Major IFE and seat vendors today warned that a new FAA advisory circular covering integrated IFE/seats will impact their costs and schedules. Nonetheless, both sides are preparing to adhere to the new recommendation, which will require them to create far deeper ties than ever before.
Advisory circular AC-21-49, which is expected to go into effect on 30 June, describes the new acceptable means to gain approval to install electronic components integrated in seats on aircraft.
Before it was issued, the IFE supplier worked with the OEM through seat certification, noted Boeing Commercial Airplanes seat integration team chief engineer Dan Freeman during today’s APEX Onboard Experience Workshop in Hamburg. “Now that process rolls under TSO and that needs to be applied before the seats are shopped to the OEMs.”
This will lead to a “re-sequencing” in schedules, he adds.
Zodiac Seats VP engineering Rakibul Islam says the firm welcomes the change. “Airlines are buying seats or electrical equipment and all of those have different suppliers so one of the things we’re [now] missing is the relationship between seat supplier and IFE supplier so that when an IFE supplier makes a design change, the seat supplier does not get notified, that’s [where] the main breakdown is,” he says.
The advisory circular “is forcing us to establish this communication”.
Islam says implementation will increase workload and cost for IFE suppliers and seat suppliers, though for companies already working on building those relationships, “the impact might not be that bad”.
Thales Avionics is among the firms already making headway, having sent out ‘working together’ agreements to make sure it can work smoothly through the process, says company VP, product management Lori Salazar. “I know a lot of the workload is on the seat suppliers because they’re going to have to look at data they haven’t had to look at before (including flam data).”
She wonders, however, what will be the recourse “if our data has already been approved by OEMs, but seat suppliers disagrees?”
Panasonic Avionics product manager Chuck Chambers says the firm has “just started implementing this so we don’t know exactly how it will work out” but says it could affect “agility”.
He says that Panasonic is trying to come into agreement with ‘working together’ pacts, and set up ground rules “about what will be shared when, and set up some schedules”, but admits “the first go-around will probably be rocky”.
The company must “try to manage the cost as well” but will “just have to make it work”, adds Chambers.
But Zodiac’s Islam remains optimistic. He says the advisory circular is “necessary for safety of passengers and compliance of the overall product. At the end of the day, I think it’s a good thing that’s happening.”