtual flight data recorder, ACMS, FOQA, real time credit card processing and passenger data solutions.

Thompson Aerospace’s joint venture with Imagik is another agreement to allow airlines access to secure IT networks. Thompson Aerospace is partnered with BE Aerospace for the manufacturing of their 1Net server product line.
Thompson Aerospace and Imagik will be showing the new systems at the Interiors Conference in Hamburg Germany on April 14-16 Booth Number 4B40.

Irvine, CA | March 31, 2015–
Lumexis has taken another industry-leading step forward with the launch of its unprecedented new iPAX™ in-flight entertainment (IFE) product – a wireless-streaming in-seat system at the ultra-low price of $1,495 and weight of only 8.9 ounces per seat.

“Some three-fourths of single-aisle aircraft fly on short-to-medium haul routes that could never before benefit from embedded IFEC” said Lumexis CEO Doug Cline. “That paradigm is turned upside down with iPAX, truly the first cost-effective HD video tool for earning significant new ancillary revenue from offering a diversity of products and services.”

“The Lumexis team has established yet another benchmark in commercial aviation with this unique revenue-generating tool,” added Lou Sharkey, President and Chief Operating Officer. “Fully-installed, it costs less than a conventional overhead monitor system and weighs half as much, so the revenue it generates drops directly to the bottom line.”
The gorgeous 1080p HD picture belies its role as a durable workhorse for the LCC operator. Offering passengers a wide choice of valued entertainment, moving-map, food and beverage, and catalog shopping, the system also carries the safety briefing directly to each passenger. The available options include not only a credit card reader, but a high power 2.1A USB charging port, all contained within the monitor’s attractive bezel.

We invite you to visit Stand 4C50 during the Aircraft Interiors EXPO (14th-16th April 2015 at the Hamburg Messe) and allow us to demonstrate why Lumexis is The Future of IFE.

See http://www.aircraftinteriorsexpo.com/ for more information on the Aircraft Interiors EXPO.

Atlanta, GA | March 31, 2015– U.S. air travelers rank time-consuming baggage and security procedures as the top areas for improvement, according to a recent survey conducted by air transport IT specialist, SITA. The 9th annual SITA/Air Transport World Passenger IT Trends Survey confirms that airports can significantly improve passenger experience and satisfaction by automating these and other steps throughout the air travel process.

When asked about areas of improvement, 77 percent of respondents cite security and border patrol procedures, while 73 percent report baggage collection upon arrival as their top concern.

While automated baggage and border solutions are just beginning to take hold in the U.S., their availability is likely to grow as U.S. airports automate a greater number of processes, and passengers continue to demand more convenience at their fingertips. Just 24 percent of respondents report using a self-service bag-drop station today, yet 30 percent said they would use it if available in the future. And more than twice that number, 65 percent of respondents, said they would like to receive real-time baggage updates on their mobile device.

Paul Houghton, SITA’s President, Americas, said: “As mobile adoption and the expectation for self-service convenience continue to grow, there is an even greater opportunity for airports to streamline cumbersome processes and give their customers greater control over their travel experience—from check-in to border entry to baggage collection.

A great example of this is the growing use of SITA’s Automated Passport Control kiosks, installed at LAX, MIA, PHL, BOS and other airports across America, which have cut passenger wait times by up to 40 percent.”

Additional Notable Statistics

  • U.S. passengers ranked in-flight wireless, better real-time flight information and better comparability of airline fares as their top three suggested areas of investment.
  • 27 percent of passengers regularly use their smart phones to rebook delayed flights, but nearly double that number (50 percent) would do so if available over the next 12 months.
  • A majority of U.S. passengers said they would use new boarding pass services such as unstaffed boarding gates (67 percent) and self-service transfer kiosks at the connecting airport (52 percent) if available in the future.

Survey Methodology

The survey, which was completed by more than 1,275 passengers in the U.S., was conducted across 15 countries worldwide with a total of nearly 6,300 participants. The 15 countries involved in the survey represent 76% of total global passenger traffic.

For more information download the survey here:

Los Angeles, CA | March 31, 2015– Global Eagle Entertainment Inc. (“GEE”) (Nasdaq: ENT), a worldwide leading provider of content, connectivity, digital media solutions and operations data services to the travel industry, is delighted to announce the launch of GEE Maritime. GEE Maritime is the company’s new brand image and logo for its non-theatrical entertainment and media solutions business to cruise ships, merchant ships and yachts.
Global Eagle Entertainment is a leading provider of non-theatrical entertainment solutions to the cruise ship market, serving over 30 cruise lines worldwide with an extensive catalogue of movies, live news feeds from around the world, and popular TV and sports programming such as exclusive Champions League soccer matches.

The new GEE Maritime brand is aligned with the company’s recently launched corporate identity, highlighting GEE’s dedication to providing a holistic and integrated approach to its media solutions offering for the travel industry.

GEE Maritime is also actively developing an innovative content portal enabling a suite of wireless entertainment and connectivity-backed services for ship passengers and crews using their personal electronic devices. This Digital Media Solution, which leverages GEE’s established technologies for the airline market, will support services such as video-on-demand, fresh content updates and offline transactions, and will enable cruise line operators to explore new onboard revenue opportunities through advertising and brand sponsorships.

“We’re proud to unveil the new GEE Maritime brand and logo as part of GEE’s portfolio of products and services for the travel industry,” commented Robin Cole, Vice President of Marketing and Global Business Development at GEE. “This new brand deployment demonstrates our commitment to providing the global cruise industry with engaging and integrated content offerings. As part of GEE’s market-leading travel oriented solutions, GEE Maritime paves the way for our revolutionary digital media and wireless solutions to enhance the entertainment offering on cruises worldwide.”

Oberpfaffenhofen, Germany | March 30, 2015– 328 is pleased to announce that 328 Design GmbH (328DO) has successfully achieved the Supplemental DOA approval from the General Civil Aviation Authority GCAA of the United Arab Emirates.

The approval shows that 328DO is in compliance with all regulatory requirements for product changes on A6 UAE-registered aircraft.

This approval allows 328DO changes and repairs approved for A6 (UAE) registered aircraft modifications without any limitations in avionic installations ranging from SATCOM installations all the way up to complete aircraft conversions. With over 200 STC’s already managed by 328DO, it is expected that this approval will prove attractive to operators in this region of the world.

Jörg Gorkenant, Head of 328DO said “This is a great achievement for the company as this approval allows 328 to further expand its activities into the very valuable aerospace market in the Middle East.”

328DO under Jörg is comprised of more than 40 designers, all experts in their respective fields. This highly skilled team has allowed the company to achieve rapid and efficient growth since joining the group in 2009.

328 is currently working on an extended range of aircraft including VVIP / VIP narrow, wide body aircraft and business jets. With the new GCAA DOA approval, 328 Group is also excited to offer new services to the civil aviation market including First, Economic and Business class parts and assembly manufacture.

Cedar Rapids, Iowa | March 24, 2015– Rockwell Collins’ PAVES™ Broadcast in-flight entertainment (IFE) and Airshow® 3D Moving Map systems will be featured on 45 Next-Generation Boeing 737 aircraft on order by China-based Xiamen Airlines and its subsidiary, Hebei Airlines. Deliveries will begin in early 2016.

“We’re honored by Xiamen’s PAVES IFE selection, which will deliver high levels of reliability for passengers and intuitive functionality for flight attendants,” said Jim Walker, vice president and general manager, International and Service Solutions, Asia Pacific for Rockwell Collins.

Rockwell Collins’ PAVES Broadcast overhead IFE significantly reduces size, weight, and power consumption compared to previous overhead system offerings. The system’s High Definition Media Server (HDMS) offers 160 gigabytes of solid-state digital audio and video storage capability, integrated pre-recorded announcements, and music (PRAM) functionality with embedded Airshow 3D Moving Map.

Rockwell Collins’ Airshow 3D Moving Map system includes NASA’s Blue Marble map data, based on actual satellite imagery, to provide a modernized view of real-time flight information to passengers. Extensive features and performance enhancements not only deliver unparalleled 3D graphical realism, but also add even more new capabilities to what is already the industry’s most popular moving map system.

Additionally, with PAVES Broadcast, airlines have the option to handle updates of non-encrypted content themselves or through the Rockwell Collins Content Services Group. This choice gives airlines flexibility in responding to commercial opportunities as they arise, since time-sensitive content can be replaced at a moment’s notice, anywhere in the world.

  • Mishandled bag rate falls 61% in seven years with technology investment

Geneva | March 26, 2015– The air transport industry has cut the rate of mishandled bags by 61.3% globally since 2007, creating US$18 billion in total estimated cost savings, according to air transport IT specialist, SITA. The SITA 2015 Baggage Report released today showed that the rate of mishandled bags in 2014 was 7.3 bags per thousand passengers, down from a peak of 18.88 bags per thousand passengers in 2007. This decline comes despite a significant rise in passenger numbers over the same time period, peaking at 3.3 billion passengers in 2014.

Francesco Violante, CEO, SITA, said: “This improvement in baggage handling over the past seven years is largely a result of strong technology investment and innovation in baggage systems automation and processes. However, rising passenger numbers will continue to place pressure on baggage infrastructure and processes, so the industry cannot afford to become complacent. With IATA forecasting continued passenger growth of around 7% in 2015, all industry partners will need to continue to invest, collaborate and focus on baggage management.”

From 2013 to 2014, global passenger numbers rose 5.5%, and aircraft load factors increased globally to 79.7%. This increased pressure on existing systems nudged the rate of bag mishandling up in 2014 to 7.3 bags per thousand passengers, from its all-time low of 6.96 the previous year. More than 80% of the mishandled bags in 2014 were delayed, with transfers between connecting flights the leading cause of late delivery. In 2014, mishandled transfer bags accounted for 49% of all delayed bags or 11.81 million bags; however, the majority of bags were reunited with passengers within one to two days.

Airlines and airports are continuing to invest in new technology to optimize passenger and baggage processing, including self bag tagging, self bag drop, systems automation and bag ticketing. According to SITA’s 2014 Airport IT Trends Survey, baggage processing and management ranked among airports’ top investment priorities, with investments in self-service processes, such as kiosk and bag-drop technology leading the way. Over the next three years, 59% of airports said they would invest in major self-service programs, as passengers increasingly express a desire to have more control over their journeys, including their baggage.

By 2017, around 69% of airlines said they would provide passengers with real-time updates on the location of their bags, with 66% looking to provide these updates via smartphone apps. In addition, both airlines and airports are looking for new ways to enable passengers to file missing bag reports themselves. Around 18% of airlines already offer passengers the ability to report missing bags via self-service kiosks and 10% via smartphone apps; by 2017, nearly two-thirds of airlines expect to offer these services.

Baggage tracking is set to improve further in coming years as a result of IATA Resolution 753: Baggage Tracking. The resolution, which goes into effect in 2018, requires IATA members to “maintain an accurate inventory of baggage by monitoring the acquisition and delivery of baggage.” For example, BagJourney, SITA’s end-to-end baggage tracking solution for the air transport community, provides a cost-efficient and accurate method of tracking passengers’ bags anywhere along their journey from check-in to the destination airport. It can also enable passengers to access information on the location of their bags at any time when the airline provides this service and passengers subscribe to it.

SITA has led the air transport industry in providing baggage tracking and tracing solutions for the air transport community more than 20 years. Today, more than 200 airports and 500 airlines worldwide use its baggage management solutions. By facilitating communications between airlines and local baggage handling and reconciliation systems, SITA helps ensure that bags reach their correct destination. Its proprietary BagMessage system delivers more than 2.5 billion messages between airline departure control systems and automated baggage systems annually. And more than 2,800 airport locations use WorldTracer®, SITA’s system which traces mishandled bags globally.

For further details download SITA’s full report – 2015 Baggage Report

It seems that each trip we take on an airliner, we have an increased need for connectivity. Whether it is a greater occurrence of email updates, more Wi-Fi streaming video, or just general web surfing. One supposes this is just human nature, or is it something else? On ground wireless usage habits tend toward greater frequency over time and one could guess this is also true in the air if for no other reason than from inflight boredom and/or stress. Regardless of the reason, people want a similar experience in the air as on the ground, because they are not on the ground. Want proof? When was the last time you heard: “I wish the Wi-Fi here was as good as on my last flight?” Frankly, what used to be called fear of flying to the millennials is now called fear of changing Wi-Fi providers to one that is not as good as the one(s) in their ground-life. For frequent travelers it used to be a continuous search for the fastest trip, but today, as one flier told IFExpress, “It is who has the fastest Internet Wi-Fi.”

This demand trend is obviously what the Inmarsat folks had in mind when they developed the spot beamed Inmarsat GX solution that, we note, is roughly two thirds implemented today (for the GX system one satellite is up and operational, a second is up and testing, and the third is being ready for launch next quarter). (See news release) According to Inmarsat, GX Aviation will deliver up to 50 Mbps to an aircraft, and in their words, “It expands the possibilities for in-flight entertainment to real-time TV and TV on demand, as well as, email and web browsing at a much faster speed.” And here is the kicker – GX connectivity will be available almost anywhere in the world, and almost anywhere an aircraft can take you. In case you have forgotten, here are the service bands available for satellite connectivity and the common operating frequencies that define them.

Obviously Ka-band made sense from a signal bandwidth and equipment size point of view, especially when an airborne aircraft is involved… as the frequency goes up, so does bandwidth, and size goes down, but we note, rain attenuation goes up. Above 20,000 feet in altitude, rain attenuation is not a big issue, or at least is, a minimal one. The primary atmospheric region affecting Ka-band communications is the troposphere, which extends from the earth’s surface to an elevation of approximately 50,000 ft. Virtually all precipitation occurs within the troposphere, as it contains about 99% of the water vapor in the atmosphere and the most of that is below 25,000 feet in altitude.

Here is a little Wikipedia help if the Ka-band is new to you: “The Ka-band (“kay-ay band”) covers the frequencies of 26.5–40 GHz,[1] i.e. wavelengths from slightly over one centimeter down to 7.5 milimeters.[2] The Ka-band is part of the K band of the microwave band of the electromagnetic spectrum. This symbol refers to “K-above”: in other words, the band directly above the K-band. The 30/20 GHz band is used in communications satellitesuplink in either the 27.5 GHz and 31 GHz bands,[3] and high-resolution, close-range targeting radars aboard military airplanes.” From a bandwidth data perspective, and based on frequency, Ka-band has 5 times the bandwidth of C band, and roughly 2.5 time that of X Band. But note, The Ka-band is more susceptible to rain attenuation than is the Ku-band, which in turn is more susceptible than the C band, and experts agree, rain fade become more an issue above 11 Ghz, but if you are flying at 35,000 feet talking to a satellite in geostationary orbit.

The first GX Aviation Inmarsat satellite was launched back in December of 2014 and today covers the Indian Ocean region. A recent announcement of the second launch and orbit insertion/testing was made a couple days ago. On March 4, 2015 Inmarsat and Honeywell successfully tested over-the-air performance for Honeywell’s JetWave MCS 8200 onboard aircraft hardware on Inmarsat’s Global Xpress (GX) satellite network. This successful test signifies that the next generation of truly global high-speed in-flight connectivity for passengers, airlines and operators is becoming a reality – with one more satellite launch to go for global coverage. GX is already operational in the Indian Ocean Region for government, maritime, and enterprise customers over the first Global Xpress satellite, which was launched last year. The successful launch of the second satellite in February 2015 means Inmarsat’s Ka-band network now covers the Americas and the Atlantic Ocean Region. Scheduled for launch in the second quarter of 2015, the third satellite will cover the Pacific Ocean region; completing the Global Xpress network and providing worldwide spot beam coverage.

As to what testing occurred, here is the news release note: “During the testing, the team was able to demonstrate how Inmarsat’s high-speed; GX Aviation network can support multiple file transfers and video streaming– confirming that passengers will have the same Wi-Fi experience while travelling at 40,000 feet as they would on the ground. Success in this round of testing, conducted from Honeywell’s Tewkesbury, United Kingdom facility means Inmarsat can now start the higher data rate testing. This is not only a milestone for the whole GX Aviation programme, but it’s also a great demonstration of what GX Aviation brings to the table,” said Leo Mondale, President, Inmarsat Aviation. “We are delighted with the performance shown by this round of testing. Both the GX network and Honeywell’s terminal have met and exceeded our high expectations. We’re another step closer.”

With regard to aircraft hardware, the supplier told us: Honeywell’s JetWave MCS 8200 terminal, which enables aircraft to connect to Inmarsat’s Global Xpress satellite network, is in full certification testing, proceeding through DO-160 environmental and electromagnetic interference certifications, in preparation for the start of flight testing in the second quarter of 2015. In addition, work is being done to ensure that the equipment is available for installation on new Boeing aircraft, Airbus A350s and Bombardier’s Global family of business jets.” As a result, we decided to ask the folks at Honeywell a few questions about their product and the program in general:

Q. Please describe the Inmarsat GX solution from your viewpoint.

In 2012 Honeywell signed an exclusive agreement with Inmarsat to provide the SATCOM hardware for its Global Xpress Ka-band service and the program has been in development since then.

The Global Xpress constellation is comprised of three satellites, two of which are already in orbit and the third is slated to launch later in 2015, and will use Ka frequencies to deliver broadband speeds of up to 50 Mbps downlink around the world.

The Inmarsat-5 satellites operate with a combination of fixed narrow spot beams that enable Inmarsat to deliver higher speeds through more compact terminals, plus steerable beams so additional capacity can be directed in real-time to where it’s needed.

Q. Could you describe the tests in a bit more detail?

Initial tests are complete, and considered successful. We are still analyzing the full results.

Q. Were any tests made of the roll angles to determine angular signal sensitivity… was it as expected?

We have performed testing on a motion table to validate that the antenna is oriented correctly during expected aircraft movement. Full aircraft-level testing will be done during test flights in a few months.

Q. How can IFExpress readers get more information on the product – newsletter, email updates, etc.?

Your readers can read more about Honeywell here.

Q. Do you have a schedule of the whole program (3 satellites I believe) and when might the first system be installed and available?

Inmarsat launched the first of three satellites for the Global Xpress constellation in late 2014, the second satellite was launched in February 2015 and the third will launch in Q2 of 2015.

Q. Does Honeywell have any GX product customers to date?

  • We have received great interest from the market.
    The GX system is now offered as a connectivity option along with the Thales In-Flight Entertainment system on the A350 and has been chosen by Qatar Airways for their upcoming deliveries with service being provided by OnAir.
  • Vietnam Airlines has selected GX Aviation Connectivity along with Thales IFE on their upcoming A350 and 787 Deliveries with service being supplied by Gogo.
  • Air China and Honeywell signed an MoU to test GX Aviation on their A330 Aircraft
  • Bombardier Business Aircraft will be the launch business aircraft manufacturer for Honeywell Aerospace’s JetWave Ka-Band satellite connectivity system.

Q. We assume that Honeywell’s management is pretty excited about this product?

“The successful testing of Honeywell’s JetWave terminal proves that we are truly making global high-speed in-flight Wi-Fi a reality,” says Carl Esposito, Vice President of Marketing and Product Management, Honeywell Aerospace. “The combination of Honeywell’s airborne hardware and Inmarsat’s GX Ka-band global network will allow for a seamless experience of connectivity and capability from the time you walk on the airplane until you get off on the other side of the world.”

Q. Can you tell our readers a bit more about Honeywell?

Honeywell Aerospace innovates and integrates thousands of products and services to advance and easily deliver safe, efficient, productive and comfortable experiences worldwide. Honeywell has been in the aviation industry for more than 100 years providing technology, mechanical components and services for the commercial aviation, business aviation, defense and space industries.

Honeywell has created the state-of-the-art integrated Aircraft Environment Surveillance System for the Airbus A380, and our advanced flight management, power distribution, pneumatic, and landing systems will help A380 operators reach new heights of performance and efficiency.

We are a leading supplier of products and systems for Boeing commercial airplanes, and our integrated avionics system for the Boeing 777 sets a new technology and reliability standard. Today, we are part of the team working to define technology concepts for the next Boeing airplane, the super-efficient 777.