If you are wondering why we are using the image of the Southwest/Beats paint job for the Hot Topic, it is because we were inspired by the case study in Patrick Prefontaine’s terrific APEX presentation… and because the airplane looks cool. Thanks to Southwest and Patrick! – Patricia Wiseman | Editor.
After viewing the APEX TC agenda, we contacted Rich Salter and Michael Childers for their impression of some of the sessions during the meeting in California last week and here are a few of the hot topics there:
Some highlights from the APEX TEC meeting
Keynote: Patrick Prefontaine of GEE whose topic was “Wireless IFE” keynoted the meeting. He gave an excellent overview of the market for wireless IFE, beginning with the market size today and progressing to the forecast for future growth and the trends that are driving it. He covered the benefits and challenges of wireless IFE for tablets and smartphones, and concluded with the description of the Beats Music Inflight Service just launched on Southwest Airlines, powered by GEE. This was an excellent presentation appreciated by all in attendance, and it stimulated a lively Q&A session afterward. We have obtained permission for our readers to check it out here.
Payment Tech: The payment technologies session focused on the approaching liability changeover date (October 2015) for fraudulent use of magnetic swipe cards in the US. This is the date that liability will transfer from credit card issuers (i.e., VISA, MC, et al) to merchants (i.e., airlines). Chip & Pin cards are being issued prior to the date, and merchants are now updating their terminals to add Chip & Pin and NFC (near-field communications) readers. An excellent description of NFC (including ApplePay, etc.) was presented along with what is involved in installing and certifying it for use onboard aircraft. The session concluded with the Tech Committee agreeing to charter a Payment Technologies Working Group to pursue a two-year delay in the liability changeover for airlines with magnetic card readers, and to educate the membership about NFC and other future payment technologies.
Captions: The Technologies for Disabled Passengers session covered a lot of extremely interesting ground, including a description of the APEX white paper developed by the Closed Captions WG that was recently finalized and submitted to DOT (Dept of Transportation) re their proposal for airlines to add closed captions to entertainment content. Michael Childers proposed that the TC continue to work with the DOT, A4A, and the disabled community. See below for more information on this topic.
Audio Descriptions: These are the scene descriptions of the video content (movie and TC programs) for the blind and visually handicapped – the program audio is lowered and spoken audio is inserted when time permits. WGBH’s NCAM (Nat’l Center for Accessible Media) made a great presentation of audio descriptions, and Emirates and Air Canada also described what they are already doing with these. In addition, Geoff Freed of NCAM explained and demonstrated the ways that blind users can already use touchscreens on kiosks, airline websites, and smartphones.
HD Security: The TC adopted the updates to APEX Spec 0403 with encoding parameters for and security requirements for HD 1080p video content on embedded IFE systems. Pierre Schuberth of Thales did a great job of getting this spec completed in the past six months. Pierre also presented a list of possible next projects for the WG, and asked that members submit their comments and preferences to TC staff person Lauren Beneri.
Future Tech Trends: This session showed Bryan Rusenko’s list of future technical trends and also highlighted the potential for a 50% reduction in storage required for video content that is encoded with the new codec known as HEVC (high efficiency video codec) or H.265. Note: APEX members can see the slides for these and other presentations on the APEX website – log on and click on “Resources” then “Past Presentations.”
Earlier in this article, we stated that we wanted dig a little deeper into the accessibility issue because we want to dedicate a bit more space to the subject. If you are like a lot of folks, inflight accessibility is just not in your purview because most probably you don’t need the service. This issue was discussed at the TC and IFExpress’ goal is to give you a bit more incentive to get interested in the subject. To that end, we talked further to Rich Salter and Michael Childers, chair of the APEX Technology Committee and a member of the APEX Board of Directors respectively, who pointed out just why you I should.
Firstly, folks with disabilities travel like you and me and while they are certainly in the noise as a percentage of the population, have every right to be entertained on a flight, if for no other reason, to keep ones mind off the fact that they are traveling at 550 MPH at 33,000 feet. In a discussion with Rich Salter, he told IFExpress that Goeff Freed (NCAM - http://ncam.wgbh.org) showed a demonstration that really sounded like something our readers, who did not go to the meeting, would find interesting and informative. “It’s already done for the blind… some TV shows like Downton Abbey have accessibility developed for the blind… the background audio drops on a new scene and the off camera narrator describes the scene… the show then goes on with the regular audio until the next scene,” he said. Brilliant, and not that difficult, as we understand it. Noted Michael Childers: “Yes, from a purely technical perspective descriptive audio for the blind is as easy as adding any other audio track to a movie. It is a straightforward process of adding it to the workflow. Studios, however, say that they may not have done all of the rights clearances on descriptive audio to make it available immediately. We will take this up in the Closed Caption Working Group (CCWG) in the near future and see if we can’t clear a path toward clearances and implementation. Emirates offers several Disney movies with descriptive audio for the blind, and Air Canada offers a range of services for the blind. Check Air Canada’s presentation, along with Geoff Freed’s on the APEX website in the next few days.”
On November 5, Childers and APEX Executive Director Russ Lemieux participated as guest speakers in the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) Disability Forum in Washington DC dealing with Disability Issues in Air Transport. Donna Danielewski, PhD, Director of the National Center for Accessible Media (NCAM), part of the Media Access Group at Public Broadcast Station (PBS) WGBH in Boston, joined them in a panel for Q&A. NCAM and APEX have collaborated on closed captions in IFE since the early 2000s, and are also collaborating on descriptive audio services for the blind in IFE. They explained to an audience of 150 people comprised of representatives of disability groups, airlines, and DOT officials that as recently as 2006 the technology was not available to render closed captions in IFE, and that doing so requires that both the IFE platform and the content delivered to it must support closed captions—and in a compatible format.
According to Childers, today almost half of the in-service IFE systems where the individual controls the video display support closed captions as codified in APEX Specification 0403. By Q1 2015, only systems that support closed captions will be sold in IFE. This shows that the IFE industry has come a long way since 2006, when APEX (then WAEA) first began to codify technologies to make CC in IFE a reality. In less than 10 years, CC should be available on 99 percent of IFE systems. While this may seem slow to some, Childers and Lemieux told the DOT Forum that IFE systems have a two-year development, 10 to 13-year deployment cycle, and may cost up to $5 million per aircraft depending on size and configuration. IFE systems are purpose-built, require expensive FAA certification, and as a result do not use the same technology and configurations as consumer electronics. The path to providing CC in IFE is complex and costly, but ultimately the right thing to do.
The DOT plans to issue a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) in 2015 to establish rules for the provision of CC in IFE. Childers and Lemieux, on behalf of APEX, are engaged with DOT to ensure that the interests of the IFE community, as well as, the deaf and hard of hearing, are considered. We have two words for our readers: Get Involved.
(Editors Note – We would be remiss in not noting that the first airline to implement a system for the visually impaired was Air Canada in their B787 aircraft on their Panasonic eX3 hardware.)
- Efficiency of 737 supports the new start-up carrier’s growth
Kunming, China | November 25, 2014– Boeing (NYSE: BA) and Ruili Airlines today celebrated the arrival of the airline’s first direct purchase Next-Generation 737-700. Ruili is a newly established private airline based at Changshui International Airport in Kunming, the capital city of China’s Yunnan province.
“This is a momentous step forward for Ruili Airlines as we continue to enhance our fleet,” said Ma Zhanwei, president, Ruili Airlines. “We hope that the competitive advantages offered by the 737 will enable us to grow from a start-up airline to a driving force in China’s aviation industry.”
The new airplane is the first of 14 737 orders and commitments from Ruili Airlines, including eight 737-700s and six 737 MAXs. The carrier currently operates two 737-700s and one 737-800 serving seven domestic routes in China.
“We are honored to celebrate this milestone delivery with Ruili Airlines,” said Ihssane Mounir, vice president of Sales for Northeast Asia, Boeing Commercial Airplanes. “Our Next-Generation 737 delivers market-leading efficiency, reliability, and operating costs, which will all contribute significantly to the successful growth of Ruili Airlines.”
Known for its reliability, fuel efficiency and economical performance, the 737-700 has been selected by leading carriers throughout the world, and has contributed more than 1,200 orders to the strong success of Next-Generation 737 family orders.
Ruili Airlines obtained its public air transport enterprise business license from the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) in February 2014, marking the formal establishment of the carrier. The start-up airline is the first private carrier approved by CAAC after the regulator relaxed restrictions on new carriers in 2013. According to its development plan, Ruili Airlines plans to increase its fleet to 30 Boeing airplanes by 2020, with around 120 daily flights on 60 to 70 routes.
- Deal marks customer’s first order for largest A320 Family member
France | November 24, 2014– Frontier Airlines has placed a firm order for nine Airbus A321ceo (current engine option) aircraft. This is the first time Frontier has ordered the largest member of the Airbus A320 Family. The airline currently flies a fleet of 35 A319ceo, and 20 A320ceo aircraft. In addition, Frontier has on its order backlog 80 A320neo (new engine option) family aircraft.
Including the order announced today, Frontier has a backlog of 89 Airbus single-aisle aircraft. The airline has not yet announced its engine selection or the seating configuration for its A321s.
Frontier began its transition to an all-Airbus fleet when it took delivery of its first Airbus aircraft in 2001. Since that time, the Airbus single-aisle family has allowed the airline to expand its route network while minimizing operating costs.
“We continue to come back for more A320 Family aircraft because they fulfill our mission of providing low fares through low operating costs,” said David Siegel, Frontier Airlines CEO. The A321 is a natural fit with our unique brand of Low Fares, Done Right and will continue to help meet our customers’ expectations for a safe and reliable travel experience while allowing us to provide low fare service to more of the country.”
“Frontier has made its mark in this business by recognizing the dual importance of cost and service to a low fare airline,” said John Leahy, Airbus Chief Operating Officer Customers. “Minimizing expenditure while maximizing customer satisfaction can be a challenge, but the A320 Family has proven time and time again that it is the optimal solution.”
While passengers benefit from the A321’s state-of-the-art cabin design, wider seats and enhanced comfort, airlines profit from the unique operational flexibility of Airbus’ single-aisle aircraft. The A320 Family is the world’s best-selling single aisle product line with nearly 11,000 orders to date and more than 6,200 aircraft delivered to 400 customers and operators worldwide. Thanks to its widest cabin, all members of the A320 Family offer the industry’s best level of comfort in all classes and Airbus’ 18” wide seats in economy as standard. An A320 Family aircraft takes off or lands somewhere in the world every two seconds.
- North Charleston site joins Everett, Wash., team in building newest 787
North Charleston, S.C.| November 24, 2014– Boeing (NYSE: BA) has started final assembly of the 787-9 Dreamliner at its South Carolina facility. The team began joining large fuselage sections of the newest 787 Nov. 22 on schedule, a proud milestone for the South Carolina team and another sign of stability for the program.
The North Charleston, S.C., site joins Boeing’s Everett, Wash., final assembly, which began 787-9 production in May 2013. United Airlines will take delivery of the first South Carolina-built 787-9.
“Our team is well prepared and eager to assemble the 787-9 Dreamliner,” said Jack Jones, vice president and general manager of Boeing South Carolina. “Achieving this significant milestone in our final assembly operations demonstrates that we’re performing well here at Boeing South Carolina. We’re looking forward to delivering our first South Carolina-built 787-9 to United Airlines, and delivering 787-9s as well as 787-8s to all our customers.”
The 787-9 complements and extends the 787 family, offering airlines the ability to grow routes opened with the 787-8. With the fuselage stretched by 20 feet (6 meters), the 787-9 can fly up to 40 more passengers an additional 450 nautical miles (830 kilometers) with the same exceptional environmental performance – 20 percent less fuel use and 20 percent fewer emissions than the airplanes it replaces. The 787-9 leverages the visionary design of the 787-8, offering passenger-pleasing features such as large, dimmable windows, large stow bins, modern LED lighting, higher humidity, a lower cabin altitude, cleaner air and a smoother ride.
- SITA to help Bahrain’s national carrier optimize its IT network and reduce costs
Manama, Kingdom of Bahrain | November 25, 2014–
Gulf Air, the Kingdom of Bahrain’s national carrier, has signed a two-year renewal deal with air transport IT specialist, SITA, for network, messaging and voice services. SITA is providing the airline with a comprehensive global network infrastructure, Type B Messaging services, a mail platform for operational messages and global voice and data services.
Commenting on the renewal, Gulf Air Acting Chief Executive Officer Maher Salman Al Musallam said: “SITA offers the best end-to-end solutions and connects with all the cities that our airline flies to. At Gulf Air we are committed to providing our customers with superior service standards, and that encompasses a broad range of deliverables extending to our technological capabilities. We endeavor to have the best technology in place to ensure we operate as efficiently and cost-effectively as possible.”
Gulf Air Director Information Technology Dr. Jassim Haji said: “We are delighted to renew our existing agreement with SITA, following a successful relationship to date that has spanned over 40 years. SITA’s support to Gulf Air’s information technology function ensures our capabilities not only meet industry standards, but exceed them in capability and efficiency.”
Hani El-Assaad, President, SITA Middle East, India and Africa, commented: “SITA is helping Gulf Air optimize its network, messaging and voice services. This will reduce operational costs and improve service quality and availability. It will also enable the airline to communicate with the entire air transport industry quickly and efficiently using the SITA messaging distribution network, the largest and most versatile network in the industry.”
SITA’s AirportHub infrastructure will enable Gulf Air to access its Virtual Private Network (VPN) and business applications at airports around the world. Gulf Air will also benefit from SITA’s IP VPN service, which provides secure, global IP access connecting its headquarters with offices and outstations around the world.
SITA’s Type B Messaging will underpin every aspect of Gulf Air’s operations, from commercial and flight operations to ground support, baggage and cargo handling, passenger service and aircraft messaging. SITA operates the world’s largest messaging network, directly connecting to more than 2,400 members of the air transport community, and switching more than 25 million messages globally every day. In addition, Gulf Air will benefit from SITATEX Online, the leading mail platform for operational messages for air transport industry professionals.
Gulf Air is renowned for its pioneering information technology achievements, becoming the first organization in Bahrain to implement private cloud computing in its IT operations and introducing numerous innovations and improvements in its IT function. The airline has also adopted several “green” solutions in its information technology infrastructure and practices. This includes last year’s launch of its state-of-the-art, energy efficient data centre at the airline’s headquarters — one of the most environmentally friendly IT centers in the Kingdom of Bahrain.
London, United Kingdom | November 20, 2014– Inmarsat (LSE:ISAT.L) today announced that Alcatel-Lucent (Euronext Paris and NYSE: ALU) has become a technology partner for the development of a new, fully integrated telecommunications network to deliver high-speed broadband services to commercial and business aviation passengers across the European Union. The unique network, which places Europe at the forefront of passenger aviation connectivity, is scheduled to enter commercial service by the end of 2016.
The new network represents two world-beating achievements for Inmarsat and its partners. It will be the world’s first truly hybrid aviation network, consisting of an S-band satellite (Europasat), constructed by Thales Alenia Space, and a Europe-wide S-band ground network. Over the integrated network, based on state-of-the-art LTE technology and access to sufficient spectrum resources, Inmarsat will be offering airlines the world’s fastest in-flight broadband connectivity service with speeds up to 75Mbps, far in excess of the limited capabilities of North American ATG systems.
Alcatel-Lucent and Inmarsat will work together to develop the ground infrastructure component of the new Europe-wide network. Alcatel-Lucent has proven expertise in the development of 4G LTE-based air-to-ground technology and was the world’s first company to field trial this technology in 2011. The initial contract awarded to Alcatel-Lucent will see the global telecommunications equipment company adapting their existing 4G LTE technology to support the S-band spectrum.
Leo Mondale, President of Inmarsat Aviation, said: “Together with world leading partners, such as Alcatel-Lucent, Inmarsat is setting a new standard for aviation connectivity, enabling airlines to offer their passengers access to online services for work or leisure using their own devices and with reliability and speeds previously only available on the ground. These enhanced capabilities across Europe will be offered alongside Inmarsat’s GX aviation services, extending Inmarsat’s broadband service coverage for aviation passengers seamlessly, wherever airlines fly; positioning us as the leader in passenger connectivity.
“We selected Alcatel-Lucent as a partner in the development of the ground network component due to their cutting-edge work in 4G LTE-based air-to-ground technology, and we are looking forward to partnering with them throughout the roll-out of this unique aviation service for Europe.”
Michel Combes, CEO Alcatel-Lucent, comments: “Innovation is a core element of our strategy, along with growth enabled by diversification into new, vertical areas where we can apply our technology leadership. The Air-to-Ground technology partnership with Inmarsat brings Alcatel-Lucent’s proven leadership and commitment to innovation to providing ultra-broadband communications services to the aviation market.”
Licenses for the satellite component of the network have been applied for in all EU Member States, and authorisation has already been received in 23 of these. The first ground component licenses have now been received, including from one of the big five EU Member States, and good progress has been made in a number of other Member States. The company is also in on-going discussions with a number of major airlines and other industry partners.
- Enhanced cabin crew productivity with data protection and better passenger entertainment experiences with larger, portable, high resolution display
London, United Kingdom | November 19, 2014– Mezzoglobal is pleased to make available to airlines and travel operators Samsung KNOX with the new Galaxy Tab Pro 12.2. With its large 12.2” display and high screen resolution, the Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro gives a better viewing experience than smaller 10” tablets, and is ideal for passenger use in both business and first class, as well as for cabin crew administration and customer service.
Mezzoglobal has been able to enhance the passenger entertainment experience with Samsung KNOX Customization and the new Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro. Through KNOX Customization, Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro’s 12.2” high-resolution display provides passengers with an enhanced in-flight entertainment experience when viewing movies, television programmes, and other entertainment options on board, with all the content delivered on a secure mobile platform. The tablet is also slim and lightweight, which makes for the perfect passenger entertainment device, as well as making cabin storage easier and more efficient.
Says Dave Sampson, CEO of Mezzoglobal, “The Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro is perfect for airlines, especially for those valuable business and first class passengers, and we’re already supplying it with our in-flight entertainment app to one airline.” He continues, “With its enhanced screen resolution, it delivers the best entertainment experience I’ve yet seen from a mobile device. It makes reading magazines, books and newspapers much easier and more comfortable, and gives truly remarkable movie and TV viewing.”
Sampson adds, “Security is critical for business deployment of mobile devices; Mezzoglobal started working with Samsung nearly three years ago and now we are using KNOX in apps when data needs the highest security. Mezzoglobal’s app protects the latest Hollywood movies for showing on mobile devices used on commercial airlines; Knox is a key pillar of our secure platform preventing unauthorised access and media piracy.”
Carl L. Nerup, VP of Global Sales for KNOX, at Samsung Electronics, says, “As a KNOX Customization partner, we have worked with Mezzoglobal to develop a number of their applications and mobile solutions for the travel industry. With the addition of the Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro to its offerings, we know Mezzoglobal is well equipped to create the ultimate passenger experience, to deliver effective cabin crew solutions and to ultimately generate increased revenue and profit for our joint customers in the travel industry.”
- First CIS airline to provide cabin crew with iPads
Moscow, Russia| November 19, 2014– Aeroflot has become the first airline in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) to digitize its crew by providing SITA’s CrewTablet to enhance in-flight service to its 20 million passengers. Starting in the last quarter of 2014, Aeroflot will work with air transport IT specialist, SITA, to equip cabin crew with 500 iPad minis™, with a further expansion to 1,200 tablets.
The rollout follows the successful conclusion of a five-month trial with 30 crew members in which the tablets received nearly a 90% satisfaction rating on both technology and usability. Aeroflot’s CrewTablets enable its cabin crew to access passenger and operational data in-flight, improving onboard operations and enhancing service to passengers. In addition, with the use of digital forms and reports, CrewTablet helps Aeroflot reduce operational costs and back-office administrative tasks and generate fuel savings by decreasing the weight of traditional paper reports and manuals carried onboard.
The introduction of crew tablets is part of Aeroflot’s innovation and mobility program, which is designed to keep the company ahead of the market. In particular, the tablets mean cabin crew can provide an even better passenger experience. SITA delivers an end-to-end managed service including iPads, wireless connectivity, mobile applications, and system integration, as well as global operational support. CrewTablet also has the flexibility to add more functionality as new applications are developed and requirements change.
Dave Bakker, SITA President, Europe, said: “Aeroflot is one of the innovators – and the first in Russia – to use SITA CrewTablet technology to become more efficient in-flight. Aeroflot selected CrewTablet because SITA has developed a robust, cutting-edge mobile solution fully integrated into its IT infrastructure. We are already working closely with Aeroflot to connect these tablets to an in-cabin wireless service to enable live communication while the plane is in the air. It’s all part of SITA’s wider e-Aircraft™ concept, which is set to revolutionize how an aircraft integrates with the airline’s ground operations.
- Partnership offers increased Raychem product accessibility
Harrisburg, PA | November 18, 2014– TE Connectivity (TE), a world leader in connectivity, announces a distribution agreement with PEI-Genesis (PEI), an international manufacturer, assembling distributor and engineering design firm for connectors and power supplies. This new partnership will provide the opportunity to offer TE’s Raychem products to serve customers’ needs.
According to Sofia Shafir, Director of Product Management and Engineering, TE Global Aerospace, Defense & Marine (AD&M): “We are excited to have PEI-Genesis as an authorized TE distributor for the Raychem harness protection products. Their recognized value-add capabilities, industry presence and end-customer engagements are expected to extend the opportunities for Raychem products, in addition to bringing new applications and growth potential to both companies.”
In addition to their current DEUTSCH connector offerings, another TE brand, PEI-Genesis will now stock Raychem cable accessories and protection products, including tubing, boots, devices, backshells, adapters, crimps and more.
“We are delighted to add TE’s Raychem cable accessories to our portfolio of TE products,” says Russ Dorwart, President and Chief Operating Officer, PEI-Genesis. “This new partnership allows us to offer TE’s Raychem cable protection products along with our extensive range of TE’s DEUTSCH connectors. We are excited to be offering more products from this globally recognized brand combined with PEI’s exceptional levels of customer service and technical support.“
We cannot think of an IFE show in recent years that we have not walked by the Stellar Entertainment booth to be met with a “G’day! Have a piece of candy,” by a tall silver-haired gentleman. It is precisely the way we will always remember Rob Lynch, Chairman of Stellar Entertainment… his presence and personal demeanor, which is partly what this Hot Topic is about. The other part is about how he and his wife, Helen, have made a success of their humble IFE content beginnings, some 40 years ago with Qantas. More importantly, it is a success story that needs retelling because, who else do you know that has 40 years in this crazy business and, still has their first customer!
When we first decided to do an interview with Stellar someone told us, “You don’t stay in business for 40 years without doing stuff right!” Accordingly, the Stellar Entertainment story begins in 1974 when Rob and his wife, Helen, answered a newspaper ad written to provide Qantas with in-flight programming. They won and later in 1979 they expanded into audio production and post-production services. Today Stellar Entertainment is a full Content Service Provider that offers IFE, in-flight audio production and post-production, music composition, content acquisition and more.
To start from the beginning, this past September we had the pleasure of interviewing the co-founder of Stellar Entertainment, the Australian-based Content Service Provider (CSP). The name Stellar is somewhat obvious, “With airplanes in the stars and inflight movies featuring stars, it was pretty obvious to us what our logo was going to be,” said Rob Lynch.
Stellar is one of the top three CSP in the IFE industry and they are well known in Asia, and today, they have some 75 employees who assist the airlines in delivering the right programming to passengers. Mr. Lynch told IFExpress that in no uncertain terms is he planning on retiring any time soon and it appears to us that his reasoning is based upon his enjoyment of the industry. He also seems to particularly enjoy the complex equipment and processes involved in the science: “Technology has really driven change in this business, more specifically over the past 6 – 7 years… and I love it! The digital age has changed our business and our world and it is one reason why I never seam to get tired of working with our airline partners.” As an example of his love of technology, we note that Stellar was an early adapter of the iPad and worked with BlueBox to provide service on JetStar. “It took 18 months to get the two big conglomerates to agree, but in the end, BlueBox designed the necessary software and we got the order, which included the iPad, and content from four Hollywood Studios!”
Rob went on to say, “In July we have been in this business for forty years. Stellar Entertainment was originally Helen Irvine & Associates and Qantas was the launch customer for our business in the in-flight entertainment industry and they have remained with us throughout our 40 years and in that time we have provide service to some 25 customers. In fact, I think we are the first CSP to reach a 40-year milestone with a customer!” However, Qantas is not Stellar’s only long-term client. “We have just renewed our contract with Malaysia and have been there with them for 25 years.”
While talking with Stellar at APEX we also spoke with Stellar CEO, Peter McLaughlin and he noted that content service providers really have two options: They can take a cookie cutter approach or choose a tailored route, the latter being Stellar’s choice. “We see the world as a partnership, not just a supplier.” We note that in Stellar’s case, their selection of partnerships obviously prove the longevity that they enjoy with their customers.
During our interview one of the requirements that we understood to be tantamount for success was to get the right people and train them properly, especially training about the importance of the customer. In fact, Stellar has an international mentoring system that helps pass on customer knowledge. “We want people who know how to listen and interpret what the customer (and market) wants and we teach them that every customer is different. We have a staff that has a broad spectrum of experience ranging from engineering, to content, to airline.” To quote Mr. Lynch, “We’ve stuck with our knitting. I’ve been in entertainment all my life and began this business as a radio announcer, but Stellar Entertainment from the very beginning has been a family business.” He went on, “We have a very low employee turnover rate. At the end of the day all you have are your people and your brand. So my recommendation to your readers is spend a lot of time taking care of them.”
To Lynch, content is king and their in-flight entertainment approach is that “it is all about content”. He noted that Stellar is always mindful of this mantra and therefore the company is willing to develop, generate, or purchase content whether it is art house movies, independent films, Hollywood movies, etc. “Stellar will purchase content from anyone. Today we go to extremes to get that day-to-day foreign content vs. the first run films.”
When we asked Rob how Stellar Entertainment has stayed in the business for so many decades he said, “You also have to expand and grow or your company will be done. To that end, today Stellar Entertainment owns 50% of Sky Victory in Mainland China with a staff of 10 in Beijing. You must be a multifaceted company. And, you have to have loyalty to your customer. I’ve had the same wife, the same lawyer, and the same accountant from the very beginning. Loyalty is the most important attribute for either an individual or a company. It maybe old fashioned, but the importance of loyalty cannot be diminished. Get to know your customer,” he said.
In closing we note that Stellar Entertainment is consistent, they understand the customer, they listen, they have market knowledge, and most importantly, they deliver on a promise. We cannot think of a better way to do business. One supposes that we should close with something prophetic, but for the life of us, we cannot think of anything after the preceding success story… so for closers, we will just say, “G’Day, and have a piece of candy.”
Product Update: Thompson Aerospace’s CSUv2 server
One of our APEX reviews pointed out a real security-based, data transmission product rolled out by Thompson Aerospace at the show, the CSUv2 server that is the core of the 1Netv2 system. It is the highest level of secure off-aircraft (commercial), data communication we know of… all via Iridium or cellular towers. Thompson’s VP Business Development, Craig Jones told IFExpress: “Thompson Aerospace has the only patented Airborne Local Area Network and security for moving all non flight critical data between the aircraft and cloud. With all the recent cyber attacks aircraft data certainly need a high level of protection. The CSUv2 is the most powerful and secure server available in the market today. Managing all the data it represents a paradigm shift in creating the first true ecosystem for aircraft data.” When we looked into the solution we found that no one today is moving data between the airplane and the cloud. While there is a good amount being delivered to the ground, the issue is data availability (worldwide via Amazon Cloud) and security…and Thompson claims FIPS 3.
What data hacking is occurring to airline data is not known to IFExpress but if the airplane follows the ground experiences, why wait? Airlines have claimed the use of bad credit cards has ballooned and we have heard of bad card numbers as high as 20%. One airline even used cockpit communication check of high value card sales (What must that cost?). The Thompson solution uses worldwide Iridium connectivity from the plane (burst mode) to be applied to credit card sales and onboard purchases of all kinds via their new 2 MCU server. The Iridium transmitter is in the server and a small Iridium antenna is installed on the plane. Craig told IFExpress that handheld readers (wireless connections) or installed credit card readers would be connected to the server via WI-FI networks “Even wireless PEDs are a possible reading device,” Craig told us, “We have closed the loop!”
Craig mentioned that Electronic Flight Bag data is a potential, “as well as all Category C” data, he noted. They have even done lab testing for hacking and because the unit is controlled by security firmware in the machine, the data remains quite safe. “Hardware security is the secret, not software”, he told us. “We see flight tracking (when actuated as a backup), health monitoring, and flight recording data as potential airline uses,” he said.
We also thought the use of Amazon Cloud services as an interesting ground based storage solution. “The data is encrypted and the customer has can into the required information with a security key,” said Jones. “Further,” he noted, “airlines are looking at pilot performance data and navigation information so the airlines have the ability to review pilot performance data, since the server collects all data from the 717 and 429 buses as well. Additionally, airlines have told us that if they can prove how long an airplane was is in a location, they can reduce charges pertaining to domicile taxes, CO2 emission and navigation, fees”.
We have included a couple attachments here: a press release, a product brief of the CSUv2 and product description.
United Kingdom | November 18, 2104– Shown here at the Thomas Cook engineering hangar in Manchester are rows of Acro Aircraft Seating Ultra Recline seats awaiting installation on board a yet-to-be-painted Condor Airlines B757.
Acro Aircraft Seating designs and manufactures aircraft passenger seats for the economy cabin which enable an airline to reduce operating cost, improve passenger on-board experience and contribute to CO² emissions reduction.