Paris, France | August 29, 2017– Thales and Japan Airlines welcome the entry into service of the Boeing 787-9 newly configured aircraft equipped with AVANT In- Flight Entertainment system. The new JAL Sky Suite 787-9 cabin on the airline’s Tokyo Narita to Kuala Lumpur route debuted this summer.

Japan Airlines is a long-term, valued Thales customer who is the first Asian airline to choose AVANT on the Boeing 787 series. AVANT offers a state-of-the-art Android-based IFE solution with customizable passenger experience and an extensive selection of features and applications.

The Boeing 787-9 aircraft, equipped with AVANT, utilizes the latest Magic VI system which includes Audio and Video On Demand (AVOD), games and applications customized to JAL – On-Boarding Shopping, Meal Order and Sky Manga, eBook application. Magic VI offers in total 300 movies, videos and music programs for passengers to enjoy right at their fingertips. The newly configured aircraft has 52 business class, 35 premium economy class and 116 economy class seats.

Japan Airlines’ decision to use AVANT on Boeing 787-9 linefit fleet testifies the utmost satisfaction the system brings to their passengers. The airline also operates Thales IFE systems on their Boeing 767, Boeing 777 and Boeing 787 aircraft, flying across domestic and international routes.

News From Thales:

IFExpress came away from our time at the Thales Booth in Singapore with a number of highlights that are outlined below:

1) First, in September of this year Thales announced their relationship with SES to provide a dedicated connectivity service over the Americas that will be optimized for the commercial aviation industry. The relationship with satellite operator SES will offer high throughput satellite connectivity in the Ka-band. Two of the satellites are already in orbit and the service will be launched in mid-2017. The third satellite in the network, manufactured by Thales Alenia Space, is targeted to launch in 2020. What is the benefit of all this? Thales states that the satellites are purpose built for aviation and are directed to cover where the majority of aircraft routes fly, which are much different than residential home coverage. In the interim, Thales has access to some of SES’s current transponder space. The service from Thales is dubbed FlytLIVE. Noted Thales, “To meet the needs of a growing market, SES will procure a new satellite specifically designed for the needs of FlytLIVE and manufactured by Thales Alenia Space to be launched in 2020. The satellite’s architecture is based on Thales Alenia Space’s all-electric version of the Spacebus NEO platform, the highest performing satellite in the global connectivity market.” FlytLIVE will be a full end-to-end solution that will include a modular antenna, multi-frequency radome, in-cabin Wi-Fi and portal platform. It will also provide bandwidth and session management, operational support tools, line maintenance, content delivery and turnkey service and support.

The company went on to say, “Thales InFlyt Experience, Thales Alenia Space and SES specifically developed the network and satellite architecture for the unique connectivity requirements of commercial aviation customers resulting in better services, more efficient operations and cost savings. SES will operate the satellites and the ground network. The services will be ready for airline and passenger use by summer of 2017 and will be provided by two satellites that are currently in-orbit. The third satellite in the network to be launched, SES-17, will be optimized for the fast-moving aviation and mobility market over the Americas. It will provide new Ka-HTS bandwidth over this region to meet the current and future speed, coverage and quality expectations of crowded skies and increasing passenger service demands as regional airline passenger traffic is forecasted to nearly double by 2030.”

We understand that the satellite will have some 200 spot beams of various sizes, allowing for flexible allocation over high-traffic airline routes assuring the most efficient delivery of Internet, real-time content delivery and live television. They went on to say that SES-17 will cover the Americas (North, South, and Central), Caribbean and Atlantic Ocean. IFExpress believes their goal will be to build a network that provides higher data rate broadband connections and improves coverage while keeping capacity and quality.

2) During APEX Singapore Thales and Emirates announced that the AVANT inflight entertainment system was selected for the airline’s future fleet of 150 777X jetliners. Here are the highlights of the deal: a) Thales plans to establish an innovation center, Discovery Dubai, and maintenance station in Dubai that will be managed by Thales. b) Thales will be the first to equip its inflight entertainment systems on the 777X aircraft platform. Deliveries are to commence in 2020.

The press release notes: “Thales is committed to using its strengths in technological innovation, communications, big data management and cyber security to enhance Emirates inflight experience leadership position. The airline’s award winning inflight entertainment system, ice is an industry leader in passenger experience, and Thales’s partnership with Emirates will focus on helping the airline drive the highest standards of innovation for ice, from in-seat entertainment to wireless cabin connectivity.”

3) During our interview with Duc HuyTran, Vice President, Marketing and Strategy for Thales InFlyt Experience, he stated that there are 3 pillars to Thales IFEC: connectivity, IFE, and their InFlytCloud service offering. “The combination of our state-of-the-art AVANT inflight entertainment solution, connectivity offerings and InFlytCloud platform are driving new innovations in passenger engagement,” said Tran during the meeting. “Thales is a solutions provider and we are working closely with airlines to build these customized solutions around their fleets, routes and passengers.” Throughout our interview, it was clear to IFExpress that Thales is customer driven at all levels of the organization.

One of the three pillars is the new InFlytCloud service. InFlytCloud is a platform that allows airlines to manage their operations and passenger experience related data via the InFlyt Experience Application Portal. The key here is data, something which the vendors need to provide and the airlines need to understand and use. In the past we have referred to this industry changing feature as ‘Big Data’. Tracy DeCuir, Vice President of Business Infrastructure and Services said, “One key feature of InFlytCloud is that the data is customizable by the user, not just the airline. With this feature the user can deep-dive in on any platform. More importantly, the data is accessible in real-time.” We should also note that the system is scalable, flexible, and brandable by both the OEM and airline. The reader should note that this is another instance of an IFE vendor who realizes the value of Big Data.


Bose:

First, we want to introduce Gary DiLeo, BOSE’s IFEC Sale Representative, and welcome him to the industry. Gary is the new Hratch Astarjian who is now involved with “…sales, business development, marketing and service functions globally.”

Next, we have to tell our readers about something just short of amazing. OK, make that AMAZING.  The BOSE QuietComfort QC35 Bluetooth Wireless Headphones are the best headphones we have ever tested! Here is what BOSE says: “Our other wireless headphones are the SoundSport Wireless Headphones (a Bluetooth, in-ear audio headphone), the SoundSport Pulse (similar to the SoundSport, but it also incorporates heart rate sensors, for people who workout), the QuietControl 30 Wireless Headphone (in-ear noise cancelling – like the QC20, but wireless.  It allows you to increase or reduce the amount of noise reduction you get depending on your environment and preference).  You can see all of these on our website.”

But we want to concentrate here on the BOSE QC35 – and we need to set up our readers, especially those who have used wired BOSE headphones in the past. You probably noted a couple things – BOSE headsets are the best sounding over-the-head earphones you can buy, because they deliver incredible bass notes, crystal clear highs, and if you have noise cancellation, they have virtually no background/outside noise. This has been progressively true with every model we have used over the last 10 years. The QC35’s offer something else with the aforementioned audio quality – they offer a few things more than great sound – no wires, and smart technology. But hold on – the BOSE QC35’s are also like no headphone you ever have used.  Besides no wires, they are ‘smart’ and communicate to you in one of 11 languages (your choice) and represent the next generation in wireless audio headphone entertainment – all via the BOSE Connect app. We were expecting a good set of headphones with no wires, but instead it turned out to be fabulous set of headphones, with no wires and with ‘smart technology’ THAT TALKS TO YOU! Further, the built in voice prompt tells you what’s going on, and on my Apple hardware, it tells me what device I am connecting and connected to. This has value when you are streaming around more than one Bt device.

From an audio point of view, the audio is incredibly clean, pure, and very rich. The bass is most impressive (And yes, you can hear the base drum kick in Robert Palmer’s “Addicted to Love”…). Noise cancellation is splendid – no background SHHHhhhhh when the music is off. Move your head while the music is playing and no change, no phase shift, nothing – just the music. You’ve got your own controls on the headphones – volume up, volume down, power off/on/connect. A light tells you power on/battery-low and a blue light indicates Bluetooth searching. A white light (in the blue light lens) tells you that you are on hold for a call. When a call does come in if you are listening to the music on your phone, for example, it automatically switches the music on hold till the call ends.

Of course you have your standard controls on the headphones: volume up, volume down, power off/on/connect. We note that there is a light indicates power on/battery low and a blue light for Bluetooth searching. And when using them with a phone, the smart technology from the BOSE Connect app kicks in – just dial or answer the phone for a music fade down. When your call is done, Miss BOSE says, “Call ended” and delivers your music where the song was cut off. While they will work with your Bt phones, Bt iPods, Bt computers without the BOSE Connect app, we loaded the app on an Apple 5S and WOW it allowed us to name the headset, control volume, monitor the headphone dc power level, told us that the Bt was on, kept track of the past connections, on/off timer, voice prompt control, 11 languages, and touch NFC (touch and it connects via BT). It also features product details and a user manual in the app – nice touch. Move your head while the music is playing and there is no audio change, nothing – just the music. As for range – we tried 60 feet and around a corner and down a set of stairs with no degradation – absolutely none.

Lastly, we have to say they are not cheap – QC35 $349 – but since they are the best, they are worth every penny. When you buy these for a gift, you are not just giving a gift – You are delivering an EXPERIENCE. If you are going to test them in a store, load the BOSE Connect app first (its free), then plan to test the full EXPERIENCE, in the store. You won’t be disappointed. (Editor’s Note: As we noted above, from a range point of view, we don’t see why they won’t work on a plane. In fact, your audio source could be stored in your carry-on since you can control your audio entertainment from your seat without wires.)

A Late Discovery: If you think your playing device needs Bluetooth for the QC35s to work, guess again. As we were going to press we discovered that Bose provides a stereo cable that plugs into the headset and connects to your PED so that you can use them with non-Bluetooth equipped players. Cleverly, the end that plugs into the PED is thin enough to fit in it when you have a case or an external battery on it!


Other News:

This year, Boeing was building 777s at a rate of 8.3 per month or 100 per year. The company then announced a cut to 7 jets per month, starting this month. They just announced that they don’t have enough orders to maintain the current 777 widebody jet program production rate of 7 airplanes per month and will cut production in Everett to 5 airplanes per month beginning in August. (B777x where are you?)

Last month we saw an interesting news release from SITA about biometric passports and the European Unions’ use of this technology for fast-tracking through airport security.

Here is a bit of the news release: NAPLES – 19 January 2016 – Naples International Airport is offering passengers from the European Union who hold a biometric passport, a fast track through the airport with the introduction of self-service immigration control technology from air transport IT specialist, SITA.  Using world-leading facial recognition technology to confirm that the passenger is the passport holder, SITA’s iBorders BorderAutomation ABCGates provide a smooth “walk-through” experience. The Automated Border Control Gates (ABCGates) confirm that the passenger has an authentic, valid passport and is authorized to enter the country while fingerprint verification is also provided to further enhance security when required. With an average processing time of only 20 seconds, this process enables eligible passengers to use self-service facilities to reduce wait times and optimize passenger flow through the airport. The ABCGates (departures and arrivals) allows more than 2,000 passengers a day to clear immigration at the airport using this latest technology.

Alessandro Fidato, Director of Infrastructure & Operations at Naples International Airport said: “The new technology has helped improve the passenger experience at Naples Airport by speeding them through immigration while ensuring that we meet the highest security standards at Italy’s borders. The ABCGates are really a win-win technology for airports.”

Dave Bakker, SITA President, Europe, noted: “We continue to work with airlines, airports and government agencies around the globe to provide the best-in-class self-service border technology. Through the use of biometrics, we are able to enhance the passenger experience by providing a swift passage through immigration while adhering to the highest possible security standards.”

So we asked a few more questions of Mr. Bakker and he told IFExpress the following:

1. IFExpress: How long have the ABCGates in Naples been in operation?

Answer: “The first four  iBorders® BorderAutomation ABCGates went into operation at Naples International Airport’s departures in September last year while four additional ABCGates were introduced into arrivals in January this year. “

2. If an optical condition occurs (like an eye operation) to a pax who has signed up for optical recognition and fails the test, what happens?

Answer: “Whenever a passenger is not successfully processed by the gate, an agent at a monitoring station is called for intervention.

3. IFExpress: How many eyes are scanned for each person?

Answer: “The ABCGates use facial recognition technology and fingerprint matching.

4. IFExpress: Is there a cost for the application and setup for the passenger?

Answer: “Any traveller from the EU holding a valid e-Passport can use the ABCGates. There is no cost for the traveller to use the ABCGates.”

5. IFExpress: Actually, what equipment is involved?

Answer: “The most important and visible element are the e-gates themselves. They include gates with passport readers, face recognition cameras and fingerprint readers, as well as the necessary software to allow integration of the data into the authorities’ databases.”

6. IFExpress: Any test results on percent error you can mention?

Answer: “For security reasons, the exact percentage is confidential. However, the ABCGates are configured to be compliant with the Frontex guidelines for processing travellers in the EU in a self-service environment.”

7. IFExpress: How long have the ABCGates been in the dev/test phase?

Answer: “SITA’s ABCGates were first launched two years ago, after 18 months of development.”

8. IFExpress: Is this more accurate or reliable than fingerprints?

Answer: “The type of biometrics used depends on the government requirements. Our ABCGates can accommodate all ICAO-approved biometrics. In the case of Naples, both facial recognition and fingerprint matching are included.”

9. IFExpress: Can you give our readers a bit more on how this database works?

Answer: A: “Each travelers details including their biometrics are captured and vetted at the time they apply for their e-Passport.  When the traveler uses the ABC Gate their live biometrics are checked against the biometric data stored securely on the e-Passport chip.  At the same time the passport details are checked against central government databases to ensure that the passenger is eligible to cross the border.”

Finally, Dave Bakker told IFExpress: We continue to work with airlines, airports and government agencies around the globe to provide the best-in-class self-service border technology. Through the use of biometrics, we are able to enhance the passenger experience by providing a swift passage through immigration while adhering to the highest possible security standards.”


On another front, Panasonic signed a multi-year contract for high throughput capacity on Telesat’s new Telstar 12 VANTAGE satellite. In this latest agreement, Panasonic has contracted for nearly all the high throughput satellite (HTS) Ku-band capacity covering the Mediterranean, Europe and Middle East on Telesat’s new Telstar 12 VANTAGE. Telstar 12 Vantage became fully operational at 15 degrees West in December 2015 and will provide Panasonic with HTS capacity over key aero routes from Western Europe to the Middle East enabling them to bring the very latest in in-flight Wi-Fi to carriers across the region. Panasonic will also be using the HTS capacity of Telstar 12 VANTAGE to expand their mobile broadband offerings to growing maritime markets in the Mediterranean and European waterways as well as to oil and gas operators in the North Sea.

“Telesat is highly respected for their ability to design innovative satellites,” said David Bruner, Vice President, Global Communications Services at Panasonic Avionics. “Their cooperation in adjusting the position of the HTS spot beams on Telstar 12 VANTAGE to meet Panasonic’s requirements was outstanding. This further optimizes the service for Panasonic and gives us an edge in winning mobile broadband business in the air and at sea. Panasonic now has Ku-band capacity on four Telesat satellites and, with this latest contract for nearly all the HTS Ku-band covering the Mediterranean, Europe and Middle East on Telstar 12 VANTAGE, we are well positioned to expand in maritime and energy markets across Europe. Panasonic values our close ties to the Telesat team and we are truly excited to be making use of Telstar 12 VANTAGE – the first satellite with significant HTS Ku-band over the Mediterranean and North Sea.”  Also note Bruner; “The story here from Panasonic’s perspective is that by April we will have high throughout capacity online continuously and overlapping from the west coast of the US to the Middle East. By October all the way to Asia. Next year we complete the initial HTS coverage with a new satellite over the Pacific, Eutelsat 172B.” This might be a good time to view the map coverage of Telstar 12 VANTAGE.


Lastly, Thales just closed a big sale deal  for AVANT IFE and connectivity with Singapore Airlines for their A350 aircraft and IFExpress will have more on the deal soon! Stay Tuned!


Notes:

  • Over the next twenty years, the folks at Boeing see an Asia-Pacific demand of some 14,550 aircraft valued at over $550 B!
  • Last week we found an amazing, crazy video. You are never going to believe what the band OK Go does to an aircraft interior, never. The tune “Upside Down & Inside Out” should give you a hint. The band traveled to Russia to work with S7 Airlines and film the video, described on the OK Go Facebook page as “the craziest thing they’ve ever done.” It is… OK Go breaks gravity habit in spacey ‘Upside Down & Inside Out’ video
  • Correction: Last week we noted some trade show information that occurred at the Aircraft Interiors Middle East event this year. Mr. Botts, who reported on the show and award event for us noted flydubai as the overall winner and mentioned an IFE vendor whose equipment he thought was on their planes – he was wrong. The correct IFE vendor is Lumexis. In fact, flydubai was the launch customer for Lumexis’ FTTS IFE system. Here are links to flydubai’s past awards: 2014, 2015, and 2016. Mea Culpa!

Interesting Industry News:


And Finally, a B727 Story…

For some time now we have been following the reconstruction and re-certification of a 53 year old Boeing 727 by an ex-Boeing good-guy, Robert Bogash. The plane is destined for Boeing’s Museum of Flight but is located some 50 Kilometers away in Everett, WA. Bob is driven and never gives up, I know because many years ago, I worked with him. The rebuilding process is documented on his website and we have a link for you below and has well over one million “hits” so far. Mostly, we wanted to show our readers the challenge in re-certifing an older plane destined to fly this spring. Mr. Bogash and the team have documented virtually every step in the process (text and images) and if you ever worked in aircraft maintenance or certification, this is for you. If not, you are going to learn a lot about the B727! We asked Bob, what it took to get the job done so far and he said: “Patience.  Persistence. Hard Work. Long Journey. I’ve probably got about 600-700 hours into it — in the last 5 or 6 weeks, that is… We are shooting to fly March 1 – weather is the big unknown and determinant. That’s me in the Left Seat in the video, and yes, I will fly the trip down to Boeing Field, but not as Pilot in Command. Thanks for the kudos. Daily E1 Status Reports are being provided in near Real Time on my Status Page.”  Also, he noted; “It’s also important that they look into buying a souvenir that will fly on the flight or contribute directly, since none of this comes free, and I’ve blown my budget.”

France | February 16, 2016– Thales In-Flyt Experience will equip Singapore Airlines with its AVANT In-Flight Entertainment system and Ka-band connectivity solution on its future fleet of A350 XWB aircraft configured for medium-haul operations.

Singapore Airlines is recognised for its high standards of service and cabin experience. As a visionary of connected IFE solutions, Singapore Airlines constantly seeks to renew and maintain its image for quality and passenger comfort by providing an in-flight experience that exceeds passenger expectations.

Thales, with its AVANT Android based system offers a flexible architecture that responds to these needs. Through its innovative User Application portal, Thales will assist Singapore Airlines to constantly introduce the newest and most sought after apps present in the consumer market, to their passengers.

The integration of Ka-band connectivity to the in-flight system, using the fastest airborne internet speeds will open up the world to the passenger. Delivery of the system will begin in 2018.

The fleet will be equipped with Thales latest AVANT monitors, the most lightweight ever deployed, featuring full high-definition video and integrating Avii, the newest evolution of the award winning Thales Touch Passenger Media Unit, in the premium cabins. Avii provides intuitive navigation, full android smartphone look & feel and acts as a second screen which greatly enhances the cabin experience for premium passengers.

Passengers will have access to a wide selection of connected applications, seamless personal device integration allowing a home experience in the air, High Power USB charging and NFC technology.

With strong roots in the Singapore market and over four decades in the region, Thales has developed an impressive local presence with more than 1000 people, innovation capability and business partnerships across the region.

Thales will provide Singapore Airlines with line operation services to ensure the highest level of performance of the IFE system. The local repair hub near Changi airport offers the capability to fully support Singapore Airlines by maintaining aircraft equipment while maximizing efficiency.

APEX, Portland, Oregon | September 2015– On the opening day of the APEX show in Portland, Oregon, Thales InFlyt Experience announces that SriLankan Airlines has become the first airline in the world to fly the Thales AVANT In-flight entertainment and connectivity system with an application delivering Live News & Weather.

The carrier’s A330-300 fleet will all feature this capability enabled through the Thales AVANT IFE solution. Currently, there are four aircraft in-service with the final fleet delivery expected by the end of 2015.

SriLankan Airlines’ passengers are currently able to stay connected to the world with the latest news headlines and weather information. Live content from BBC News, AFP and AccuWeather is displayed on the passenger in-seat monitor with on demand access. Live News & Weather engages the passenger with news articles complete with full images plus 5-day weather forecasts for 50 selected cities.

SriLankan Airlines, Director/Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Rakhita Jayawardena said, “Our new A330 aircraft is designed every way to suit the needs of the modern-day traveler. With this full featured aircraft, we are aiming to provide a greater customer experience. Last year, SriLankan’s new A330 fleet became the launch customer for the latest Thales Avant in-flight entertainment system. Today, we are marking another first with Thales, by offering Thales Avant Live News and Weather.”

News and weather feeds are transmitted to the aircraft via satcom during flight to provide rich, timely content, enriching the passenger experience by enabling passengers to Stay in touch with world events during flight.

AVANT, our state-of-the-art Android In-Flight Entertainment and Connectivity solution features a highly customizable passenger experience with the latest applications on the market. It is available to all advanced, single and twin aisle Airbus and Boeing aircraft, and has already been selected by many worldwide airlines.

More than 300,000,000 passengers a year across 75 partner airlines use Thales InFlyt Experience solutions, making Thales a leading provider of IFE and connectivity solutions in the world.

Paris Air Show | June 18, 2015– Today at the Paris Air Show, Thales was selected by Air Caraibes to supply the AVANT inflight entertainment and connectivity solutions for their new fleet of six A350 XWB aircraft.

Air Caraibes will be an A350 XWB launch customer in France. The three
A350-900 and three A350-1000 series aircraft will be equipped with the
state-of-the-art Thales AVANT system based on Android technologies to
service business, premium-economy and economy cabins as a scaled
solution. The first deliveries are scheduled to enter service in December
of 2016.

Business class passengers will enjoy 17 inch screens with the Touch
Passenger Media Unit, in-seat power, dual audio jack and USB port. In
premium economy, passengers will enjoy 11.6 inch screens, dual audio
jacks and USB port. The economy cabin will be equipped with 10.1 inch
seatback screens.

Ka-band connectivity will be offered to passengers through Wi-Fi and
seatback screens. In addition, passengers will have the possibility to
access wireless IFE for content streaming on their personal electronic
devices.

Thales has also reached an agreement with Air Caraibes to be the Value
Added Reseller (VAR), which will facilitate the airline’s management of
the connectivity solution to the passenger.

AVANT is available to all, single and twin aisle Airbus and Boeing aircraft
and has already been selected by many worldwide airlines. More than
130 aircraft currently fly with the AVANT system and total orders
exceed 500.

750,000 passengers each day across 75 partner airlines use Thales
InFlyt Experience systems, making Thales one of the most successful
developers of IFE systems in the world.

Paris Air Show | June 16, 2015– At the Paris Air Show, Thales announces the AVANT in-flight entertainment system has been selected by Oman Air’s for its fleet expansion.

This announcement covers a total order of 16 B737, 3 A330s, and 6
B787 representing the newest and first Boeing wide body fleet being
delivered to Oman Air.

Oman Air will feature the AVANT state of the art Android system and
Thales award winning Touch PMU handset. Passengers will have access
to a wide selection of on-demand entertainment delivered through a
passenger experience interface developed specifically with Oman Air.

AVANT has been selected by 19 airlines; more than 130 aircraft are
flying with the AVANT system with total orders exceeding 500 aircraft.

The system is offerable on all new generation Boeing and Airbus
platforms. 750,000 passengers per day across 75 partner airlines use
Thales InFlyt Experience systems, making Thales one of the most
successful providers of in-flight entertainment systems in the world.

Thales

In Hamburg, on Aircraft Interiors International’s opening day, Thales announced a host of new technologies specifically designed to align the company strategies to enhance the passenger experience with increasing airlines’ return on investment. Having integrated LiveTV activities, Thales will now be able to offer a unique IPTV service for a near-real-time feed of live television programs. By using real-time satellite feeds, popular television events, such as sports matches, will be streamed to all airplanes equipped with IPTV services from a dedicated Thales lab tasked with controlling, transcoding, and disseminating the TV signal via the Thales connectivity system. This offer is made viable through Thales’s strong ability to develop global rights management and its effective use of content, which differentiates it from any other type of service, in that, Thales will broadcast only the valuable events from various content providers to the aircraft and record the programs for on-demand playback. This solution eliminates irrelevant programming and makes the most efficient use of the aircraft bandwidth. Traditional TV streaming services simply pipe content directly from TV networks, prohibiting any control over what is broadcast. The Thales solution is a significant step forward as it allows airlines to stream relevant content that effectively targets their customers, giving passengers more choice and control over their television experience.

Thales also introduced their near field communications (NFC) for payment transactions using its systems. Through the remote module developed for the AVANT system, airlines will now be able to configure their IFE to accept this growing “Tap and Go” technology to allow passengers to make instant payments for all on-board transactions. Regardless of the airline’s business model, ancillary revenue generation streams are becoming ever more important and NFC technology will facilitate payment transactions, improving the passenger experience and increasing airlines’ revenue streams. Another another new technology is an enhanced digital magazine experience, the result of a partnership with Zinio, the world’s largest digital newsstand, boasting over 6,000 titles in 33 languages. With the use of Zinio’s Android inflight application for digital magazines, available through the Thales App portal, passengers will be able to access an unrivalled choice of content ranging from the world’s biggest brands to niche specialist titles. Interests and topics covered include news, politics, technology, art, style, travel and more. Thales also offers a solution which provides an enhanced passenger experience while simultaneously opens up avenues of exciting new revenue generation to airlines, due to attractive licensing and sponsorship models, as well as potential new business relationships with publishing houses and advertisers.

The company continues to evolve its AVANT platform to ensure its continued technological superiority amongst all other in-flight entertainment systems. On the opening day of the Aircraft Interiors International show in Hamburg, Thales announced several new technology evolutions that will be made available on AVANT. These underpin the success of the modular design of the system and highlight the proven track record of the most advanced in-flight entertainment system on the market. First and foremost, the cornerstone of the passenger interface, the AVANT screen, will now be larger, with 10-22” HD in-seat displays for the economy cabin and up to a 24” and 32” Ultra HD for premium cabins. These new screens will bring passengers a vivid and cinematic picture quality, no different than what they can expect from the best home-entertainment systems. Airlines will incur a significant benefit from a 35% reduction in weight and 20% reduction in power per screen. Equipped with the latest generation quad-core processors, USB 3.0 for PED charging, the displays will be faster and will able to have a greater local storage capacity than 512GB units.

Additionally, Thales announced the long awaited next-generation Touch Passenger Media Unit (PMU) controller. With a 70% larger 5” multi-touchscreen, this evolution of the award-winning Android-based TPMU is equipped with haptic feedback, letting the user register their commands. It represents a game-changing user interface that lets the passenger interact with the seatback display in a unique manner. A revolutionary point-in-air motion sensor lets the user navigate the content simply by pointing the TPMU at screen. This allows the passenger to both navigate the content through the TPMU while keeping the trademark second screen experience. (Editor’s Note: We couldn’t do this Thales report with out the help of Mike Moeller and Giaime Porcu – Mike for his time in explaining the new InFlyt concept and Giaime for his excellent daily Thales write-ups – perhaps other vendors will consider this solution for reporters!)

Noted Giaime Porcu, Thales Communication: “From a market perspective the IFEC world faces three key challenges as we all know, 1) A growing global fleet and the growing demand for IFEC systems on single aisle and shorter routes, 2) A more tech minded passenger requiring higher levels of technology interaction at all times, and 3) Intense competitive pressure for airlines to differentiate their brand and foster brand loyalty.” He went on: “Thales estimates that by 2025 70% of the global fleet will be equipped with in-cabin connectivity. Already, all RFPs in the market for the past 2 years have included a form of connectivity. We also know that the market is reaching a level of maturity that is driving down costs which is opening up new segmenting opportunities in areas like low cost, single aisle and shorter routes. All this lead to our strategic decision to change the paradigm of our offer. As Dominique GIannoni mentioned in his press conference: 1) Our strategic vision is to become the Number 1 provider of IFEC solutions in the world, 2) Passengers want an immersive, personalised, and connected experience, and 3) Airlines no longer accept IFE to be a static cost centre, they want a positive branding and marketing tool to drive customer retention and direct monetization . The result is simple, with the integration of Thales IFEC and LiveTV we were able to bridge the gap on all these market needs and are the only ones in a real position to do so.”

(Editor’s Note: Here is an important piece about the “new” Thales reshaping (and rebranding) of the inflight experience – it is called InFlyt. Check it out.)


KYMETA

The microwave antenna world is in for a radical change and the folks from Kymeta are using metamaterials to make it happen! First, a Wikipedia definition: Metamaterials are materials engineered to have properties that have not yet been found in nature. They are made from assemblies of multiple elements fashioned from conventional materials such as metals or plastics. The materials are usually arranged in repeating patterns, often at microscopic or smaller scales that are smaller than the wavelengths of the phenomena they influence. Metamaterials derive their properties not from the properties of the base materials, but from their designed structure. Their precise shape, geometry, size, orientation and arrangement gives them their properties.

Appropriately designed metamaterials can affect waves of electromagnetic radiation or sound in a manner not observed in bulk materials.[3][4][5] Those that exhibit a negative index of refraction for particular wavelengths have attracted significant research.[6][7][8] These materials are known as negative index metamaterials.”

And, thus we have an update of a IFExpress Exclusive story we ran in the summer of 2013. Kymeta, if you remember at the time, was the solid-state antenna company who didn’t want to say much about the technology as it was in the Ku Band, pre-development stage but from the looks of the unit shown at AIX, they are really up a couple of generations with a virtually flat device, a couple of inches thick.

If metamaterials are not your thing, here is a definition of the application from the Kymeta website: “Broadly defined, electromagnetic metamaterials result from arranging naturally occurring materials in such a way that they produce an electromagnetic response not found in nature. On the mTenna suite of products, tunable elements are arranged in a precisely calculated pattern. Radiofrequency (RF) energy is scattered when the elements are activated, holographically generating a beam. The direction of the beam is defined by the specific elements that are electronically activated—a design that allows for both continual and instantaneous changes in direction.” Look at the antenna like this – between two layers of special glass, metamaterials are deposited much like a printed circuit. The materials, “circuit” design, material used, and the activation elements develop a clean antenna waveform that, in many cases, can “see” beyond 180 degrees, with no moving parts – a star performer on the equator. We also understand that by 2016 they will have a conformal aviation antenna ready to go. Check out the picture we took at AIX with one of their engineers, Kenny Kirchoff (no kidding), and be sure to visit their website! (Editor’s Note: We should mention that clever Honeywell is the first partner we know for the Kymeta aviation product, but Boeing and Airbus will be in the loop because you just can’t pass up an external antenna a few inches thick.)


Rockwell Collins

A couple weeks prior to the show, Rockwell Collins announced the choice of Craig Elliot as VicePresident, Airline Cabin Sales and Marketing, for the company as follows: “Rockwell Collins today announced that Craig Elliott has been named vice president, Airline Cabin Sales and Marketing. Craig brings strong industry knowledge and customer focus to his new role along with extensive business relationships that he has built through his 20 years working in a variety of positions at Rockwell Collins,” said Scott Gunnufson, vice president and general manager, Commercial Sales, Marketing and Support at Rockwell Collins. “Most recently, Elliott served as senior director of Airline Sales at Rockwell Collins, working with airlines throughout the world to equip their fleets with the latest avionics and IFE systems. In his new role, Elliott will lead a sales and marketing team focused on the Rockwell Collins’ full suite of cabin solutions for air transport aircraft. This includes a number of systems and applications, including PAVES™ On-demand, PAVES™ Broadcast, PAVES™ Wireless, ARINC Cabin Connect, Airshow® 3D Moving Map and air-to-ground high-speed connectivity. Elliott holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Economics from Buena Vista University in Storm Lake, Iowa.” So much for the news release… now, we have an opinion too – Craig is one of the smartest and nicest folks we have ever worked with in aviation! Our past experience is proof. He will be great with customers and the company engineers alike and we wish him the best. He told IFExpress; Rockwell Collins won the #1 Supplier Supplier Award from Airbus as a Cabin Solution Provider. It revolved around the airlines giving their inputs regarding supplier products (Rockwell and their competitors) and out team won, even when we were up against other cabin suppliers, seats providers, galley hardware manufacturers and the like…we were number one, and we couldn’t be more pleased.”  This points out why Craig Elliot will succeed… he is upbeat, positive, and a good role model for sales and marketing teams – her gets everyone involved. And, lest we forget, Rockwell (and ARINC) have some very interesting products on the cusp of announcement, but alas, that is all we can say for now!


IFExpress had a reason to contact Richie Sugimoto over at ACS and he told IFExpress: “We just delivered 42” HD LCD monitors that comply with DO-160G, Section 16, Current Harmonics (Variable Frequency Power) which directly applies to the A380, A350 and B787. Our brand new 65” HD LCD monitor will also meet these standards by the end of this year.”


The Airline Retail Conference (ARC) is coming up on 2nd & 3rd June at London Olympia it is the leading networking platform for airline buyers and suppliers in the fields of airline retail and ancillary revenue. The event also explores the impact and implications of the ‘Always-Connected-Passenger’ To give you a little more information, please see the link here which contains all the information for the up and coming event.


We are still trying to get our hands around this past month’s  Gogo announcement – “Interest in In-Flight Connectivity Higher for Passengers Outside the U.S., According to Recent Gogo Global Study on In-Flight Connectivity.” You can find the report here. Here is what Gogo said: “(Gogo) recently conducted a global study on traveler interest in in-flight connectivity and connectivity related products and services.  The study revealed that interest in these products and services is significantly higher outside the U.S. despite the fact that fewer connected aircraft are operating internationally as compared to within the U.S.” And, we thought, US travelers had more connected, carry-on devices? What gives? We would like to hear from you on why.

Neuilly-sur-Seine, France and Irvine, California | December 2, 2014– Thales announces that Japan Airlines’ new B787-8, which entered into revenue service on December 1, is equipped with the latest generation, Android based AVANT in-flight entertainment system. Japan Airlines (JAL) becomes the first carrier in Asia to fly Thales’s AVANT system on a B787 aircraft.

AVANT is a popular system on newest generation aircraft and has been selected by 15 worldwide airlines. Today, more than 120 aircraft are flying with AVANT with at least one aircraft delivery nearly every week. Total orders are approaching 500 aircraft.

The JAL Sky Suite passenger experience on the B787 includes a wide selection of on-demand entertainment, 3D Maps, JAL Shop, and Sky Manga; a world first for the cabin experience. Sky Manga is a service that allows passengers to enjoy digital manga on the Thales system. Available in all classes on international routes, passengers will have access to 90 Japanese and 30 English titles.

Business class passengers will enjoy their personal entertainment on 23” high definition displays and on the award winning Touch Passenger Media Unit. This unique unit, which resembles a smartphone, can be used as a control device or second screen, bringing more interactivity and newer Android applications to passengers than ever before.

Passengers in premium economy and economy seats will access their entertainment through large 12 and 10 inch displays offering a generous viewing experience. At every seat, passengers will find AC power and USB port accommodations for their mobile devices.

Japan Airlines have 15 line-fit B787 aircraft on order, all featuring AVANT. The airline and Thales have a developed a close partnership over the years. In addition to the B787, Thales systems are flying on Japan Airlines’ B767 and B777 aircraft, on both domestic and international routes.

“Our relationship with Japan Airlines spans many years and we have developed mutual respect and trust for one another. The launch of this new aircraft is a great milestone for all of us and we are confident that the quality, reliability and advanced technology of our systems will help Japan Airlines ensure their passengers continue to be satisfied by this airline’s exceptional level of service,” said Dominique Giannoni, Thales vice president and CEO of In-flight Entertainment and Connectivity activities