My colleague Megan Kuhn travelled to Montreal this week to witness the groundbreaking of Bombardier’s first CSeries facility, a training center called CIASTA – first revealed here - that will house a virtual CSeries aircraft.
While in Montreal, Megan asked Bombardier executives about the airframer’s plans for IFE on the aircraft. You may recall that Bombardier is considering whether to bring wireless IFE to the CSeries. While there is no new news to report there, you’ll see from Megan’s story that a decision on IFE partners is expected in the near-term.
Manufacturers usually pick more than one IFE solution for offerablity on their aircraft. Airbus, for example, has preselected Thales and Panasonic and “may consider a third player” for the A350, which, like the CSeries, has an entry-into-service of 2013, Alan Pellegrini, general manager of Thales’ California-based in-flight business, told me at the Paris air show.
With specific regard to the 110/130-seat, geared turbofan-powered CSeries, however, at least one IFE manufacturer seems to be already speaking Bombardier’s language (i.e. connectivity isn’t just about making passengers happy, it gives airlines the tools to improve operations on nearly every level).
Panasonic Avionics, which has already been selected to provide the CSeries’ cabin management and passenger address system, believes the aircraft “is a kind of a game changer” from the prospective that Bombardier is positioning it as a widebody experience in a single-aisle aircraft.
“The CSeries will be a fun and interesting challenge for us, because there there will be a mix of airlines offering a premium in-seat solution at the higher end, and at the lower end, some will select connectivity-only solutions,” says Panasonic director of corporate sales and marketing Neil James.
Speaking broadly about wireless IFE, James says it ”comes in many flavors”, noting that there is a wireless aspect of connectivity but there is “also the ability on board to use that same wireless access to distribute content from servers on board to passengers’ own devices, and we’ve been experimenting with that”.
Key quotes from James:
“There is a great deal of buzz around the passenger side of connectivity, and we absolutely believe in that, but the part that is underplayed is the airlines’ operational business benefit that comes from connectivity. We are genuinely going to deliver the vision of what we refer to as a ‘mission control concept’ for airlines.
“We really see the aircraft as a node on the airline’s IT network. We see ability to do real-time maintenance and diagnostics…from a mission control network on the ground through the global communications suite (GCS).”
This type of thinking must be music to Bombardier’s ears. The airframer has said it is developing a centralized maintenance health monitoring system (CMHMS) for the CSeries that will provide real-time information about the entire aircraft to ensure enhanced diagnostics and prognostics. While still under development, the idea would be to make the system accessible by maintenance technicians via personal digital assistants.
Now then, if you know a bit of French, check out Bombardier’s video from the CIASTA groundbreaking.