Now Old Seat Back IFE Replacement is Available at a Fraction of the Cost! 

This week IFExpress wanted to give our readers a better look into the world of IFE retrofits so we asked Web Barth, Director of Marketing of VTS (Video Technology Services), one of the best known IFE upgrade and retrofit companies in the industry, to tell our readers a bit about the company, their solutions, and the process of a refurbishing a seatback IFE system.

ANSWER: “VTS is focused on airlines with older seatback systems including Rockwell TES, Panasonic 2000 and 3000 series, as well as, other older systems. Based on our discussions with airlines in Europe and the Middle East there are about 400 aircraft still flying these older seatback systems in that region and the majority are wide bodies. Although the manufacturers of this equipment have accurate data collectively, year old industry estimates were that there are approximately 1,800 aircraft still flying older seat back systems worldwide.”

Q: Tell us a bit more about the retrofit process, and perhaps more importantly, is price a big deal to some airlines and finally, does newer technology gain value in these installations?

ANSWER: “Some airlines go back to the original manufacturers to replace outdated or broken seatback systems. The manufacturers are happy to provide the service, but it involves replacing the screen with modern electronics and sometimes cabling, which winds up costing in the neighborhood of $5,000 per seat for a new version of the removed seatback IFE system. If an average wide body aircraft has 340 seats and you combine that with the cost of installation per seat, the result is an estimated cost of $2 million per aircraft. This can be a daunting investment for many airlines, especially in older and perhaps end of life cycle jetliners. 

The VTS SKY SIS II is targeted to provide an affordable means of providing modern-day quality entertainment, which would be closer to $600,000+/- per wide body for arguably an even better IFE offering.  This is achieved not by repairing old technology, but using modern technology and eliminating the old system thus the expense of rebuilding the old electronics and heavy connection cables and boxes circuitry.   Each VTS passenger monitor bypasses the old audio/visual circuitry and electronics by streaming directly to each touch screen monitor, each with its own processor and Wi-Fi antenna.

This VTS Touch Screen Display is considerably lighter than the old unit with its seatback electronics.  Additionally, hundreds even thousands of pounds of unneeded cabling, PCU’s, and passenger annoying, heavy under-seat SEBs are no longer necessary and can be removed.  Depending on the aircraft and type of system this could eliminate 1,000 to 2,500 pounds of extra weight saving $100,000 to $300,000 in fuel annually thus providing a modern inflight entertainment offering that pays for itself in a few years.”

Q: Why retrofit?

ANSWER: “There are instances where older seatback systems are adequate, except for the fact that individual units have failed or the screens themselves are dim or lack modern-day resolution. VTS routinely replaces old screens with newer/better ones and rebuilds broken units, which can provide a relatively affordable fix. However, the VTS SKY SYS II system provides a far superior approach offering years of modern quality performance and life.

The reason is that the VTS SKY SYS II System skips over all of that outdated technology, equipment and circuitry and streams right to every seatback where each passenger controls their own unit with their own touch screen eliminating the armrest PCU as well. The VTS system does keep the old seat power circuitry, which also provides for an appreciated new passenger USB power outlet for operating/charging their other devices.”

Q: Before we get into the actual workload, can you tell our readers about why retrofits need to be done?

ANSWER: “So, you want to get rid of that old IFE, here are some possible reasons why. 1) A paying passenger staring at a broken IFE seatback display is a huge customer service problem. Your old system & screen is cloudy, dim or just outdated grainy resolution, not in modern 16×9 format.
2) If your hardware is an older seatback system, you can change it out. Amazingly, many airlines don’t realize you can swap out your old seatback system and/or display. One airline told VTS that they were planning on replacing all the seats, just to upgrade the seat back IFE system. Yikes!
3) Here are some reasons why it may be difficult and possibly why you should not… Actually, we can’t think of any since the new VTS SKY SYS II Seat Back retrofit can work with any old system, and since it no longer needs the old system’s electronics, seat back display, arm rest PCU’s, video/audio cabling or annoying and heavy SEB for audio and video transmission.

Although VTS keeps the old seat power circuitry, the VTS SKY SYS II System, skips over all of that outdated equipment and streams right to every seat back where each passenger controls their own unit with their own touch screen, which also has an extra USB power outlet for operating/charging their other devices.”

Q: Can you give our readers a quick synopsis on the cabin retrofit work?
ANSWER:
The Basic Process is as follows:

1.    First, remove the old seatback screen and electronics unit by peeling back the upholstery on the upper seat.  It is not very hard to do and an average technician can remove and install a new unit in about 20 minutes per seat.

2.    Now or when convenient, remove 1,000-2,000 pounds of no longer needed a/v cabling, hardware, PCU’s and especially the under seat SEB’s, while greatly improving passenger foot room and comfort.

3.    Install a high resolution, VTS Touch Screen Smart Monitor with its lightweight bracket and re-fit the headrest upholstery around the new screen.

4.    Install a VTS Streaming Server & WAP system, which weighs less than 20 lbs. This hardware easily installs in the overhead baggage bins.

Q: What is the scope of the effort…time, down time, etc.?

ANSWER: “Actual time is approximately 15-20 minutes per seat.  So, a wide body with 300 seats will require about 100 labor hours. If an aircraft is out of service it will only take 1-2 days. Form, Fit and Function can greatly reduce re-certification to a negligible effort.”

Q: Please tell us a little bit about the Feature improvement or loss, the Advantages of doing a retrofit, and the Benefit of doing so!

ANSWER: Web noted: “Better than new; Immediate System Improvement, cost, weight/fuel savings. Video: Resolution increases 400%, perhaps a larger screen 7″ vs 5.6″, in new format 16 x 9. A System Cost: one third of the cost of conventional system replacement of a seatback system. Then there is weight savings – eliminate 80% of the system’s weight, i.e. 1000 vs 2,000 pounds. Next, we have fuel savings: savings in extra fuel pays for this new/better system in 3 years!”

“There is more,” he said, “credit card function for Inflight shopping is included.  The built in credit card program allows for secure purchases from seatback screens, or the passengers own devices (smartphones, tablets, laptops) for incremental revenue, additional passenger services and offers. Did I mention the USB Outlets?  This means power at every seat for personal devices as well.  Did I mention custom financing… Matching your expected aircraft life, that’s ideal for aged aircraft. And lastly, it’s satellite ready companion antenna and systems to be installed now, with port to VTS Streaming Servers and WAPs or at a later date.”

Q. Lastly, we asked if the VTS Director of Engineering  had anything to say to our readers?

ANSWER: According to Philip LaPierre, 35 year IFE Engineering and Certification veteran, “We have found that adhering to near, or identical ‘Form, Fit and Function’ certification criteria, we can greatly reduce re-certification requirements to a negligible amount.”

Finally, Noted Mr. Barth: “Come see our new Seatback Retrofit System for yourself at Booth 219 APEX Expo, Singapore, Oct 24-27, 2016, you won’t be disappointed!”

(Editor’s Note: VTS provides many systems options: In Flight PCI Compliant Credit Card Processing, 4G/LTE Communication Module – On the ground, weight on wheels Communication anywhere in the world, Separate Iridium Communication Module – In flight communication worldwide, VTS Turnkey Entertainment Content Programs and Sourcing Packages, Customized Worldwide Equipment Financing Programs, Satellite Companion Antenna and System… so they tell us!)


CARLISLE:
Carlisle Companies Incorporated announced the acquisition of Star Aviation, Inc., a leading provider of design and engineering services, testing and certification work and manufactured products for in-flight connectivity applications on commercial, business and military aircraft. With annual sales of approximately $30 million and 150 employees, Star Aviation has manufacturing facilities in Mobile, Alabama and a technical services facility in Lynnwood, Washington. The company is a supplier to the world’s leading providers of Wi-Fi and other in-flight connectivity systems used on a broad range of aircraft platforms. The business will operate as part of Carlisle Interconnect Technologies, a global provider of specialty wire and cable, and interconnect components for commercial and military aircraft, avionics systems, in-flight entertainment, communications systems and medical devices.
IFExpress reached out to Carlisle for a bit more info and here is what they had to say:

  • “Star Aviation has been a supplier of Design/Kits/certification for connectivity solutions dating back to the onset of Boeing Connexion (2004-ish)
  • Today they support Boeing, Gogo, ViaSat and some others with design/kits/certification for aircraft installation
  • All retrofit Gogo 2Ku installations use a Star Aviation adapter plate for the Thinkom antenna.
  • The Everett branch is mostly involved in Boeing documentation updates and configuration control.”

IFPL:
Recently, IFPL has worked closely with GORE® to develop the new USB-A 3.0 module, that combined IFPL USB 3.0 with GORE Aerospace USB 3.0 cables and provides the ideal solution for delivering high power (2A, 5V DC) and data transfer (up to 5Gbps) as per USB 3.0 requirements. This gives passengers the ability to maximize the benefits of both charging their Personal Electronic Devices (PEDs) and interfacing with the Inflight Entertainment (IFE) system and you can see it in Singapore! (Check out the news release section of this IFExpress)


BOEING:
Boeing and Qatar Airways announced an order for 30 787-9 Dreamliners and 10 777-300ERs, valued at $11.7 billion at list prices. The airline also signed a Letter of Intent for up to 60 737 MAX 8s, valued at $6.9 billion at list prices. The announcement builds on Qatar Airways’ current fleet of 84 Boeing aircraft, a combination of 787s and 777s, all delivered over the last nine years. With this new order, Qatar Airways increases its firm order backlog of Boeing widebody airplanes from 65 to 105, including 60 777Xs. Further, Aviation Week notes that Qatar Airways CEO said: “Boeing has been making airplanes decades before anyone else even thought of manufacturing airplanes, so the experience that they have in this field has made them so robust that they make one of the finest and more solid, reliable product of any company,” Al Baker said Oct. 7 in Washington. “I know that Boeing’s competitors would not like me saying this, but I’m sure that inside, they know that Boeing makes the best airplanes.””


SINGAPORE:
Power – This should do it

Singapore Uber Deal – Download the Uber app and register for an account. You’ll have the option to input your credit card or opt for cash payment. To enjoy a $15 FREE ride, simply enter the code “IFEXPRESS” into the Promotions tab! The code is valid until 31 October 2016.

  • Maker of mission-critical, high frequency coaxial wire and cable and cable assemblies is a leading provider to defense, satellite, and test and measurement customers

Charlotte, North Carolina | June 10, 2016– Carlisle Companies Incorporated (NYSE:CSL) today announced the acquisition of Micro-Coax, Inc., a leading global supplier of high-performance, high frequency coaxial wire and cable, and cable assemblies for mission-critical RF/microwave applications for defense, satellite, test and measurement and other industrial customers.

With annual sales of approximately $45 million and 235 employees, Micro-Coax has manufacturing facilities in Pottstown, PA and a joint venture operation in Blackburn, UK. The company has been in business for over 50 years and is a supplier to the world’s leading defense, aerospace and electronics companies. Micro-Coax designs, manufactures and sells customized, high-reliability wire and cable for signal transmission on defense, space and satellite platforms and in high-end industrial equipment. The company’s well-known brands include UTiFLEX® flexible microwave cable assemblies, UTiFORM® hand formable cable, M-FLEX® cable assemblies and ARACON® metal clad fiber.

The business will operate as part of Carlisle Interconnect Technologies, a global provider of specialty wire and cable, and interconnect components for commercial and military aircraft, avionics systems, in-flight entertainment, communications systems and medical devices.

Chris Koch, Carlisle’s President and Chief Executive Officer, said: “We are excited about the acquisition of Micro-Coax, as the company adds capabilities and technology to strengthen our interconnect products business in very attractive sectors. Micro-Coax broadens our product, technology and service ranges to our customers. This acquisition is consistent with our focus on higher margin, highly engineered products and is an excellent fit with Carlisle. We are very pleased to welcome the Micro-Coax team to Carlisle.”

This year we are going to do something different. The Hot Topic will summarize all we saw at Long Beach and then as the weeks roll on, we will dig deeper into the ones you need to hear about. Firstly, the thousand pound gorilla in the room was the Android operating system, the background chatter was Ka Band inflight connectivity, and the word on almost everybody’s lips was ‘iPad’ – not to mention that silly stand-up seat with the 23 inch pitch. Having said that, we will probably look into each topic separately, but for now, let’s press on. On the last day of the show, and after he left, John White announced his retirement from the Avion magazine. He exited without fanfare, we hear, to avoid all the “good bye’s”, so, here is a public one – Thanx John, for it was you who got us int this mess!

Next, our overall impression was, from a technical perspective, great. Some vendors were mumbling about the lack of visitors, but you can decide for yourself by looking at the show photo’s on Flickr. At almost every booth we visited, and we visited over 20, there was something we had not seen or heard about. We do this because there is a lot of innovation that gets overlooked or doesn’t warrant the benefit of a press release. Not to mention the newbies, characters, friends, and the just plain weirdos. After all, isn’t that why you read IFExpress? Lastly, we are sorry for those vendors we missed. Mostly, you were busy with customers and we understand that. If you feel that your product or service was slighted, send a note to ifenews@airfax.com and we will follow up with a telephone or email interview!

Astronics: Big with the power folks is a new set of USB seat power outlet concepts. They are also introducing a 225 VA ISPS with a USB power outlet at each of 3 seats as well as 110 AC.

ACS: Aircraft Cabin Systems rolled out their new thin line of LCD aircraft displays. Looks to be 33% slimmer than the standard size and ACS offers 4 sizes up to 42″.

AirCell: We got a good AirCell update from John Wade. Over 1,015 aircraft jets installed with paid sessions going up each month and no peak in sight. The bizjet market is smoking and the order from NetJets (approx 800 in fleet) is certainly a big deal!

Carlisle: Cable maker, Carlisle, displayed their usual offering of aircraft cable assemblies and we were interestingly challenged to pick out the ones made in their offshore factories. Their latest Ethernet product looked no different than their other products and we were a bit surprised to find out they were made in their Dong Guan (Shenzen) factory. The company controls the process, quality and sourced materials – their AS9100 certification is proof.

digEcor: Brent Wood and Adam Williams laid out their new inflight shopping portal “Mill Creek Shoppe” and demo-ed the L-7 player (Lafeel) with a great built-in mouse. Watch for new advertising co-op features that support independent advertising suppliers. Oh, and we thought their flying monkey was great fun!

Goodrich: Recent acquirer of TEAC, their show entry featured their V01HDD player that has a Blu-ray drive for more storage via DVD disk. We noted a terrific Electronic Flight Bag device on the table but it was a bit early to tag an IFE application with it. Alas, sad news for IFE as Al McGowen is now Mr. Military.

IMS: The RAVE system is now ready for prime time and the final product (powered hot-swap and all) has quite a few features that looked VERY airline friendly. Rumor has it that a few customers have stepped-up to the plate already. Joe Renton pulled us aside for a sneak peek that their new COTS re-purposed player, and yes, it is built by IMS. Check out Flickr.

Inflight Peripherals: The Geoff and Claire show was a hit again this year, and yes, they had a contest to assemble one of their inset headphone jacks. The ‘wall of shame’ told the whole story with one entrant blowing away the competition with a speed around 10 seconds.

Interact: Seldom do we cover content providers, however, this year, we hope to do a Hot Topic devoted to these folks. We like their focus on customer support and regional content in providing audio and video programming, creative content/content management, and encoding services.

Airbus KID-Systeme: Perhaps the biggest effort we saw at KID was their integrated seat power program with Recaro. We saw the production prototype and here is a picture of the inseat-power-supply-that-mounts-in-the-seat-beam.

Live TV: After looking at the Iridium satcom hardware for 2 days, we finally got the story on the LiveTV Aero OpenPort system. Using the 66 satellite constellation, they have found a way to deliver 128K continuously to the aircraft. Don’t scoff, this a PERFECT blackberry data solution, served in the airplane via Wi-Fi. Here’s the clincher, they can demonstrate offering it as a freebie! BTW, Mike Moeller gets our nod as the best pitchman at the show!

Lumexis: The F.O. IFE company out did last show record by bringing a COMPLETE wide-body IFE system, up and running to the show. Some 243 seats worth of IFE (fiber-to-the-seat), and 2 small servers (4 MCU each). This is the low calorie IFE winner, and frankly, we do not expect the hardware to return to Irvine!

Mezzo : Dave Sampson, CEO, shared his new COTS Personal Media Player with IFExpress.

SmartJog: Wow, did Christiane Ducasse and Jodynne Wood knock our socks off! Smartjog is THE purveyor of digital content between IFE entities. By placing a Smartjog server/hub at each end of a communication line, security and daft integrity is guaranteed. These folks are suck a household name that they have become a verb – “Just Smartjog it to the customer”. Hot Topic territory for sure.

Panasonic: The Cool Room is back! What more can we say? A lot, in fact. Too much to cover it here. Suffice it to say, we saw all the bells and whistles in the CR, got the lowdown on Ku and Ka Bands, sat in the integrated seats, played with the Android IFE system, watched a 3-D interactive product, and visited the Panasonic App store. We promise a Hot Topic on each of these topics as there is NO WAY we can do it here. As an afterthought, there is no one that can throw a party like Panasonic – thanx!

Thales: Winner of the Best Innovation Technology with their TouchPMU, the folks we met with were justifiably proud of their tethered handset-entertainment player-controller. A perfect product for single aisle player and on twin aisle planes, it is a great controller that can be used to control entertainment or games on a bigger screen. Oh yes, there was an app on that – the OS is Android. Thales demonstrated a very flexible integrated seat that is in an very mature state (orders on the way) and a novel LCD/mirror display. What a bizjet product!

Rockwell: New kids on the block, Joel Otto and John Darvell talked up the Digital Paves (D Paves) but would not talk to much about the Android OS that others were exploring. We think the next IFE show will bring some Rockwell surprises and they may first show up on the Bizjet side.

VT Miltope: What’s not to like with the ‘OEM supplier to the aviation industry’? As a platform agnostic, peripherals and system supplier, Bob Guidetti told IFExpress that they have been spec-ing and supplying connectivity products for B787, A350 and B777 aircraft and now have a MIMO Wi-Fi WAP.

Honorable Mention: We cannot let this opportunity to go by without mentioning 2 of the “little guys”. Sitting off in one corner was Plane Bill and in the other G.U.E. Tech. We loved both these companies for different reasons. Plane Bill, the Italian software innovator showed us a fistful of Android apps, specifically designed for airlines. After getting infused with Android platforms by all the big players, here sits Plane Bill, with some of the most innovative software we have seen. They even developed an app that an Android Smartphone equipped Muslim can use to find Mecca directions for prayer. On the other hand we really do not have a clue what G.U.E. Tech does. Having said that, we know that it has something to do with 3D rendering engines, game software, and generally computer graphics. Hey, any company that authors a video game called “Lurking Horror” cannot be all bad! What was so doggone impressive was the enthusiasm of it’s CEO, Max Lingua, and his complete love for what he does. Please visit their websites and send some business their way – they are gems!