If the AIX show is good for one thing, it’s trends. By covering the show as we do, we get to see a lot of the industry hot topics and this year was certainly no exception. Here are just a few that you might want to jot down in your Smartphone reminder file.

1. IPads for everything but IFE!
This trend is not about iPad IFE. No, we saw iPads used for other applications like inventory control or electronic flight bags. The one we liked is called eCabin from Ultramain. The eCabin product acts as an interface between passengers, airlines and the maintenance, flight schedule, and passenger service supply chains. Thru a slick interface, the eCabin product works between the passenger and the airline and help to keep logs, connect passenger loyalty programs to passengers before, during and after the flight, improves the potential for airline service, helps the maintenance function, and increases crew performance. Yep, the iPad is here to stay.

2. Inflight connectivity is gaining ground worldwide.
By now, around 1400 of the world commercial aircraft fleet has one type of passenger inflight connectivity or another. That leaves some 90% of the fleet connectionless. We should note that all of these are not twin aisle, but if one considers the raw numbers, the market looks good as demand is driven by passenger carry-on devices, and seems to have no bounds. Over water rides are getting more sat-based services, and for numbers, the AirCell ground-based system leads the pack. Without a doubt, Inmarsat’s next generation of high-speed connections and services, coupled with the advent of earlier-than-expected X Band offerings will drive the cost per bit to down-to-earth prices (Ugh!). We should also mention the new hardware providers as well because they will, no doubt, be offering lower cost communication hardware.

3. Lighter weight interiors and seats.
As we reported earlier, carrying around an extra pound of airplane weight can cost anywhere from $200 to $1000 per year in fuel, fees, and wheel-tire-brake costs. This makes the trend toward lighter interiors a money saver and one which actually pays for itself in use. From our perspective, interiors have dropped 5 to 10 percent and we noticed at the show, some seat manufacturers were claiming up to 30% reduction in weights. This drop can be a real benefit to airlines and passengers, for example, more legroom is gained in some cases and removing solid pockets for netting can aid in cleaning and spotting left personal articles. We also note IFE weights seem to be dropping along with the power usage and weights. Check out Thompson Aerospace and Vision Systems for new light weight IFE offerings.

4. Condensed liquid coffee is in.
That’s right, a liquid coffee occupying one tenth the volume of regular brewed coffee added to water can make a great drink and we preferred Cafea. This stuff is good and physics helps out. You see, brewing coffee at aircraft pressures aloft can lower the boiling point of water – maybe below the good coffee boiling point. Enter Cafea, the manufacturer suggests that a thermos of correct temperature hot water is all that’s needed for a good cup of coffee. We agree, and no airborne coffee maker required. Little or no investment costs, no maintenance or repairs, no contracts and virtually no cleaning – what’s not to like?

5. Headset focus.
Headsets are also getting the upgrades. Vendors are investing in new ways to deliver audio to passengers. Notably, the Phitek group with their infrared headset. Based on a clever overhead infrared transmitter, we were wowed by the clear sound and wide “viewing” angle. They also demonstrated a clever magnetic breakaway phone jack. IFPL has developed a nifty, foolproof jack that will not break off in the PCU. Lastly, we can’t say enough about the Bose QC-15 noise cancelling headsets. Great sound, the fabulous aircraft noise cancellation, incredible audio range and the best thing that has happened to our flying experience in years.

6. Increased usage of RFID (Radio Frequency IDentification and NFC.
We will save that one till next issue but this radio technology is gaining in ground with the vendors and advances are being made in inventory control and point of purchase. Stay tuned on this one.

These are by no means the only hot trends and we will cover the IFE-centric ones soon.