This week, we feature the Lumexis Single-Aisle Solution in our Hot Topic and the image above is the Lumexis team members who are in town this week. While we often picture hardware, we thought it time for IFExpress give a tip o’the hat to the folks who brought the product to life. Additionally, be sure to check out this link for a terrific hardware, installation, and block diagram slide show from Rich Salter first!

As the second in the “Single-Aisle Solution” feature, Lumexis hit the narrow-body market with kickoff customer flydubai, a story we covered earlier. If you aren’t too clear on “narrow-body aircraft” check out the link. Further, companies like Bombardier are holding up the lower end of the (60 to 150 seat) single-aisle market. The bigger Boeing 737-MAX and Airbus A320neo definitely do not have an exclusive on the market either. In fact, a large number of the growing single-aisle market purchases will occur in China and it would be a mistake to rule out the future Chinese 168 – 198 seat contender, the Comac C919. To get the ball rolling, we asked the affable and well known CEO of Lumexis, Doug Cline, a few loaded questions which we must say, he answered with great candor:

Q: Tell our readers a little about the Lumexis Single Aisle offering, screen size, weight, capability, network etc.

“Our single-aisle offering is the same as our regional jet and the same as our twin-aisle except that the latter has Passenger Service System interfaces (reading light and flight attendant call), widescreen, HD monitors up to 23 inches (so far . . .) and touchscreen controllers. We’ve been flying with flydubai for over a year and have accumulated more than 7 million seat available hours with 99.5% availability. I would point out an advantage of our fiber optic system is that a B747 would have the same basic architecture as a narrow-body in that they both take advantage of the same redundant network path. This is very helpful in installation and crew training.”

Q: Which airlines and airplanes are you installed on and why did they choose Lumexis?

Cline: “Narrow-body launch customer: flydubai, now 13 Boeing Sky Interior, 189 seat airplanes in daily revenue service; 31 more deliveries averaging about 1 per month for installations taking less than three days downtime.

Wide-body launch customer: Transaero (Russia’s second largest airline), first B777-300 delivered in early December, three more this year; followed by 4 B747- 400s (522 seats!) in Q1 2012; we expect to continue to work through their entire fleet over the next several years. Two additional unannounced customers have A320 and A330 fleets being installed in 2012 and 2013.

These leading edge airlines chose FTTS® due to highest system capability, lightest weight per seat of any system now flying (or on the horizon), highest reliability, customer maintainable user software and resultant lowest-possible cost-of-ownership.”

Q: What single-aisle configurations seem popular now (inseat video, overhead monitors, seatback video, etc)?

Cline: “Uniformly, full aircraft, widescreen HD AVOD at every seat; supplemental overhead monitors for maps and broadcast videos as required. Our display compliment already includes original 8.9” seatback units, continuing with the 15.4″ as well as the gigantic 23″ for Transaero. We recently added a 10.1″ and a 12.1” into the offerings.”

Q: Lumexis and other IFE hardware vendors are not standard OEM offerings as BFE or SFE – they are not delivered on the aircraft, but rather, installed later. Why? Should you be?

Cline: “With some 98% of the existing in-seat IFEC being controlled by only two suppliers, it is an obvious challenge to get airlines to break away from the security of buying the legacy product and risking obviously improved, but new, product (and supplier) until it’s proven in airline service. Understandably slow to begin, now our new customer sign-ups are accelerating rapidly as a result of the very visible successes of flydubai and Transaero.  Moreover, we will soon gain line-fit with the major OEMs as our current customers already have many B737-800s, B747-8s and A380s (700 seats!) on order and want to receive their aircraft with FTTS fully installed.

Newcomers like Lumexis represent a risk to existing, “stable” production lines – You can understand their angst – but after both narrow-body and wide-body in-service successes with different carriers, we are able to much more aggressively pursue line-fit on new aircraft!”

Q: What kind of per seat system weight does Lumexis claim?

Cline: “Flydubai’s full coach installation – including every nut, bolt screw, bracket, every mm of copper power wiring, all LRUs and fiber – is about 2.3 kg per seat – a little over 5 pounds.  Quite simply, this is the weight of the aircraft when it delivered minus the weight when it arrived. (I am being so specific as most competitors like to cite only the weight of their boxes, which is very misleading as to true cost of carriage implications.)  FTTS is proven handsdown to be the absolutely lightest system flying – today or on the horizon.”

Q: What are the installed airlines saying about Lumexis?

Cline: “Our customers – from passengers through flight attendants, maintenance people, content and marketing managers, all the way up to senior management – uniformly love our product, our people and our support. Uniform appreciation of the reliable delivery of high definition movies, unmatched quick GUI response, and simplicity of interface are also passenger pleasing features that get high marks.”

Q: Does Lumexis have an overhead solution and how about inseat (with arm) display?

Cline: “We do not have a standalone overhead product, but many options for supplemental overhead, very large, HD monitors. In-arm mounting is easy and available.”

Q: Reliability is a good issue with single- aisles that see upward of 6 emplaning-deplaning cycles (or more) per day…How’s the Lumexis hardware doing?

Cline: “We’ve been flying with flydubai for over a year (four emplaning-deplaning cycles per day) and have accumulated more than 7 million seat available hours with 99.5% availability. (As reported independently to Boeing by the COO of flydubai.) Not too shabby, and an honest, “not-doctored-with-contract-documentation-rules” number!”

Q: We can’t resist – does Lumexis have a Wi-Fi solution in work?

Cline: “It might be nearer than you’d think . . .”

On a sad note, IFExpress acknowledges the passing of a longtime IFEC member. Airborne camera innovator and IFE industry veteran Tom Henderson, 68, passed away on November 14th after a long battle against cancer.

Tom entered the inflight entertainment world in 1980 when he joined EECO (the “E” in “B/E”) as Director of Marketing for the Air Transport Products division. In 1988 Tom founded Airborne CCTV, which started from a systems design sketched on the back of a restaurant placemat in Irvine, CA. Tom took Airborne CCTV and led the development of the first successful airborne camera systems for commercial and business aviation. Airborne CCTV eventually became part of Thales Inflight in 1999. In recent years Tom was involved with developing other avionics and high-technology products.

An inventor at heart, Tom held several patents for his ideas. He was also an accomplished award-winning woodworker having created many beautiful hand-made chairs and other furnishings. He is survived by his wife and three sons.

Typically, we do not like to write a story about how an IFE vendor made their system more reliable. Why? Inevitably, readers think the system was not reliable in the first place. Not so with Lumexis… read on reader.

Lumexis Corporation has been building a strong reputation for robust performance and reliability of its FIBER TO THE SCREEN® (FTTS) network, with a dozen flydubai B737-800 already in service (increasing at about one new aircraft per month, headed toward a total fleet of 44). Despite being knee-deep in work preparing for FTTS installation into the first of four B777-300 aircraft for Transaero Airlines, Russia’s second largest carrier, Lumexis CEO Doug Cline took time to talk with IFExpress and offer some exclusive news of an innovative new development.

“Obviously, we are immensely pleased with the success of the FTTS launch with flydubai and the intense interest that such in-service “proof-of-performance” has generated among OEMs and airlines,’ reports Cline. “Its verifiable 99%+ fleet availability delivered by the unique Lumexis fiber optic network has gained a huge amount of industry attention. But we aren’t stopping there.”

Now, the company is extending its lead in demonstrated reliability beyond even Gen2 FTTS’s existing double-redundancy with PSB (Passenger Specific, in-seat Backup), an innovative technology assuring each passenger’s preferred choice of entertainment under all circumstances. “What this means,” explains Cline, “is that our new Gen3 monitors include local storage into which we can quickly download for ultimate backup, a small subset of the movies available from our headend servers’ massive, multi-terabyte libraries (as much as 400 two-hour HD movies). Since in-monitor storage is limited to the same 64-128 gigabytes as seat-centric IFE systems (16-32 two-hour HD movies), we want to pick only those movies that each individual passenger would choose – and, of course, popular choices vary from route to route, language and so forth.”

Cleverly using their visibility of multiple passenger preference factors, FTTS computers are directed to look at such things as the current flight’s city pair and each passenger’s language selection in order to store at their seat only those movies and other entertainment that have proved most popular under similar circumstances. They can even reassess and update those locally stored movies during a current flight as new entertainment is loaded and evolving preferences become available. “The result is that even in the extremely rare situation where both a headend media server and a network leg fail, the passenger not only continues to be entertained, but has the highest possibility of having their first choice still be available to them,” Cline points out.

Lumexis is clearly investing heavily to continue its already enviable record for reliability, even as it expands into widebody and worldwide support. In the midst of a number of new entrants to the markets, Cline likes to point out that, as of this interview, his company is alone in its full fleet deployment and verifiable record. “Every new entrant today seems to be claiming to be lighter than air and cheaper than dirt,” he says. “But the available facts are that FTTS has established – in daily revenue service with flydubai – an unprecedented and unmatched low cost of ownership, and at 2.3kgs per seat – fully installed (1.3kgs per seat – system only), the absolutely lowest cost of carriage.”

Strong words, indeed. But, it seems, words based on actual deeds.

Editor’s Note: For all you APEX & AIX-US Show-goers, the Seattle weather forecast predicts high 70’s to low 80’s temperature for Monday thru Thursday. Nice!

Also, don’t forget the National Business Aircraft Association Annual Conference (NBAA) in Vegas baby! October 10 – 12, Las Vegas NV, USA.