Turboprop Cabin Electronics: What's New?

What is available for passengers aboard today’s business turboprops to remain productive, entertained, or comfortable en route to their destination? Gerrard Cowan learns about the leading edge cabin electronics solutions from the industry’s experts…

Gerrard Cowan  |  08th June 2021
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    Gerrard Cowan
    Gerrard Cowan

    Gerrard Cowan is a freelance journalist who focuses on aerospace and finance. In addition to his regular...

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    A passenger using their laptop in a Beechcraft King Air cabin

    There have been a range of developments in cabin electronics for turboprop aircraft in recent years, with a particular emphasis on the integration of Personal Electronic Devices.

    Technology in cabin entertainment systems change quickly, according to one spokesperson representing Pilatus Aircraft. It’s for this reason that the company decided against equipping its Pilatus PC-12 turboprop aircraft with fixed entertainment hardware. 

    “The philosophy for our aircraft is to ‘bring your own device’,” the spokesperson explains. Both the PC-12 NGX and the PC-24 Super Versatile Jet from Pilatus are equipped with an integrated Cabin Management System (CMS), a web browser-based system allowing passengers to manage all the cabin comfort and entertainment functions of the aircraft with the help of their own mobile phone, tablet or laptop.

    The Personal Electronic Device (PED) then connects via Wi-Fi and internet browser to the aircraft’s systems, allowing the passenger access to the internet, a moving map with flight information, cabin temperature and lighting control, access to films and music, and radio.

    Daher, too, is focused on the use of personal electronic devices in the cabin, according to a company spokesperson, although in this case, the focus is on personal computers or tablets rather than specific in-flight entertainment systems.

    The company – which produces the Kodiak 100 and modern variants of the TBM range – offers a 115V universal power outlet in the passenger cabin, and seven high-power USB charging ports that are capable of connecting most electronic devices. (This can be increased through an extended storage cabinet replacing a seat, which can offer more power outlets – for example, to plug in a coffee machine.)

    Multiple Options Available

    Aircraft owners and operators can choose from several different options and capabilities for their CMS, IFE and other cabin feature upgrades, regardless of whether the aircraft is a turboprop or a business jet, according to Brian Adams, Vice President of Aftermarket Innovation at Textron Aviation.

    Adams stresses the importance of having “a clear vision of the customer’s final goal and an understanding of their wants and needs, so we can tailor the cabin management system to meet their expectations”. 

    Leveraging commercial electronics and capitalizing on wireless technology can also drive costs down for operators, he notes.

    Finally, he said that aircraft owners and operators should consider how they will be able to see demonstrations of any desired upgrades to their cabin electronics, particularly against the backdrop of COVID-19, which has called for changes in how Textron and other manufacturers conduct their operations and services.

    Adams says Textron is investing in product development and has adapted its means of communicating with customers, offering the option of virtual product demonstrations and similar concepts.

    Connectivity for Smaller Airplanes (Including Turboprops)

    Meanwhile, Satcom Direct provides a range of cabin connectivity solutions which support Wi-Fi, to voice, to satellite television.

    While the company has focused more on the business jet market to date, hardware from its new ‘Plane Simple’ antenna systems will enable high-speed connectivity to smaller aircraft, including many in the turboprop domain.

    According to Michael Skou Christensen, Vice President of Satcom Direct International, “Smaller planes have had a tough time accessing some of these technologies up until now, but in the future, we will have the technologies and the equipment – both in terms of cabin electronics but also in terms of the networks available to us – that will enable us to actually deliver a connectivity solution to those segments.”

    In the meantime, with the focus being facilitating the use of passengers’ personal electronic devices, and the average trip being shorter than aboard a business jet, there’s plenty to keep passengers productive, entertained, and comfortable on today’s turboprop flights, whether that’s achieved via the cutting-edge solutions offered by the leading aircraft manufacturers today, or via a retrofit solution.

    For the latest Cabin Electronics articles, answers to your FAQs, quick tips and more, visit the Cabin Electronics for Private Planes hub.

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