Recent news from Europe confirmed last week’s ‘Rumor’ and if you had not seen the IMS and Lufthansa news releases we have linked them for you here. From a round-up perspective, the Brea California company has secured 10 customers for its’ RAVE System, securing some 165+ planes with sales and options. The only popular plane missing is the A320 and we bet that is not far behind. This certainly validates the IMS design goal to put all the electronics and content at the seat (seat-centricity).  Moreover, RAVE continues to validate the concept of embedded IFE. No doubt most of the next generation of IFE will be influenced by this type of installation. Yes, there is still room for portables and Wi-Fi features, but for some time, pundits have been dissing the installed hardware and attendant cost, weight and installation challenges. After viewing the RAVE system at AIX, we could clearly see why airlines are excited about the product. The light-weight, removable seatback unit is the system! Since content is stored locally the probability of a single failure catastrophe is practically eliminated. If you want to dig deeper, here is a link to a recent RAVE presentation that should answer a lot of your questions regarding the system and installation.

The latest news pegs the Lufthansa deal at 80+ planes. With the acquisition of 10 new customers in the last 18 months, IMS is in the enviable position of only looking up to the two biggest IFE vendors, at least in terms of sales. This proves that good ideas result in sales popularity… the rumored 50% reduction in per seat unit price doesn’t hurt either. We can’t think of another IFE product company (past or present) that has accomplished what they have in the time they have had to do it –  concept development through production, as well as airline customer sign-ups – especially when you consider IMS is a relatively small company (size, revenue, personnel, etc.) as compared to the industry leaders. It goes without saying that airlines are attracted to this product and IMS for many reasons.  IMS Sales & Marketing Vice President, Harry Gray told IFExpress, “IMS has grown substantially over the past several months, with over 200 employees as well as over doubling the size of our facility – mostly to support RAVE.  We have a stable business, been around for 16 years, and are poised for future growth, yet we also remain nimble and customer friendly to meet the needs of the market.  Providing a premium product and shorter lead times – without the premium price – remains the mantra at IMS.”

Mr. Gray went on to say, “Our concept of ‘outbound support’ is really gaining popularity with airlines. Typically, airlines must have multiple outstations for spares and (3rd party contracted) line maintenance due to possible IFE system failures. Since the RAVE displays are dock-able, they can be replaced during flight with no need to have spares at outstations.” No doubt, airlines really latch on to this feature because there is now a way to keep passengers happy during a long flight where they would otherwise have to move to an empty seat (“if” it was available) or go without IFE at all because of a hardware failure. The RAVE feature-rich-environment doesn’t stop there, so be sure to check out the previously mentioned presentation. No doubt, tech-competent Lufthansa did their homework and the IMS team should take a bow. 

RAVE is flying on a Lufthansa B747-400 and expect to see it on their A330-300’s, A340-300’s, A340-600’s fleet. Installations will begin next year with full incorporation to be completed over some three years. We now wonder when Boeing and Airbus line fit installations of the RAVE product will be approved? You can bet the airlines will be talking RAVE in Seattle and Toulouse during their next visits. 

Finally, from an engineer’s point of view and what we have learned, RAVE is an installers dream. A full aircraft installation can be accomplished in 5 days (retrofit), there are no special test tools – they are built-in, the VCC hardware requires no cooling, all the SDU’s (of the same screen size) are interchangeable, and 6 gigabit seat loops are used for greater seat coverage and reliability. Hat’s off to Joe Renton (CEO) and his team, this is IFE history. When it is all said and done, RAVE will probably be better known as an airline and passenger centric product that just happens to be installed in a seat!