Company says offer of award-winning IFE solution for visually impaired passengers is “the right thing to do”
APEX EXPO, Boston USA | September 24, 2018– At APEX EXPO, Bluebox Aviation Systems has announced that all existing and new customers of Bluebox’s iPad-based IFE platforms will benefit from the company’s development of Bluebox aIFE, an app for visually impaired passengers that won a Crystal Cabin Award earlier this year. For all Bluebox iPad devices currently in service, Bluebox offers to provide the upgrade free of charge, in line with device update cycles. The combined build platform will also be offered to any new customers of iPad-based IFE deployments at no extra cost. The combined build enables cabin crew to switch between the standard IFE mode (Bluebox Ai or Bluebox Hybrid, a Wi-Fi enabled version of Bluebox Ai) and accessibility mode (Bluebox aIFE) depending on a passenger’s needs.

“Since launching Bluebox aIFE with Virgin Atlantic, we developed a way of combining the standard and accessible versions on the same device,” said Kevin Clark, CEO, Bluebox. “Recognising how simple it is to update Virgin Atlantic’s iPads, we thought we would be just extend the same capability to all of our customers. Having worked with a group of visually impaired people in the system’s development, and hearing the feedback from Virgin Atlantic passengers about what it means to be able to use the system, we felt it was the right thing to do, and could be our contribution to directly improving the passenger experience of visually impaired passengers around the world.”
Bluebox worked closely with Virgin Atlantic and a group of visually impaired people from the UK charity Guide Dogs in the development of the original Bluebox aIFE platform, which has been entertaining passengers with visual impairments aboard Virgin Atlantic flights serving destinations across North America, the Caribbean, Africa, China, India and the Middle East.
The combined build offers airlines providing IFE a two-in-one solution for ensuring IFE is available to all passengers throughout their flight – at a tap of an on-screen button, a cabin crew member selects the accessible version for someone who is visually impaired, or the standard IFE mode. When the devices are offered for rent during a flight, it means visually impaired passenger can take up the offer just like anyone else. Or, where the devices are used for service recovery on an aircraft with seatback IFE, it means the same device can be used as the primary screen for a visually impaired passenger or as a backup if any other passenger’s seatback screen malfunctions.
Bluebox will upgrade devices in line with the deployment cycles of existing customers taking up the offer, working with them closely to ensure they understand how the new functionality works. For any new customer of Bluebox Ai or Bluebox Hybrid, the combined build with Bluebox aIFE can be included in the initial deployment.

Perhaps you have heard enough about IFEC for commercial jets? If so, we have a solution for you! Have you heard about SkyFlix? To answer our own question and provide some introduction we have been communicating with Tyler Erdman, CEO of SkyFlix, about an ostensibly small, clever, inflight movie viewer that runs via stored iPads. We met Tyler in Hamburg in 2013 and told him to contact us when he had his product. We also thought our readers might like to see the ongoing challenge that small companies face in developing entertainment hardware for the world of aviation – thus, SkyFlix 2. We ask a few questions that we thought our readers might want to know about, like… well, here is his commentary intro:

Back in 2013 I had met with one of your reporters at AIX Hamburg, and talked to them about my startup Tablet IFE. At the time we had just started developing the concept for our portable IFE system. The mention you gave us was our first bit of press. Since that meeting we’ve been hard at work refining our system, and integrating customer feedback. I was wondering if IFExpress would be interested in covering what we came up with? Our latest system SkyFlix 2 provides a media server, wireless router, and iPad charger in one sleek and portable unit. Just plug it into an outlet on nearly any aircraft and it can be ready within a minute. Passengers can take one of the eight iPad Pro devices from the charging dock, and start watching their favorite content in moments.  We’ve delivered over a dozen SkyFlix 2 systems to aircraft operators around the world. Attached is the SkyFlix 2 press release and photos. We believe our dramatically different interpretation of what IFE should be is bound to be of great interest to aircraft owners of all sizes.”

That got us thinking. While his product has been designed to play movies on iPads and provide storage, a server, Wi-Fi router and charging, is it the ultimate simplicity for biz jet IFE? So, we asked a few specific questions and here is what Tyler had to say:

“You had asked about how we came to develop SkyFlix 2.  We had a customer who had purchased a Gulfstream and installed satellite internet, prior to chartering it.  The first bill they received was well into the five figure range after passengers downloaded a couple movies during a flight.  Needless to say they weren’t very happy. The owner wanted an IFE system so that passengers could keep themselves entertained without using the internet connection.  We looked at what was on the general aviation market, and found that most systems were extremely expensive and lacking features we thought they should have.”

“Most IFE systems are only designed to provide media streaming, requiring a separate wireless router and often requiring passengers to use their own devices. Having so many different systems that need to work well together made it hard for the flight crews to guarantee a good passenger experience, and all the different parts made it difficult to troubleshoot when problems arose.”

Further, Tyler noted: We wanted to design SkyFlix 2 to be as simple as possible by designing every aspect of the passenger experience, and found that by making it totally portable we had the freedom to do so.  We could design our own media server, wireless router, and use our own devices to be sure that everything worked as we intended while ensuring reliability.  Our goal was to design a system that would fade into the background; all the crew and passengers would have to worry about was picking up an iPad and enjoying themselves.”

“Our first system was met with great reviews from flight crews and passengers alike, and shortly thereafter the operator ordered a second unit for another of their aircraft.  They continued to receive accolades, and we decided to further develop and refine our idea.  After several years of feedback from our customers the result is SkyFlix 2.

Next, we wanted a bit more about the product:

1. What does the full system weigh?

Answer: The system weighs 12 pounds without iPads and requires 110 or 220v at a max of 150W. Each iPad adds an additional pound.”

2. What Tablet is included or can be used (currently Apple iPad only?) and we assume there is a world of apps available?

Answer: “Our charging system is designed to support the latest iPad Pro 9.7″ as well as the iPad Air 2.  We designed SkyFlix 2 to be easily upgradable to support future iPads as they become available. Our iPad application can also be loaded and used on personal devices. Also, given that we use iPad, we can load games, magazines and apps available from the App Store. We generally configure the iPads for customers before shipping so that our customers only need to load content and put SkyFlix 2 on their aircraft.  Our customers can load additional apps at any time internet is available. I should also note that in our device, we support 802.11AC which is the fastest Wi-Fi the iPads support. It can deliver up to 3 times faster performance then 802.11N routers, as well as having longer range.”

3. Is there a way to lock the Apple devices in the power/case?

Answer: “We don’t currently have a way to lock them into the unit. We provide a Pelican Hard Case with every unit that can be used to secure the unit if there is a concern.”

4. Can the supplier or operator load apps…We assume the user cannot?

Answer: “We generally configure the iPads for customers before shipping so that our customers only need to load content and put SkyFlix 2 on their aircraft.  Our customers can load additional apps at any time the internet is available.”

5. Who loads the movies, where are they located, and how many minutes of total movies on hard disk of server?

Answer: The end user loads the content they would like.  Once they prepare the content and load it onto SkyFlix 2, our server will automatically recognize the content and download metadata, graphics and other information. Our system comes with 2TB of solid state storage, which can hold over 400 1080P High Def movies.”

6. Is there a way to notify the crew of tablet numbers without opening a storage location so the crew can remain knowledgeable about device security?

Answer: “To help make it easy to keep track of the iPads, we offer laser engraving so customers can have their logo right on the iPads so they are easily identifiable, as well as running Find my iPad so if any devices leave the aircraft they can be located.  In our experience thus far that has been sufficient in preventing any issues about device security. We also do plan on adding a way to check on the status of the unit and iPads from other devices in the future.”

7. What about certification?

Answer: Skyflix 2 is considered carry on equipment, which makes it easy to move units around to suit the customers’ needs. Multiple units can easily be used together on an aircraft. Since SkyFlix 2 is treated as a portable electronic device, and therefore, it is classified as “loose equipment”. We are able to do so since it only connects to an AC power outlet and is not permanently installed in the aircraft.”

8. How do you handle planes with more passengers than iPads?

Answer: “One of our customers has several units, when they anticipate needing a second unit on a flight they can easily move it around as needed.  In another instance a customer with a 40 seat BBJ purchased 5 units to ensure they have an iPad available for every passenger.”

9. Who are your customers, then?

Answer: “Presently, we are only going after business aviation customers. Most of our customers are either company owned flight departments or charter operations. We wanted to solve pain points for business aircraft and we don’t think that would translate as well to commercial airlines, at least not yet.  Most commercial airlines would likely want installed systems, and want to avoid providing devices. In the future we might revisit that but given the amount of competition in that market we have no immediate plans to do so. And by the way, the unit price is easily under $20,000.”

10. Since the “system” is plugged in, does the iPad device last playing movies the usual length of the iPad power per charge?

Answer: “The iPads will last long enough to watch movies for the duration of just about any flight.  While using our application the battery life would be similar, if not identical to, using any other.”

11. What is the future for SkyFlix 2 and your company?

Answer: We decided early on that commercial airlines wouldn’t be likely customers. From what we found they would be much more conservative and likely to want a certified and installed system rather then a portable one. At some point we might go that route but we think our business aviation customers much prefer the flexibility and upgradability of our portable systems.

All along we talked to other companies that wanted to get into the commercial airline IFE market and they found the sales process to take an extremely long time. As they got close to a sale, a competitor would add a new feature forcing them to add something similar and restart the process.

Our company wanted to avoid that cycle by sticking with business aviation where it was much easier to get the principles to sign off. We can just send out a demonstration unit to a potential customer and get approval at the end of the flight rather then spending months trying to work our way into a large airline… at least for now.”

12. How about providing our readers with some company contact information?

Answer: “Your readers can contact me at or call me directly at 212-759-3549 (SKY-FLIX).”

(Editor’s Note: Tyler is a good guy, think about SkyFlix 2 if you need a small, carry on IFE solution. Hey, how often does the CEO take information calls?)

News & Other:

  • AS-IP TECH, INC.’S WORLD’S FIRST BLUETOOTH SMART INFLIGHT CONNECTIVITY SOLUTION TO BE LAUNCHED BY JETFLY Geneva, Switzerland, May 24, 2016 – AS-IP Tech, Inc. (OTCMKTS:IPTK) announced today that its distributor BizjetMobile Europe has secured Jetfly as the launch customer for CHiiMP Smart, the world’s first Bluetooth Smart inflight connectivity solution.
    CHiiMP Smart was unveiled at the European Business Aviation Convention & Exhibition (EBACE) as the smallest, lightest and most inexpensive inflight connectivity system in the industry that utilizes Bluetooth Smart technology to provide voice, text and email functions. At EBACE, Jetfly CEO Cedric Lescop said, “We’re excited to be installing the CHiiMP Smart system on our fleet of Pilatus PC-12’s. Our aircraft owners, crew and clients will now be able to stay in contact wherever and whenever they fly. We chose CHiiMP Smart because of its simplicity, easy installation and low operating costs. It will further enhance our commitment to be ‘simply closer’”.
    AS-IP Tech, Inc. CEO Ron Chapman said, “AS-IP Tech, Inc. is pioneering an alternate course of connectivity in the global aerospace industry. We expect CHiiMP Smart to show the world that our range of Bluetooth Smart connectivity solutions are an exciting alternative to the traditionally expensive Wi-Fi platform. Our ambition is to be the first in the world to deliver inflight communications to passengers for the same price in the air as on the ground. We believe AS-IP Tech, Inc.’s unique Bluetooth Smart platform will be the catalyst that upheaves traditional communication models on airlines and beyond.” Readers: Keep your eye on this technology cause it has the potential to make commercial inflight texting and email very cheap… or free!
  • Think flying is just too expensive, perhaps a cost analysis is in order? We have always wanted to figure why airline tickets cost what they do – Try this video… and (hint), your ticket is a good deal: Why flying is so expensive – Travelers United
  • Don’t forget, June 6 – 9 “The Airline Passenger Experience Association (APEX) is proud to invite you to attend APEX TECH (8-9 June), a gathering of the most forward-thinking and insightful minds in the passenger experience industry, immediately following the 2016 Global Connected Aircraft Summit (6-8 June)!”

London, UK | December 3, 2015– Bluebox Avionics is delighted to announce that its award winning IFE applications are now available on the recently released iPad Pro. This allows airlines to offer clients portable IFE on a stunning 12.9” retina display for an evermore engaging entertainment experience. This comes at the end of a year where Bluebox cumulative shipments for iPad-based IFE devices surpassed 18,000 units since our initial launch in 2011.

Bluebox Ai, and its wireless-connected relative Bluebox Hybrid, are already widely deployed on all versions of 9.7” iPad and the 7.9” iPad mini and this latest development provides airlines with an even larger platform for the delivery of movies, TV, audio, magazines and games. With a screen size bigger than the majority of embedded systems and all in a package that is under 7mm deep and weighing in at a little over 700 grams, the latest Bluebox system variant raises the bar again for a premium IFE experience.

David Brown, Bluebox Avionics Joint Managing Director, is excited by the potential. “Coming towards the end of what has been a record breaking year for Bluebox Avionics, we are delighted to be able to expand the Bluebox portable portfolio to include the iPad Pro. We are already talking to a number of airlines about the potential for deployment in premium cabins.”

Brown continues, “We’ve had a great year rolling out new client deployments on our portable products. These have been used for a variety of purposes such as an alternative to seat back IFE, service recovery, enhancing the business class IFE experience, improving other vendors’ streaming implementations with the provision of Early Window Content, and also ancillary revenue generation. Our own wireless streaming solution, Bluebox wiFE, has generated considerable interest and starts commercial flights in January. We’ve also got a new portable product in the works that we believe will make for a very busy 2016.”

  • First CIS airline to provide cabin crew with iPads

Moscow, Russia| November 19, 2014– Aeroflot has become the first airline in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) to digitize its crew by providing SITA’s CrewTablet to enhance in-flight service to its 20 million passengers. Starting in the last quarter of 2014, Aeroflot will work with air transport IT specialist, SITA, to equip cabin crew with 500 iPad minis™, with a further expansion to 1,200 tablets.

The rollout follows the successful conclusion of a five-month trial with 30 crew members in which the tablets received nearly a 90% satisfaction rating on both technology and usability. Aeroflot’s CrewTablets enable its cabin crew to access passenger and operational data in-flight, improving onboard operations and enhancing service to passengers. In addition, with the use of digital forms and reports, CrewTablet helps Aeroflot reduce operational costs and back-office administrative tasks and generate fuel savings by decreasing the weight of traditional paper reports and manuals carried onboard.

The introduction of crew tablets is part of Aeroflot’s innovation and mobility program, which is designed to keep the company ahead of the market. In particular, the tablets mean cabin crew can provide an even better passenger experience. SITA delivers an end-to-end managed service including iPads, wireless connectivity, mobile applications, and system integration, as well as global operational support. CrewTablet also has the flexibility to add more functionality as new applications are developed and requirements change.

Dave Bakker, SITA President, Europe, said: “Aeroflot is one of the innovators – and the first in Russia – to use SITA CrewTablet technology to become more efficient in-flight. Aeroflot selected CrewTablet because SITA has developed a robust, cutting-edge mobile solution fully integrated into its IT infrastructure. We are already working closely with Aeroflot to connect these tablets to an in-cabin wireless service to enable live communication while the plane is in the air. It’s all part of SITA’s wider e-Aircraft™ concept, which is set to revolutionize how an aircraft integrates with the airline’s ground operations.

London, UK | September 16, 2013– In the world’s first film premiere to be held inflight, Disney’s long-awaited new animation feature Planes makes its official Australian debut in the unusual but highly appropriate venue of a serving commercial aircraft.

Australia’s leading international carrier has partnered with Disney to host the regional premiere, reported to be the first of its kind anywhere in the world.

For both airline and studio, maintaining the pristine digital quality of the entirely computer-generated movie (a successor to Disney-Pixar’s box-office smash series Cars) was critical, even within the confines of an aircraft cabin. The perfect platform to select was the Apple iPad and its advanced “Retina display” screen. For this they turned to the worldwide market leader in inflight entertainment solutions for iPad and iPad mini, Bluebox Avionics.

Bluebox provided an iPad for every seat of the Boeing 767, each loaded with the secure Bluebox Ai app that allows airline clients to offer their passengers the latest “Early Window” Hollywood movies on lightweight devices in the skies.

“Planes was a unique and very enjoyable challenge”, says Stuart McGeachin, Creative Director of DMD Phantom, who managed content presentation issues on the project. “DMD Phantom is a joint owner of Bluebox Avionics, and our contribution included ensuring the onscreen presentation did justice to such an artistically accomplished film.”

His team purpose created a bespoke co-branded “look & feel” for the unique Content Carousel user interface employed on Bluebox Ai. “The big difference being”, he notes, “that rather than presenting upwards of 70 or 80 movie, games and CD titles as we usually do, we were working with just the one!”

For Bluebox Joint MD John Howe “Project Planes” offered another kind of perfect platform: to demonstrate to airlines just how responsive and light-on-its-feet the commercial proposition can be. “From concept to completion”, he notes, “we were able to achieve delivery in just a few short weeks, providing the hardware and the secure Bluebox platform which Disney endorsed for use on this special pre-cinema release of the movie.”

Sometimes we love our work… and this is one of those stories. Covering companies like Lumexis is one for the story books because they are the “IFE Mouse that Roared.” For at least 5 years now, we have been writing about Rich Salter Jr. and Doug Cline and their dream to develop a lighter weight, higher bandwidth IFE system based on fiber optic connectivity and we could not be happier for them. IFExpress covered their escapades from development boxes to show floor rumors and at this year’s AIX in Hamburg, it looks like they won all the marbles: first customer and Crystal Cabin Award. Ah, life is good.

Their first customer, flydubai, is a low cost Arab Emirates airline offering low cost fares to-and-from Dubai with only one-way tickets that are tax inclusive. All extra services are separate and passengers know exactly what they get for their money… nice touch! Pictured in the story is the CEO of flydubai and Doug Cline, President Lumexis. We talked with Mr. Ghaith Al Ghaith, airline CEO and he told us that their 44 B737-800’s will be post delivery modified in the US and that each seat will have a Lumexis display that acts as an entertainment portal with credit card swipe capability. Obviously, their revenue generation model is part of the airline operating network and plays into the airline financial modeling. With routes as long as 4.5 hours, the airline has a perfect product to interface with their customers. Snacks, food, duty free all will be ordered through the Lumexis system, easing crew work load and further automating the aircraft as part of the airline network. Think of it as an onboard accountant. The airline CEO told us that they chose Lumexis because the system was simple and powerful, yet light-weight. We were surprised to find out that the system weight boiled down to 4.4 pounds per seat and is a very impressive number that we heard from the airline and Lumexis alike. Installation ease and maintenance were also mentioned as features, probably because the airline sees value in quick turn-arounds and overnight maintenance. First delivery is in October of 2010 – Stay Tuned.

Also, we note that the Aircraft Interiors Crystal Cabin IFEC Award went to Lumexis and their fiber optic entertainment system and they are quite proud, as you can imagine. The award is for innovative aircraft cabin products, and the prize in the Entertainment and Communication category was won by Lumexis Corporation for its Fiber-To-The-Screen™ system, as the first fully fiber-optics based In-Flight Entertainment (IFE) system. It was cited that the system eliminates the seat electronics box and half the other boxes required by legacy systems, and thereby reduces the weight and cost of ownership. Huge bandwidth is provided by the fiber network to each seat, so that future functionality can be added over the life of the aircraft.

iPad Hoopla Update: Re last week’s IFExpress article – Here is what we have discovered to further round out the Jetstar/iPad story – Jetstar is purchasing the iPads directly from Apple. Their Content Services Provider, Stellar Inflight, commissioned Bluebox to repurpose the devices for IFE. The rental price is purported to be A$10, US$8.40.