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Cabin Avionics:
The latest and greatest equipment on the market

Aircraft cabin productivity is best summarized as allowing passengers to continue working on their projects and proposals in-flight- while being in real-time contact with the office- and knowing what is happening around the globe during their flight.

Today’s equipment designed to enable this allows voice communications- Internet and e-mail access and the use of monitors to review and work on presentations. For the busy executive the syncing of the office to wherever they may be in the world has been the 'holy grail' of business aviation.

After all- the aircraft is also an extension of the office which allows a company to maximize the utilization of its executives during periods away from the home front. Therefore to have an aircraft be as productive as possible we must look at items that can increase the productivity of the busy executive while on his/her travels. In this review- we’ll break our analysis into three areas: communication; data transference; and situational awareness.

Communication has always been the most important of our three categories- and airborne communication has been around for some time now. Initially it was limited to central areas of the United States- before being expanded to include all of North America- and today with satellite communications- we have global coverage.

These days we generally talk about communication and data transference in the same breath- since most suppliers offer both solutions through one unit. Rockwell Collins has coined the following ‘Golden Rule’ expression which it uses in its marketing material: 'It’s no longer whoever has the gold rules; it’s whoever has the information rules.'

Being aware of what is happening around us at any given time is important for everybody- but what about the traveling executive flying out for a meeting? Vital situations can change within minutes -even seconds. Situational awareness can offer an advantageous edge. With this in mind- we’ll take a look at what tools are available to the busy executive that can increase their productivity on-board the average corporate aircraft.

Founded in 1999 with the goal of manufacturing high-quality- affordable cabin entertainment equipment- Flight Display Systems first introduced the Flight Display Moving Map in 2001 which provided a dramatically more cost effective solution at $8-000 while offering all the same features and functionality compared to the only other Moving Map for VIP aircraft available at that time- which retailed at around $60-000.

Monitors are a huge part of productivity in the cabin since they can be utilized for presentation- situational awareness with moving map and television systems.

Flight Display Systems offers many different monitors from 5 inches to 52 inches. A major advantage of installing a larger monitor during the next cabin upgrade is weight reduction since newer monitors tend to be lighter than the older bulkier monitor being replaced. Of primary importance for passengers- however- is that larger monitors display presentations far better. At any level it is much easier on the eye to utilize a larger monitor.

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Honeywell Aerospace provides an effective airborne communication and data connectivity solution through its MCS-7000 Series and Gateway Satellite Communication systems. Situational awareness is provided by JetMap II Airshow system- which also provides live news- weather and other updates. Honeywell is also upgrading its Ovation Select in the second quarter of this year and updates will include high-definition capability.

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ICG is relatively new to this group- but has come a long way since its beginning in 1995- when providing ship to shore communications for the cruise ship industry. In 2000 ICG expanded to airborne communication and hasn’t looked back since. “An advantage of being a small player is that we can provide customized solutions- and not be dragged down by the bureaucracies of a large corporation-” remarked Jeff Saucedo- VP of sales and marketing.

ICG has developed SORA which seamlessly integrates Iridium and Inmarsat satellite systems when required. The SORA system consists of the NxtLink 220A which is a dual transceiver capable of connecting directly to the flight deck for ACARS and to the cabin for voice and data communications. The system also has the NxtMail Server which permits Wi-Fi capable devices such as a Blackberry or iPhone to access Internet services.

Rounding out the SORA system is the Cobham HLD-7260 High Power Amplifier and Antenna System- plus the Cobham SDU-7320 Satellite Data Unit to provide full-feature SwiftBoardBand at a data speed of up to 330 Kbps. ICG currently supplies to OEMs such as Bombardier- Dassault Falcon- Embraer and Gulfstream.

ICG is also heavily involved with the NextGen issues concerning aviation. NextGen is considering ways to make ATC more efficient by encompassing communication- navigation and surveillance. This in the end will permit direct routing from point A to point B instead of the current airway system which is not so direct- thus making the passengers more productive in the air and getting them to their destination quicker.

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Rockwell Collins provides a communications and data service solution in its eXchange (with service by SKYlink). For all the executive Blackberry users out there- rejoice! Your “crackberry” will now work on your aircraft thanks to eXchange. eXchange works with the user’s smart phone- laptop or Wi-Fi enabling the user to remain connected to e-mail- the Internet and the company VPN. By utilizing satellite-based connections- the user can remain connected from ground to take-off and on for the duration of the flight to practically anywhere. The data is also secure due to the latest data encryption utilized.

The eXchange system can be coupled with Rockwell’s Venue cabin control system- which will display PowerPoint presentations on cabin monitors instead of everyone needing to huddle over one laptop during an in-flight presentation. Another of Venue’s strong features is its high-definition distribution.

“It is important for us to develop our cabin productivity around what people will bring on board the aircraft to work with-” explained Andrew Mohr- Principal marketing manager- Rockwell Collins.

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Satcom Direct provides services for both Iridium and Inmarsat users. It’s a wonderful thing to have all the latest and greatest in communications and data connectivity- but being unable to use it- or not being able to get a hold of your service provider will not assist in your productivity.

Satcom Direct’s sole business is to handle your communication and connectivity requirements.

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You may notice that one important aspect of productivity-enhancing cabin equipment is missing from this discussion: Use of your personal cell phone in flight. The technology has been developed to allow for this- but the problem lies in the control.

Cell phone signals can travel relatively long distances by line of sight- thus creating interference with cell phones on the ground using the same signal. There have also been discussions about cell phones causing interference with cockpit avionics- but that has yet to be proven.

Today’s modern avionics must be shielded from interference problems in order to be certified. Boeing- FAA- NASA- airlines and many other organizations and individuals have NEVER been able to prove personal electronics and cell phones have caused interference in aircraft avionics.

The reality is that no one knows how to charge for the calls since the signals are bouncing everywhere from one base station to another. It’s kind of funny how Bose sells its new headsets for general aviation with a cell phone adapter- but states: “To be used on ground only”.

John Brodeur is an Aviation Consultant with experience in Completion Management- Interior Design- Maintenance- Sales and Acquisitions- along with being a Pilot and A&P for business aircraft. Mr. Brodeur can be contacted at Tel: +1 647-448-4748 (cell) or Email:

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