As we continue our documentation of the flydubai/Lumexis IFE system installation, we turn our attention to the the system operation. You might wonder about the necessity of entertainment on a single-aisle airplane but you must remember, these planes will be in the air for 5 1/2 hours on some legs and travel from Dubai to the Ukraine and Russia.

One of the most interesting parts of reporting on IFE systems is the lack of accessibility to the plane because installation crews don’t need any more bodies in the passenger cabin and quite often, sidewall panels and ports are not available for photography. We got lucky on this one and the whole team granted us access for photos and explanation in the middle of their 3 day install process. As we noted last issue, the flydubai/Lumexis/ATS team gave IFExpress a carte blanche reporting pass and we want our readers to get the same experience. In this installment, we will tour the plane and the hardware installation from a couple perspectives.

Firstly, we want to introduce the Lumexis components. Here is an image of the major, box hardware, less the setback displays and sidewall 28 Volt Power Units. The B737-800 has 191 seatback displays on each airplane with a couple used at purser stations as flight attendant panels. Interestingly, the system control units use the same hardware as the seatback units but differ only in application software and GUI.

The next view you might be interested in is more hardware oriented and was sent to us by Lumexis to better orient the reader to a hardware system view. We also thought it might help to show a rough layout of the components with photos of the installed hardware (or in the process of being installed), so we built a rough graphic to do just that. Be sure to click on the hyperlinks to reveal the pictures of the install process.

To envision the system operation in words let’s roughly follow the bit trail: Digital content is stored on solid state drives in the two Server Switch Units – the plane only needs one server to supply 191, B737-800 seat Video Display Units; however, the other is there for redundancy and increases the reliability of passenger satisfaction given a cable failure along the way, but more on that later. Each server sends out 12 fiber lines of information (remember, there are 2 servers), and each line is connected to a total of 24 seats, that is, daisy-chained from one to another. If you want to look at it another way, each Video Display Unit has a “fiber in” and “fiber out”. We weren’t allowed to say much more but by using the other server, redundant operation will keep everything running if there is a glitch in the network connections.

Being on a very large network, each seat system (VDU) has an address (our words, not Lumexis) and content data (movies, audio, etc.) is sent out to each seat via the “switch” inside the server and sent directly through a fiber optic cable line to each seatback unit. It should be noted that all hardware boxes in the cabin (except the power units) are on the data network – seat back units, data loaders, and purser station displays. This is great for system level tests and failure reporting. We should also mention that the seatback unit’s power (17 watts per VDU) and fiber connections are made via cabling in the seat rails (tracks) and continues into the sidewalls to the power units or up to the fiber optic cabling that ends up back at the server.

And speaking of seats, the Recaro seats are shipped to the ATS facility with the VDU ‘s installed in the seatbacks. The screens sit a bit lower and thus it is easier for passengers to interface with the credit card reader and the USB port – presently used for PED charging. The LCD display then tilts for user angle adjustment so the positioning on the seatback is about perfect. Rumors are that Recaro has found the Lumexis VDU easiest to install, which says a lot for the first full-up, fiber optic IFE system.

Presently, the spares provisioning does not entail much, if any, IFE spread out to dispersed bases. The flydubai rep told us, “We have had enough experience with the 6 aircraft flying that the system is working with almost perfect reliability and that confidence carries over to the spares planning.”

You might ask, what’s next for the growing Irvine company, and the answer is: Lumexis is not talking. We suspect a couple of new customers are on the docket and were told to watch AIX in Hamburg. Stay Tuned!

Another related story coming out of Irvine, California’s, Lumexis, is the recent hiring of Astronics alumnus, Eddie Hseih, as their new VP Engineering. “Eddie brings us a wealth of engineering talent to manage and grow our engineering organization”, noted a Lumexis spokesperson. IFExpress was told he will free up Rich Salter (CTO) to concentrate on future technologies and systems. You may contact Eddie via email at: ehsieh@lumexis.com.

Dubai, United Arab Emirates – November 10, 2010 – LUMEXIS CORPORATION announced that its Fiber-To-The-Screen™ (FTTS™), In-Seat, AVOD In-Flight Entertainment System, entered revenue service Wednesday with UAE low cost carrier flydubai. Operating onboard the airline’s first Boeing 737-800 with Sky Interior, the flight departed at 8AM local time flying from Dubai (DXB) to Beirut (BEY).

“This first-of-type installation for both AVOD system and aircraft was accomplished in a unprecedentedly short eleven days from receipt of aircraft at the mod site to delivery of the aircraft back to the customer with its Supplemental Type Certificate,” reported Lumexis CEO Doug Cline. “Obviously, that required strong support from our customer and extremely close cooperation between seat manufacturer Recaro, installation/certification contractor JAMCO, and installation services provider Aviation Technical Services. Since follow-on aircraft will not require further certification, flydubai’s future installations can be reduced to less than five days.”

Ghaith Al Ghaith, flydubai’s CEO, said: “This has been a very exciting project to work on and I am delighted to have reached the day when the aircraft, with this revolutionary new IFE system, could go into commercial service. I would like to thank the teams from flydubai and Lumexis for all their hard work in fitting this system successfully and on time, and ensuring the aircraft was in Dubai to depart on schedule. I’m sure it will be very well received by our passengers and I am confident other airlines will be quick to follow us once they see what the system can do.”

“With the Airline World watching flydubai’s progress extremely closely,” continues Cline, “ our work is just beginning. Their next FTTS-equipped aircraft will go into service in just about a week after this first one, and two more in rapid succession before 2010 year’s end, then roughly one per month until all their 44 new Boeing 737s are delivered. We need to assure each system outperforms our customer’s highest expectations, everyday.”