Wireless stuff on planes

Wanna save a ton of weight on your airplane?  Perhaps getting rid of some of the hundreds of miles of wires running throughout the plane would be a good place to start.  But what about all the things that those wires are used for, like in-flight entertainment (IFE) systems?  Make ‘em all wireless.

Apparently Boeing had started working with vendors on a wireless IFE system for the 787 Dreamliner but bailed on it when it became clear that they weren’t going to be able to secure government approvals or sufficient quantities of the wireless chips in time to guarantee that the 787 would come off the line with the IFE functional.  In the meantime, however, a company called Bluebox has put together a system that apparently works in the Boeing Business Jets well enough that Airbus wants to see how well it will fly on the A380.  A test installation is scheduled for next week in Hamburg at the Airbus A380 demo facility.  More on the test can be found here and here

Apparently Bluebox has secured deals with major Hollywood studios to provide “first run” content on the systems, at least in the BBJ product.  That means lots of content available and potentially weight savings from an installation of the product, all good things for both the airlines and the passengers.  Of course, it still needs approval for commercial airplane operations and a customer to buy it.  The test plans with Airbus suggest that the A350 might be the target for a green-field implementation, but Airbus is mum on that topic for now.

The other fun bit that I came across was an update on wireless in-flight internet connectivity.  And I’m not even talking about the decisions by Delta and American to censor their in-flight internet offering.  There’s another player in the in-flight broadband market, and they are claiming that they have so many customers that they don’t care about the commercial carriers.  ViaSat plays in the satellite connectivity space rather than the terrestrial space, so they can provide global coverage.  And they are currently doing so in conjunction with Lufthansa for private planes and maritime customers.  It is always good to see more options for such connectivity, assuming they keep the prices reasonable. 

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.