Our lead story could not be better titled because we just found the news of Panasonic’s gift in the fight to wipe out one of the most devastating diseases that plagues Africa, and mankind for that matter, but especially today in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone – Ebola.

Our story begins only about one year ago when a small boy was infected with the parasitic virus in a village in Guinea in West Africa – he died and so did his family and thus began the infection of Guinea. No vaccine yet exists for the disease and since then, some 200 medical workers have died along with 6300 citizens. The scary part is that each month the number of cases double. Today, it is unknown how many are infected with the parasitic virus but at last count some 18,100 were, and its natural carrier is still unknown. It is in this demonic environment that an IFE company and an airline saw fit to make a donation that might just be one of the causes that breaks the chain of misery; it aids in the transportation of health help, and facilitates the removal of the sick. We owe Panasonic and Lufthansa a debt of gratitude for their gift of transportation and communication that will aid in the fight to defeat this monster. To get a better story on the “what” and “why’s” of their gift after we found a short news release, we talked with David Bruner, Vice President, Global Communication Services, Panasonic Aviation Services, and here is what he told IFExpress.

Q: David, as with every news release, there is a much bigger story underneath, could you expand a bit?

A: Panasonic Avionics is providing critical communications on board a high-tech flying hospital used to transport Ebola patients from Africa to overseas care facilities. An Airbus A340-300 aircraft, which is chartered from Lufthansa by the German Foreign office, has been converted into a hospital aircraft with isolation chambers for patients diagnosed as suffering from the disease.

Q: We want to know what Panasonic is providing to help this aircraft in such an important and eleemosynary event? How much is Panasonic spending out of pocket to help this work? What exactly is Panasonic providing to the plane, the crew and the aid workers? When is it planned to be in service? What will the plane be used for?

A: I think that it’s really important to acknowledge Lufthansa and the German Foreign Office who were the main drivers behind this fantastic humanitarian effort. This aircraft, which is an Airbus A340 that had been scheduled for retirement, was one of the first Lufthansa aircraft to be equipped with our Global Communications Service. We’re just happy to be involved in it and help the world deal with this outbreak of the Ebola virus, but it’s really Lufthansa and the German Foreign Office that deserves credit for the creation of this flying hospital. This is one of those good news stories where its not about profit, its really about how this airline, the German Government and Panasonic are working together to use this great technology to improve people’s lives.

Q: What is the Panasonic solution going to provide… how, with what?

A: We’re providing the latest generation of our Global Communications Service for the A340. With eXConnect, the on-board crew and medical staff will be able to access Wi-Fi Internet and email service for air-to-ground communications during emergency flights. With eXPhone, the crew will also be able to perform in-flight calling and texting, if necessary.

Further, with these connectivity and mobile phone services, the crew will be able stay in constant contact with the ground-based personnel to provide updates on a patient’s condition and allow hospitals to be prepared as much as possible for the patient’s arrival.

Q: How about a little more… who bought the plane, who buys the gas, who controls the plane schedule? Is there a back-story or two here? Should we thank Lufthansa? Anybody else?

A: The aircraft will be operated by the German Foreign Office. They were the ones who worked in close cooperation with the Robert Koch Institute in Germany to replace a number of airlocks and add a hermetically sealed isolation tent, which allows caregivers to treat patients with a lower risk of infection.

Our role is strictly providing the communications services onboard the aircraft. As I said previously, the credit really goes to Lufthansa and the German Foreign Office.

Q: What are the implications of this effort, in your mind, on the greater commercial aircraft industry and connectivity?

A: The use of the system for this operation is just one example of how operators are starting to expand the use of aircraft connectivity.

Today, in-flight Wi-Fi is often seen as a passenger amenity, but that’s really just the tip of the iceberg. We’re working with airlines on really leveraging the value of this service for services like this one, and to leverage their own IP systems while the aircraft is airborne. With that, we think the industry has something really valuable.

Ebola Link:
Germany unveils Ebola evacuation plane in Berlin | News | DW.DE | 27.11.2014

Next, in this pre-Holiday edition of IFExpress we thought it also prudent to get an update on one product we have been watching closely for the last six months – VT Miltope’s revolutionary nMAP2 wireless aircraft router. If you remember in our earlier announcement the device will change the way airlines think about serving wireless clients… basically a solution that increases the passenger bandwidth inside the airplane and does so via newly developed router “smarts’ called CHT – Cognitive Hotspot Technology. Built-in technology helps the router to actively determine the best wireless solution for each seated user on the plane. Nothing like this has ever been seen for aircraft, as far as we know, and that is why IFExpress is keeping tabs on this device. Look at it another way, how else are airlines going to keep up with passenger devices that are used to faster and faster wireless solutions on the ground? Don’t believe us? We asked the same question (and a number of others) to Bob Guidetti, VT Miltops’s VP of Commercial Products and he told IFExpress: Miltope developed nMAP2 to meet the ever increasing demands for wireless throughput and client associations in the cabin. As the highest performing wireless access point, nMAP2 will truly become the benchmark for the industry.”

Q: Is it too early to tell exactly how much better the nMAP2 product will be with CHT?

A: We are currently testing nMAP2 without CHT to establish baseline performance, but note that CHT testing verification is an ongoing effort. Once we have established baseline nMAP2 performance without CHT, we then plan to continue CHT baseline performance verification tests in January 2015. Your readers need to stay tuned for this one.

Q: We hear that there is a lot of interest in the nMAP2 by airlines who see the value in better performance in their wireless systems on board. Is that true?

A: Yes, and our goal is to double the number of client associations of existing wireless access points running at a minimum of 1 Mbps throughput.

Q: So far, how is the testing going?

A: With respect to performance, verification testing of nMAP2 has verified improved performance over nMAP without application of CHT. CHT will provide additional improvements to wireless performance as I mentioned before. After that, Qualification testing is to start 1st week of January and be completed by end of January. Qualification testing will be performed to RTCA DO160 G.

Q: Lastly, can you give our readers a sneak peek into what VT Miltope will be rolling out at the next industry show?

A: We are currently developing another wireless product called cTWLU that will provide cellular in addition to Wi-Fi wireless ground link for the aircraft. Both the cTWLU and nMAP2 will be on display at the 2015 Interiors in Hamburg.

On another note, we received a news release in about free inflight texting: “Applications in-flight: If passengers are on a Gogo equipped flight, there are applications they can take advantage of free of charge. All T-Mobile customers can take advantage of free in-flight texting and voice mail services on all Gogo equipped U.S. airline aircraft. To access, customers must activate Wi-Fi calling on the ground prior to the first use of the free service. Passengers do not need to purchase Internet connectivity to take advantage of unlimited texting and voice mail allowing passengers an additional outlet to stay connected in-flight.”

Further, they offered the following; Location sharing based application Glympse allows passengers to send their location at 30,000 feet via SMS, email or social media in-flight. Passengers traveling during the holidays can utilize Glympse to give loved ones an accurate arrival time, perfect in case you run into any last minute flight delays.” Readers, this is just the beginning of inflight data communication deals that we expect to come along and it looks like the US T-Mobile customers are the first to reap the benefit.