Things that make you go hmmmm…

Boeing has far more important things to worry about than deciding what in-flight connectivity it will choose for the 787. Shouldn’t it focus on getting the twinjet into the air first? That was the seemingly logical viewpoint expressed by many observers after learning that the airframer has issued a request for information for an Inmarsat SwiftBroadband-supported satcom interface and on-board mobile telephony installation for the 787. But such sentiment is short-sighted.

When Boeing finally delivers its first 787 in the fourth quarter of 2010, robust in-flight connectivity will already be offered on at least a couple of thousand aircraft, including some Northwest Airlines McDonnell Douglas DC-9s now operated by merger partner Delta Air Lines (I’m reminded of my very first blog post). Boeing could hardly lay claim to having the most state-of-the-art cabin in the market if the 787 doesn’t have an in-flight connectivity solution akin to that which is offered on 40-year old aircraft. Just imagine the headlines: “I’m sitting on Boeing’s new Dreamliner and can’t even send a tweet!”

That Boeing has waited so long to issue an RFI for a 787 connectivity solution is understandable. The airframer was badly burned by its own failed foray into airborne internet, Connexion by Boeing, which was closed at the end of 2006. There is also little doubt that Boeing brainpower has been preoccupied of late. But with the issuance of its RFI, the airframer appears to be finally waking up from its connectivity coma. That’s not just smart. It’s necessary.

My above comment, which is running in this week’s Flight International magazine, describes only one of the myriad reasons why Boeing needs to think seriously about connectivity for the 787 (there are, as you know, opportunities to create operational efficiencies and generate ancillary revenue through real-time credit card validation, for instance).

If you ask OnAir chief executive CEO Benoit Debains, however, he’ll tell you that all of these things are secondary to what is truly important – cockpit communications.

Key quote:

“It would not surprise me that Boeing will conclude as Airbus that SwiftBroadband is the basic option they want to offer. The reason is that I think the people know that eventually they will need Swiftbroadband for the cockpit. Passenger connectivity is nice to have but it’s not critical. The cockpit communication is critical.”

Inmarsat’s head of marketing, aeronautical Lars Ringertz adds:

“At the moment, Classic services are used for the cockpit. Currently, we allow two channels of SwiftBroadband to the aircraft, but as of 2013, we will allow four channels [which would support] two to the cockpit and two to the cabin.”

So RWG, what you’re saying is that the Boeing RFI has a whole other side to it, which involves the cockpit?

Correctamundo my friend.

Things that make you go hmmmm… 

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