JetBlue restyles A320 cabin interior

By Design, Featured, IFEC, SeatingNo Comments

In the first major overhaul of its original fleet since launching in 2000, JetBlue has formally unveiled its first Airbus A320 to undergo the airline’s fleet restyling, which is bringing an all-new interior to its A320 aircraft.

“JetBlue’s A320 restyling is about making the best even better,” said Marty St. George, executive vice president commercial and planning, JetBlue. “JetBlue has built its innovative reputation on offering our customers the very best products and a level of service they won’t find on another US airline and this update ensures we remain the go-to choice for flyers who expect nothing but the best.”

A major focus of the restyling is keeping customers connected throughout their flight, including a new inflight entertainment system, high-definition seatback televisions, in-seat power outlets with USB ports and continued free gate-to-gate Fly-Fi high-speed internet.

The restyling will include two iterations of the design, with the 2018 model introducing features from the popular A321 interior and the 2019 and beyond model featuring an innovative seat design and new in-flight entertainment system.

For roughly the next nine months, JetBlue’s A320s will be restyled with the Rockwell Collins Pinnacle seat and LiveTV 4 entertainment options currently on the airline’s A321 aircraft.

In early 2019, JetBlue will transition to the restyling featuring the Rockwell Collins Meridian seat, customised for the airline’s needs and Thales AVANT and ViaSat-2 products, which will offer a 10.1 inch, 1080P high definition screen at every seat, an expanded collection of on demand movies, TV shows and video content, plus new gaming features, destination-specific content allowing customers to enhance their travel experience, picture-in-picture function, NFC paining turning personal handheld devices into remotes or gaming controllers, and an expanded Fly-Fi connectivity, providing coverage to nearly the entire JetBlue network.

New LED lighting will enhance the look and tone of the in-cabin ambiance and allow for a variety of lighting settings to increase customer comfort. New sidewalls and overhead bins will also be installed, as well as a variety of newly incorporated design elements throughout that will capture JetBlue’s unique style and personality.

JetBlue expects to complete approximately a dozen A320 restyles by the end of 2018, with the ability to complete multiple aircraft each month by 2019. JetBlue’s so-called A320 classics will be restyled first. JetBlue’s overall A320 restyling is set to take approximately three years.

Ventura Air Services seeks SmartSky 4G LTE STC for Learjet 55

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US-based charter, sales and aircraft maintenance services company, Ventura Air Services has committed to secure a supplemental type certificate (STC) from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for the installation and operation of a SmartSky 4G LTE system on the Bombardier Learjet 55.

The Learjet 55 is the primary aircraft operated by Ventura Air.

“As a safety-driven, customer-focused service we’re eager to begin tapping into the benefits of SmartSky 4G LTE, so our role in the STC process is our way of accelerating that goal,” said CEO Nick Tarascio. “SmartSky delivers the high-performance in-flight connectivity demanded by both cockpit and cabin. It perfectly aligns with and supports our mission to deliver an industry-leading flight experience.”

“We appreciate partners like Ventura Air, who join us in the in-flight connectivity revolution,” said Ryan Stone, president, SmartSky Networks. “Full-throttle, unrestricted access to the web while flying means passengers can do it all – stream, chat, text call, video-conference, even game. The benefits to operations are equally compelling: optimised flight paths, fuel savings, engine and airframe monitoring, predictive maintenance and so much more. The future is here.”

Air India aircraft in flight

Indian authorities pave way for in-flight connectivity

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Passengers in Indian airspace will finally be allowed to access in-flight connectivity following approval from the country’s Telecom Commission of recommendations proposed by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India’s (TRAI).

The agreement will allow airlines and the telecom service providers (TSPs) to offer voice and data services in India Airspace once an aircraft reaches an altitude of 3,000 metres, and is expected to be commercially available within four months.

A stipulation of the decision is that all in-flight voice and data services are to be provided through Indian satellites or through satellites approved by Department of Space for communication purposes, with gateways in India.

A separate category of licensee called in-flight connectivity provider is to be created with a token license fee of Re. 1.

CAPA India welcome the news, cautioning that airlines will be permitted to offer both data and voice services, although most carriers are unlikely to allow voice calls due to concerns that fellow passengers will be disturbed.

In a statement they added, “As the Indian fleet is not yet equipped for Wi-Fi, foreign carriers will be the first to offer in-flight connectivity in Indian airspace. However, Indian carriers are expected to implement Wi-Fi on international services in due course, particularly long haul.”

Qatar Airways Boeing 777 aircraft

Qatar Airways rolls out GX Aviation

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Qatar Airways has become the first airline in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region to offer Inmarsat’s GX Aviation, the rollout of which has commenced on more than 130 of its Boeing 777 and Airbus A350 aircraft.

The rollout follows a highly successful inflight test campaign across Qatar Airways’ global flight routes. As part of the service offering, passengers will now be offered one-hour of free access to GX Aviation, after which full-flight access can be affordably purchased.

Akbar Al Baker, Qatar Airways Group chief executive, said, “In another first for the MENA region, Qatar Airways passengers can now enjoy high-speed broadband connectivity, providing rich content without restriction, whether using the internet for work or relaxation during their journey. Business travellers in particular will be able to maximise their ‘office in the sky’ with seamless continuity.”

Panasonic Avionics Corporation plans for five new Innovation Studios

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Panasonic Avionics Corporation is to establish new Innovation Studios at key centres around the world, with the first Panasonic innovation studio to open in the Silicon Valley by the end of 2018.

With a renewed focus on broader consultative engagements with customers, the new studios will serve as hubs for innovation, ideation and solution-building.

They will provide a collaborative environment where the company and its customers can leverage its skilled workforce and regionally relevant partners to ideate, prototype, showcase and evaluate product concepts, digital solutions and user experience paradigms.

Panasonic plans to set up five Innovation Studios, each in close proximity to major destinations, leading universities and centres with an established innovation and start-up culture.

The studios will also serve as primary locations for airline workshops conducted by Panasonic’s digital design consultancy, Tactel. Acquired by Panasonic in 2015, Tactel has played a key role in helping Panasonic customers get the maximum value for their in-flight entertainment and connectivity (IFEC) investments.

“Innovation has always been at the heart of Panasonic Avionics and our customers have rightly come to expect it as standard,” said David Bartlett, chief technology officer of Panasonic Avionics Corporation. “Our new Innovation Studios will leverage our cloud-based infrastructure to foster an ethos of collaboration, strengthening our partner eco-system, and with it, the range of value-added services we can offer our airline customers.”

He added: “The studios will ensure we can deliver greater customer-facing innovation by rapidly developing new concepts that will enhance the business and pleasure of flying.”

SkyLights and mk2 form VR partnership

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Immersive in-flight Entertainment (IFE) provider SkyLights, and international film exhibitor and distributor mk2, have signed an agreement to for worldwide rights to exhibit virtual reality (VR) content in-flight as part of a wider partnership to make VR more accessible to passengers on long-haul flights.

With the addition of mk2’s VR catalog to its Cinematic VR devices, SkyLights aims to offer airlines greater differentiation and the opportunity to connect with their premium customers on a deeper level.

“Up until 2017, the vast majority of VR content was of relatively poor quality and was not suitable to view in an environment where space and movement are restricted. Since then, appropriate VR content has taken off. As such, we are delighted to team up with mk2 for their premium VR catalogue and their expertise in the field,” said Laurence Fornari, SkyLights’ head of sales & marketing.

“Airplanes are a promising distribution channel for VR content and we are delighted to partner with Skylights and benefit from their expertise to make premium immersive experiences available to travellers worldwide” says mk2’s CEO Elisha Karmitz.

EAD Aerospace announces EASA STC for Ka-band installation on Airbus A320 family

By Featured, IFEC, MRONo Comments

EAD Aerospace, an Eclipse company, has received the final EASA Supplemental Type Certificate (STC) for Inmarsat GX fuselage satcom antenna installation on Airbus A319 CEO, A320 CEO and NEO, A321 CEO and NEO.

The technology is already installed on an Airbus A319 model aircraft; this STC covers the entire family of Airbus A320 aircraft, with the exception of the A318.

The A319 NEO model will also be covered once the EASA Type Certificate Data Sheets (TCDS) of the aircraft is known.

This STC is using the latest generation of EAD Aerospace Satcom Universal Mounting System (SUMS), designed and manufactured in France. SUMS kits and related STCs have been selected by five stars airlines for Inmarsat GX installations. Currently, close to one hundred SUMS installed aircrafts are flying around the world permitting passengers to enjoy high bandwidth connectivity everywhere around the globe.

SUMS has been installed and certified on A319, A330, A340, B777-200, B777-300 and is now fully installable on A320, A321 CEO and NEO aircraft.

Spafax brings Austin City Limits to American Airlines

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Global entertainment and media agency Spafax has brought episodes from KLRU-TV’s PBS concert series ‘Austin City Limits’ on-board American Airlines flights.

The American Airlines ‘Austin City Limits’– branded video channel features a variety of musical genres and artists, from episodes featuring Roy Orbison to Coldplay, Ed Sheeran, Radiohead and Foo Fighters. Passengers can choose from eight episodes each month.

Emma Gunn, director, programme acquisitions & content partnerships at Spafax said: “We’re always in search of unique content partnership opportunities for our clients. Both American Airlines and ‘Austin City Limits’ have set a strong precedent for entertainment in their respective industries and we’re thrilled to bring both of these Texas-based brands together.”

The multi-faceted partnership also includes American Airlines’ status as The Official Airline Partner of ‘Austin City Limits’ Season 43, as well as National Production Underwriter and Event Sponsor for the Hall of Fame episode honouring Roy Orbison, Rosanne Cash and The Neville Brothers, which aired on New Year’s Eve.

American Airlines will be a National Underwriter for the future television premiere of the award-winning documentary film ‘A Song For You: The Austin City Limits Story’ directed by filmmaker Keith Maitland.

“We’re continuously looking to partner with brands that will engage and delight our passengers. ‘Austin City Limits’ is a superb addition to our in-flight entertainment, curated by Spafax, and will surely resonate with music lovers of all ages flying American,” Megan Worley, manager, brand actions at American Airlines explained.

Austin City Limits general manager Tom Gimbel said: “We’re thrilled to be able to present great Austin City Limits live music performances to American Airlines passengers. These are some of the best episodes in our 43 year history. As the world’s largest airline, American Airlines offer a brand visibility of the highest calibre and we’re delighted at the opportunity to entertain its passengers with a programme line-up that is fresh and exciting.”

The ‘Austin City Limits’ series is currently available for in-flight entertainment exclusively on American Airlines flights, it will become available to the wider in-flight market in 2019.

Image credit: Coldplay © KLRU photo by Scott Newton
Inflight entertainment

TEAC reveal portable server for w-IFE

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Japanese audio manufacturer, TEAC Corporation, has unveiled a portable server, the PS-V50, for airlines to deliver in-flight entertainment to passenger’s own smart devices.

The PS-V50 is a small, lightweight and battery-driven streaming server designed for airline use, with wireless LAN access point, LTE router and server.

The server delivers content wirelessly to passenger’s Personal Electronic Devices (PEDs) and supports up to 50 PEDs simultaneously, so customers can enjoy in-flight entertainment such as video, audio, moving maps, games and eBooks from their own device.

In a statement, the company said: “With conventional equipment, it takes a lot of time and cost to acquire certification for installing aircraft, providing in-flight entertainment service.

“It was a burden to the airline company to serve. However, ‘PS-V50’ can be brought into the cabin as baggage, since it does not require connection to each equipment installed, expensive aircraft refurbishment and installation certification are unnecessary.”

The company said it is easy to manage server content by the TEAC Cloud Synchronisation System.

Inmarsat enters into commercial service with SB-S

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Inmarsat has entered commercial service with SwiftBroadband-Safety (SB-S), in an industry first and only global, secure broadband platform for operations and safety communications.

The next-generation satellite IP platform is designed to meet the needs of aviation data communications in the digital age and offers airlines a different view into their airline operations.

The SB-S platform enables a range of value-added applications, allowing airlines to utilise rich, real-time data to drive decision-making, improve operational efficiency and assure the highest levels of in-air safety.

The introduction of commercial service follows a successful in-flight evaluation on Hawaiian Airlines’ Boeing 767-300 aircraft and installations on the airline’s entire Airbus A321neo fleet. SB-S is also in in-flight evaluations with United Airlines and Shenzhen Airlines, and has been selected by Airbus as a Light Cockpit Satcom (LCS) solution on its A320 and A330 families.

The platform has undergone successful evaluation by the US Federal Aviation Administration’s Performance-Based Aviation Rulemaking Committee (PARC) as a platform to provide direct data link communication between pilots and air traffic control (ATC).

Inmarsat said SB-S reduces airlines’ fuel costs and CO2 emissions through enabling connected Electronic Flight Bag (EFB) applications, including real-time weather reports, optimised profile descent and trajectory-based operations.

Flight tracking, real-time flight data streaming (Black Box in the Cloud) and interface with rescue co-ordination centres will assure safety by providing a solution to the imminent new Global Aeronautical Distress & Safety System (GADSS) requirements on flight tracking and data recoverability from International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO).

“With SB-S in commercial service, the aviation industry can now fully realise the benefits of the connected aircraft – driving greater efficiency in airline operations, while leading the way for the future of aviation safety,” said Captain Mary McMillan, Inmarsat Aviation vice-president of safety and operational services. “We are excited to see the real-world impact that SB-S will have on aviation efficiency and safety in the months and years to come.”