Well IFExpress readers, it’s that time again – Aircraft Interiors and here is the story: “This year’s Aircraft Interiors Expo (AIX) 2017, which takes place in Hamburg, Germany from 4th – 6th April, is the global stage to see the latest innovations and product launches from the world’s leading suppliers in aircraft cabin interiors and Inflight Entertainment and Connectivity. This year, AIX welcomes 55 new exhibiting companies, including Adient, Bombardier and airtango. They will join more than 500 companies at the event including longstanding exhibitors such as; Airbus, B/E Aerospace, Boeing, Inmarsat, Panasonic Avionics and Zodiac and newer entrants such as Acro, and Mirus Aircraft Seating. Across AIX as a whole, 125 companies are expanding their presence taking an additional 3,000 sq. meters between them.”

The show news release went on: “According to the IATA’s 2016 Global Passenger Survey, a key concern for passengers, particularly those under 24, is having the same connectivity in the air as on the ground, highlighting the need for continued airline investment to meet passenger needs. This is reflected in the continued growth of the IFEC Zone. It is now the world’s largest event dedicated to content and service providers. There are 18 new showcasing companies including Philotech, LiteAir Aviation Products and Otonomy Aviation, alongside 100 existing exhibitors in the Zone.”

Last year, over 16,000 folks visited the expo and this year we expect no less. In fact, see what the folks at AIX are saying; “AIX is part of the Passenger Experience Week, which also includes the World Travel Catering and Onboard Services Expo, co-located with AIX at the Hamburg Messe from 4th – 6th April.  Organized by Reed Exhibitions, some 20,000 visitors are expected to register to attend Passenger Experience Week. The first of the events taking place at the Hamburg Messe during Passenger Experience Week is the renowned Passenger Experience Conference (PEC) on 3rd April. The event is dedicated to the future of the passenger experience industry and incorporates a broad choice of presentations and panel discussions on the key themes of generating revenue, the connected journey and comfort and wellbeing. Leading speakers on these topics come from inside and outside the passenger experience industry including Dick Powell, the Chairman of design agency Seymourpowell, Paul Edwards, head of Industrial Design at Airbus and Blake Emery, Direction Differentiation Strategy at Boeing Commercial Airplanes.”

AIX also mentioned: “New to the PEC this year is the Airline Breakfast Forum. This addition presents an opportunity for airline attendees to network, debate informally with their peers about issues relevant to improving the passenger experience in their businesses and to share best practice insights. Attendees at the Airline Breakfast Forum will also be invited to a keynote by Jeff James, vice president and general manager of the Disney Institute.”

Polly Magraw, Event Director of the Aircraft Interiors Expo, noted: “2017 is set to be a landmark year for AIX, with record growth from both new and existing exhibitors, much of it in our burgeoning IFEC zone. With such a wealth of companies exhibiting at the show, and more than 1,000 airline executives expected to attend, it’s no surprise that AIX is becoming firmly established as the event that sets the agenda for the aircraft interiors sector.”

Additionally, we should note that CabinSpace LIVE, a theater style series of seminars where visitors can learn and be inspired on a variety of pressing issues within the IFEC, Interiors and MRO sectors, will also be taking place during AIX. And by the way, Passenger Experience Week also incorporates the 11th annual Crystal Cabin Awards, which takes place on the evening of Tuesday 4th April, with seven award categories that celebrate the most innovative ideas in cabin design and technology.

(Editor’s Note: This is the Big One and we hope our readers come to Hamburg – and for US visitors, we hope you can get back in the USA…”)


QANTAS & NETFLIX

Netflix has announced plans to offer in-flight on-demand entertainment from its app with every Qantas flight, allowing passengers to stream live sports, news and TV shows for three days without a subscription. Qantas passengers on Wi-Fi equipped flights will be able to binge-watch Netflix and stream songs from Spotify. The midair entertainment game-changer will be delivered over high-speed Wi-Fi, which Qantas claimed would be “10 times faster” than its rivals, and will be available on one Boeing 737 late this month, with the rest of the fleet following in June – and yes, you need an App. Also we note that under the scheme, Foxtel television will offer passengers three days of free streaming, while Netflix and Spotify offer 30-day free trials as long as passengers subscribe. By the way, there will be no seat back screens onboard so you will need your own device. Stay Tuned on this one, it could be a world wide game changer.


BIOMETRICS

A new biometrics-based seamless passenger-walkthrough in Schiphol Airport will modernize passenger journey experience in the scope of the ongoing Digital Airport Program. Schiphol Airport selected Vision-Box, the Passenger Experience leaders responsible for processing over 200 million passengers per year at borders worldwide, to take up the challenge. New technology will be tested from 2017 to offer passengers a seamless experience, increase throughput and eliminate bottlenecks, thus enhancing capacity within the existing footprint!


SINGAPORE

SINGAPORE AIRLINES signed LOI to order 19 more (now 49) Trent-powered 787-10s for delivery from FY20/21 and 20 GE9X- powered 777-9s for delivery from FY21/22, and option six 787-10s and six 777-9s. Noted Boeing: “The 787-10 is the third member of the super-efficient, passenger-pleasing 787 Dreamliner family. With its greater passenger and cargo capacity, high degree of commonality and passenger-pleasing features, the 787-10 will complement the family while setting a new benchmark for fuel efficiency and operating economics – 25 percent better fuel per seat and emissions than the airplanes than the competition it will replace. Since its introduction, the 787 Dreamliner has opened more than 130 new city pairs, connecting the world as never before.”


AIRBUS

AIRBUS plans to donate four of its flight test aircraft to the Museum of Air and Space in Paris-Le Bourget and Aeroscopia in Toulouse: A320 (001), A340-600 (360), A380 (002), and A380 (004), which as first of the four will arrive in Paris on Feb 14.


VTS

According to Web Barth: “The world’s largest selling digital player just got even better – VTS (Video Technology Services) today announced that it is introducing a new DVP digital player that will solve problems with videotape drives for entertainment and PRAMS while adding an optional Moving Map.

He went on: “VTS had maintained old videotape players and drives for many airlines around the world since the 1980s and has firsthand experience with the problems & expense of videotape including: Videotape shortages & tape replacement due to video/sound degradation, Videotape Logistics (collecting, accounting, sending/receiving), and the growing videotape player, drive maintenance expense

To solve these problems, VTS introduced the first “Plug and Play” digital drive replacements for all existing VHS Reproducers/Hi8 Players.

“VTS DVP was the first player to meet the ‘form, fit and function’ criteria: “Slide out VHS player, slide in DVP Digital Player, turn new system on. See for yourself, continued Web.

“The new VTS DVP digital player can improve cabin wide video and an audio performance to modern day expectations; eliminate maintenance expense and logistics problems associated with tape drive units. Further it can eliminate the problem of tape driven PRAMS combining the ease of digital audio as well as companion video to go along with the prerecorded announcement and music. They come with a moving map feature to bring the existing IFE to better than new.” VTS believes there is no more affordable or faster means of making an older IFE system better than new. You can contact VTS via webbarth@vts.global.com


INDUSTRY GROWTH

The Airline Monitor expects unprecedented 7-year run of >6% annual growth to soon come to an end; in effect, that above average traffic growth will continue independently, so when it doesn’t – deliveries will have to decline.

(Editor’s Note: IFExpress saw this coming and can you guess what might be the cause?)

 

 

 

 

 

 


We cannot think of an IFE show in recent years that we have not walked by the Stellar Entertainment booth to be met with a “G’day! Have a piece of candy,” by a tall silver-haired gentleman. It is precisely the way we will always remember Rob Lynch, Chairman of Stellar Entertainment… his presence and personal demeanor, which is partly what this Hot Topic is about. The other part is about how he and his wife, Helen, have made a success of their humble IFE content beginnings, some 40 years ago with Qantas. More importantly, it is a success story that needs retelling because, who else do you know that has 40 years in this crazy business and, still has their first customer!

When we first decided to do an interview with Stellar someone told us, “You don’t stay in business for 40 years without doing stuff right!” Accordingly, the Stellar Entertainment story begins in 1974 when Rob and his wife, Helen, answered a newspaper ad written to provide Qantas with in-flight programming. They won and later in 1979 they expanded into audio production and post-production services. Today Stellar Entertainment is a full Content Service Provider that offers IFE, in-flight audio production and post-production, music composition, content acquisition and more.

To start from the beginning, this past September we had the pleasure of interviewing the co-founder of Stellar Entertainment, the Australian-based Content Service Provider (CSP). The name Stellar is somewhat obvious, “With airplanes in the stars and inflight movies featuring stars, it was pretty obvious to us what our logo was going to be,” said Rob Lynch.

Stellar is one of the top three CSP in the IFE industry and they are well known in Asia, and today, they have some 75 employees who assist the airlines in delivering the right programming to passengers. Mr. Lynch told IFExpress that in no uncertain terms is he planning on retiring any time soon and it appears to us that his reasoning is based upon his enjoyment of the industry. He also seems to particularly enjoy the complex equipment and processes involved in the science: “Technology has really driven change in this business, more specifically over the past 6 – 7 years… and I love it! The digital age has changed our business and our world and it is one reason why I never seam to get tired of working with our airline partners.” As an example of his love of technology, we note that Stellar was an early adapter of the iPad and worked with BlueBox to provide service on JetStar. “It took 18 months to get the two big conglomerates to agree, but in the end, BlueBox designed the necessary software and we got the order, which included the iPad, and content from four Hollywood Studios!”

Rob went on to say, “In July we have been in this business for forty years. Stellar Entertainment was originally Helen Irvine & Associates and Qantas was the launch customer for our business in the in-flight entertainment industry and they have remained with us throughout our 40 years and in that time we have provide service to some 25 customers. In fact, I think we are the first CSP to reach a 40-year milestone with a customer!” However, Qantas is not Stellar’s only long-term client. “We have just renewed our contract with Malaysia and have been there with them for 25 years.”

While talking with Stellar at APEX we also spoke with Stellar CEO, Peter McLaughlin and he noted that content service providers really have two options: They can take a cookie cutter approach or choose a tailored route, the latter being Stellar’s choice. “We see the world as a partnership, not just a supplier.” We note that in Stellar’s case, their selection of partnerships obviously prove the longevity that they enjoy with their customers.

During our interview one of the requirements that we understood to be tantamount for success was to get the right people and train them properly, especially training about the importance of the customer. In fact, Stellar has an international mentoring system that helps pass on customer knowledge. “We want people who know how to listen and interpret what the customer (and market) wants and we teach them that every customer is different. We have a staff that has a broad spectrum of experience ranging from engineering, to content, to airline.” To quote Mr. Lynch, “We’ve stuck with our knitting. I’ve been in entertainment all my life and began this business as a radio announcer, but Stellar Entertainment from the very beginning has been a family business.” He went on, “We have a very low employee turnover rate. At the end of the day all you have are your people and your brand. So my recommendation to your readers is spend a lot of time taking care of them.”

To Lynch, content is king and their in-flight entertainment approach is that “it is all about content”. He noted that Stellar is always mindful of this mantra and therefore the company is willing to develop, generate, or purchase content whether it is art house movies, independent films, Hollywood movies, etc. “Stellar will purchase content from anyone. Today we go to extremes to get that day-to-day foreign content vs. the first run films.”

When we asked Rob how Stellar Entertainment has stayed in the business for so many decades he said, “You also have to expand and grow or your company will be done. To that end, today Stellar Entertainment owns 50% of Sky Victory in Mainland China with a staff of 10 in Beijing. You must be a multifaceted company. And, you have to have loyalty to your customer. I’ve had the same wife, the same lawyer, and the same accountant from the very beginning. Loyalty is the most important attribute for either an individual or a company. It maybe old fashioned, but the importance of loyalty cannot be diminished. Get to know your customer,” he said.

In closing we note that Stellar Entertainment is consistent, they understand the customer, they listen, they have market knowledge, and most importantly, they deliver on a promise. We cannot think of a better way to do business. One supposes that we should close with something prophetic, but for the life of us, we cannot think of anything after the preceding success story…  so for closers, we will just say, “G’Day, and have a piece of candy.”


Product Update: Thompson Aerospace’s CSUv2 server

One of our APEX reviews pointed out a real security-based, data transmission product rolled out by Thompson Aerospace at the show, the CSUv2 server that is the core of the 1Netv2 system. It is the highest level of secure off-aircraft (commercial), data communication we know of… all via Iridium or cellular towers. Thompson’s VP Business Development, Craig Jones told IFExpress: “Thompson Aerospace has the only patented Airborne Local Area Network and security for moving all non flight critical data between the aircraft and cloud. With all the recent cyber attacks aircraft data certainly need a high level of protection. The CSUv2 is the most powerful and secure server available in the market today. Managing all the data it represents a paradigm shift in creating the first true ecosystem for aircraft data.” When we looked into the solution we found that no one today is moving data between the airplane and the cloud. While there is a good amount being delivered to the ground, the issue is data availability (worldwide via Amazon Cloud) and security…and Thompson claims FIPS 3.

What data hacking is occurring to airline data is not known to IFExpress but if the airplane follows the ground experiences, why wait? Airlines have claimed the use of bad credit cards has ballooned and we have heard of bad card numbers as high as 20%. One airline even used cockpit communication check of high value card sales (What must that cost?). The Thompson solution uses worldwide Iridium connectivity from the plane (burst mode) to be applied to credit card sales and onboard purchases of all kinds via their new 2 MCU server. The Iridium transmitter is in the server and a small Iridium antenna is installed on the plane. Craig told IFExpress that handheld readers (wireless connections) or installed credit card readers would be connected to the server via WI-FI networks “Even wireless PEDs are a possible reading device,” Craig told us, “We have closed the loop!”

Craig mentioned that Electronic Flight Bag data is a potential, “as well as all Category C” data, he noted. They have even done lab testing for hacking and because the unit is controlled by security firmware in the machine, the data remains quite safe. “Hardware security is the secret, not software”, he told us. “We see flight tracking (when actuated as a backup), health monitoring, and flight recording data as potential airline uses,” he said.

We also thought the use of Amazon Cloud services as an interesting ground based storage solution. “The data is encrypted and the customer has can into the required information with a security key,” said Jones. “Further,” he noted, “airlines are looking at pilot performance data and navigation information so the airlines have the ability to review pilot performance data, since the server collects all data from the 717 and 429 buses as well. Additionally, airlines have told us that if they can prove how long an airplane was is in a location, they can reduce charges pertaining to domicile taxes, CO2 emission and navigation, fees”.

We have included a couple attachments here:  a press release, a product brief of the CSUv2 and product description.