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Cabin System Considerations

With all the innovations available in business jet cabin systems today, it can be difficult to decide what components you really need and what technology your passengers expect. Private aircraft today are truly virtual offices in the sky, and in order to maximize their productivity passengers demand the latest internet, phone and electrical access while they are flying.

Steve Watkins   |   1st April 2012
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Steve Watkins Steve Watkins

Steve Watkins is Technical Services Manager, Western Region for Jet Support Services, Inc....
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Reducing your maintenance costs

With all the innovations available in business jet cabin systems today, it can be difficult to decide what components you really need and what technology your passengers expect. Private aircraft today are truly virtual offices in the sky, and in order to maximize their productivity passengers demand the latest internet, phone and electrical access while they are flying.

The challenge for today’s flight operation is to choose the most efficient and user-friendly systems to install, while keeping within budget. In the meantime, maintenance and service technicians will just have to keep up with technology as best they can.

It is so tempting to be the first customer to have a new system or unit installed with the latest functionality. Launch customers are usually offered great discounts from the component manufacturer or the company that is doing the installation. While this may seem like a good deal at the time and might save you on initial costs, you may have more of a challenge finding knowledgeable and competent support for this new unit.

You will most likely be restricted on the installation location and more importantly have limitations on service and repair facilities that could cost you more in the long run.

 

Components should be intuitive
In my opinion, one of the biggest challenges with cabin avionics today is to do with the actual operation and functionality of the system. If the owner, passenger, crew or even the maintenance technician cannot figure out which button is the on/off switch, then you are bound to have countless discrepancies and man-hours spent troubleshooting problems that don’t even exist!

There are so many different systems being installed into aircraft, and choosing the right one with a simple selector switch, with adequate functionality is an important decision. If you always fly the same people, have the same crew and use the same technicians, they will all learn where the on/off button is, no matter what unit you have - but in reality this is rare…

A simple, intuitive selector panel is critical to a good entertainment system and makes changing the display from the Airshow to the DVD player or even turning up the volume, an easy task instead of a frustrating one. The bottom line is that an effective cabin avionic system should not only be able to perform a multitude of functions reliably, day-in-day-out, but also be easy to operate.

 

Save Your Trouble-Shooting Dollars!
When an aircraft first arrives at a maintenance facility, operational checks are performed on just about everything, including the cabin systems. Here’s an example of a possible problem that might arise:

Last week, the technician at the maintenance facility may have inspected a selector switch designed and manufactured by the Gold Plated Selector Switch Company, but your unit is manufactured by the Silver Plated Selector Switch Company. These two selector switches may look similar, but operate very differently. The next thing you know, there is a discrepancy; the system is not working.

Following hours of troubleshooting and lots of phone calls, the corrective action is indicated as follows: ‘Unit was checked in accordance with proper operating instructions and no discrepancy was found’, or ‘Unit operated and tested, and the fault could not be duplicated’. Of course, all of these extra hours of trouble-shooting and phone calls will eventually be added to your bill.

It is always a good practice to make sure someone who knows and understands the system and uses it regularly, be the one that actually checks to see if the unit is not working, or coordinates with the maintenance facility to thoroughly explain the discrepancy within the system.

 

Component Installations May Differ By Aircraft

Another important consideration before a system or unit goes into the shop for repair is the availability of necessary documentation to the maintenance facility for reference. The cabin system you use may be installed in several aircraft, but your aircraft may have a small difference in the installation which requires a special relay that the other aircraft do not have.

This may sound like a minor point that you assume the facility technicians would be aware of, but such assumptions could cost you extra hours of troubleshooting, the replacement of expensive components, and delay of your departure from the shop.

Having electrical drawings and documentation handy that accurately reflect your system’s installation can help you avoid unnecessary expense, delay and unhappy passengers.

 

Proper MEL Saves Time
Whenever there is a problem with a state-of-the-art cabin avionics component, it’s difficult to make one call and have someone qualified come to the rescue and fix the problem. A competent and knowledgeable person who can assist in the repair of these units can be difficult or impossible to find quickly, and to get them where you need them, even harder.

Luckily, cabin systems constitute cabin convenience items, and you can fly the aircraft and stay on schedule, even if they are inoperative, provided you have the right MEL (Minimum Equipment List) onboard. Having a proper and detailed MEL that effectively covers the cabin equipment installation is as important as selecting the right system for your aircraft.

Staying within your budget for maintenance and installations is always a challenge, especially in today’s economy, and it is no different with the latest cabin systems. Doing your research to find the right system that is simple and intuitive and always planning ahead for repairs or possible maintenance snags are always the best practices.

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