Breaking its silence about its inflight connectivity plans Boeing tells the APEX editor’s blog that it continues to evolve its offerings for onboard connectivity on its family of commercial jetliners and will offer various systems as linefit options next year.
By the end of 2013, connectivity systems that support the inflight use of cell phones, Wi-Fi connectivity for passengers, Internet access using in-flight entertainment (IFE), and live television broadcasts will be available on the Boeing 747-8 and 777, confirms the airframer.
For the 787 twinjet Boeing currently offers a post-delivery retrofit of inflight connectivity systems, but the company says it is working toward a full set of connectivity offerings as part of its standard catalogue by the end of this year.
Additional connectivity systems are being evaluated for the 737 and could be available in the near future; the narrowbody already includes wiring provisions for connectivity systems.
“The prime passenger connectivity systems currently in development at Boeing are the Panasonic Global Communications Suite (GCS) and Thales TopConnect system,” says Boeing. Wireless media streaming is expected to be available on all new Boeing airplanes in 2014.
Thales VP of marketing & customer proposition Stuart Dunleavy says the first 787 to be connected is Qatar Airways’ 787. “We have a service provider neutral platform [in TopConnect] and at the moment most of the airlines we’re working with have chosen OnAir as the service provider. The 787 and 777 programmes are all involving OnAir. So we went through a really, really comprehensive qualification and certification process for the equipment against 787 standards that were complex given the composite airplane.
“The installation is being handled in conjunction with Boeing CAS in Victorville in Northern California. It’s really important for us that we managed this with CAS because obviously their knowledge of the 787’s systems is really important. Our goal is to have the aircraft fitted with connectivity prior to entry into service [for Qatar].”
Dunleavy notes that the airframer has provisions for in-cabin LRUs and the leaky line “so, what we’ve done for the 777 and 787 programmes is we’ve had a progressive provisioning and linefit installation agreement where we’re working with Boeing and as we achieve certain milestones, Boeing will make more of the LRUs – and activation of the [actual] system – linefit offerable.”
Panasonic Avionics VP global communications David Bruner says multiple customers will receive 777s line-fit with the GCS next year. A total 20 777s will be delivered “equipped from the factory”, he confirms.
“It’s an important milestone to see aircraft deliver [with connectivity] from Boeing.”
Mike Sinnett, senior chief engineer of airplane systems for Boeing Commercial Airplanes, says: “At Boeing we’re always working to ensure that our products offer the airlines of the world the most modern and robust technologies available to provide their passengers with an exceptional flying experience.” Sinnett also serves as vice president and chief project engineer of the 787.
He adds: “There’s no doubt that passengers want the option of staying connected to e-mail and the Internet and other online offerings when flying. We’ve looked across the industry and are partnering with several connectivity system providers across our family of airplanes.”
Today’s news from Boeing comes on the heels of an announcement from Airbus that the European airframer will offer Panasonic’s GCS as linefit on the A330; it previously gave the green light for linefit of GCS on the A350 XWB and the A380.
“Airbus has been doing this for [SITA/Airbus connectivity joint venture] OnAir, but you’ll start to see first deliveries of GCS roll out on Airbus,” says Bruner.