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Cabin Interior Upgrades

A lowdown on control systems and cabin lighting technology.

Within the Plane Sense on Cabin Avionics feature that appeared in the April issue of World Aircraft Sales Magazine- we discussed some ‘gotcha’ scenarios relating to the selection and installation of cabin communications systems. This month- we will look specifically at some systems to consider for installation to upgrade legacy or pre-owned aircraft in terms of entertainment and comfort. Most of these systems come at a relatively low cost when viewed in the context of how greatly they can modernize and improve efficiency for the cabin and passengers.

The main cabin interior system essentially falls under one of two groups; Entertainment and Control systems. Cabin entertainment will cover many items such as audio and video- whereas cabin control covers lighting and environment control systems.

Entertainment systems take many forms and offer varying degrees of sophistication within the aircraft cabin. The most basic and highly utilized are audio and visual systems.

Audio systems can be utilized throughout the cabin or through independent headsets at each seat. A major innovation in headsets was the development of ‘active noise canceling’- which works by creating sound waves to actively counter-balance the noise being produced from an aircraft engine- or the sounds being produced by the surrounding cabin environment.

Music and voices use a different sound spectrum so those sounds are not cancelled in the process- and the quality of delivery is therefore not compromised. Bose was a major innovator in this technology and additional information can be found at www.bose.com.

Moving on to the visual side of technology- and many legacy entertainment systems comprise older VHS systems that can be readily reconfigured to utilize newer DVD and Bluray technology currently being provided by many suppliers- including Honeywell (www.honeywell.com) and Rockwell Collins (www.rockwellcollins.com). Relatively straightforward- the change-over in most cases can even be undertaken utilizing the existing wiring.

Also falling under cabin avionics are the variety of cabin control systems that help ensure the cabin environment is as comfortable and productive as possible. Essentially- these systems control cabin lighting- temperature and air conditioning. For many legacy aircraft the cabin heating and air conditioning could only be controlled from the cockpit- requiring direct input from the flight crew - and during the various stages of flight this would tend to prove cumbersome and intrusive- especially during the critical initial and final phases of a flight when the crew were busy with the operation of the aircraft.

Clearly it is not conducive for a pilot to be interrupted for temperature changes that are required by the passengers- and today- Honeywell has developed the Ovation Select 200C Personal Control Unit to enable passengers to take control of their environment. Designed from the outset for a simplified installation utilizing a common MHL4 control unit generally found in the galley on most legacy aircraft- installation is usually a direct ‘pin-for-pin’ installation with minor ‘trim and fit’ for the display and controller unit.

Honeywell has developed and built its Ovation C Series Cabin Management System in order to update an existing cabin to “provide maximum comfort and productivity”. The system was built around the Controller Area Network (CAN) data bus typically adaptable to analog legacy aircraft allowing for installations of numerous systems such as iPod- DVD players- newer LCD displays including Honeywell’s JetMap II moving map or Airshow.

The JetMap system is also iridium-based which many legacy aircraft already have installed- thus allowing for a simplified installation. If the legacy aircraft already has a Honeywell FMS such as the SPZ 2000 then this is also a simplified ‘pin-to-pin’ installation owing to system compatibility.

Alternatively- Emteq (www.emteq.com) has developed a management system called SkyPro. A productivity tool for aircraft- SkyPro incorporates elements of connectivity and comfort and claims to offer any older aircraft a custom solution - and is marketed as an especially good option for older aircraft in which the Cabin Management System is no longer supported. SkyShow is the moving map display system provided by Emteq.

And Rockwell Collins offers Venue as its Cabin Management System. The company has also gone down the digital and high definition route with its new system.

A key benefit to a Cabin Management System is connection to various devices such as iPod- telecommunications- fax- lighting- cabin temperature- monitors- cameras- security systems- Ethernet and wireless Internet along with many others.

Of equal importance is aircraft interior lighting... Think about it - the lighting can determine so much about passenger productivity in-flight. Legacy aircraft lighting in many cases tends to be a type of incandescence or fluorescence lighting system that utilizes older technology- requires numerous bulb changes and will tap into the limited electricity being produced by the aircraft.

That doesn’t touch on the difficulty of access: Many times have I seen headliners needing to be removed just to replace burned-out light bulbs. In such cases- the bulb replacement will be deferred until the next maintenance trip resulting in low-lighted areas throughout some parts of the aircraft- which you can be sure doesn’t sit too well with the passengers in the back.

The much newer LED lighting systems are significantly lighter- longer-lasting- and save on weight - plus they are capable of transforming the mood inside the aircraft with wash lighting. Colors can be utilized in LEDs to soften or brighten the cabin according to personal tastes.

Of interest is that Grimes - the well-known lighting provider in the industry was acquired by Emteq- thereby ensuring that Grimes’ replacement lights are compatible with the newer LED lights from Emteq.

At the expense of sounding like a broken record- proper planning is essential to any aircraft upgrade program! Make sure the facility you intend to use understands the exact changes that you desire- and that it is capable of working on your aircraft type- and fully understands the project at hand.

Talk to the equipment manufactures directly too. They will gladly assist you throughout the process. A quick call to Honeywell- Rockwell Collins or Emteq- for example will greatly benefit you.

Ask to speak to someone in technical sales or customer support- and they will guide you through the process.

And don’t forget - it may be of further benefit to ask a consultant for assistance. They have the experience to assist and oversee your program ensuring your needs are being met and in many cases exceeded!

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: john@avbro.com

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