PHOTO: Under the Lufthansa blister lies a beautiful beast

MELCO antenna.JPG

The Mitsubishi MELCO Ku-band antenna fitted to 69 Lufthansa aircraft is considered a majestic masterpiece of engineering.

But the antenna has a few quirks (one of the reasons why Lufthansa missed its late summer deadline for launching FlyNet in-flight high-speed Internet, and later a planned mid-November launch).

Lufthansa showed off the MELCO antenna on 30 November on a special display, just before it re-ignited FlyNet under partnership with Panasonic Avionics.

I touched the sweet antenna above, moved it around a bit, and let me say it was cool as shite.

Lufthansa will reuse the lion’s share of MELCO antennas fitted to the 69 aircraft that previously offered Connexion by Boeing’s connectivity service (before Boeing pulled the plug in late 2006). But Panasonic Avionics CEO Paul Margis says a new EMS-manufactured antenna (with some Starling parts) – which will be fitted to the rest of Lufthansa’s long-haul fleet, and replace some of the MELCO antennas – will provider better efficiency and coverage.

“The new antenna has dual panels, more like a round dish. Those will start to be introduced in newer aircraft and phased in to replace the MELCO antennas,” says Margis.

“One thing we’ve done with Lufthansa Technik is design a way fornew antenna to fit onto the structural fittings on the MELCO antenna (the blister :) ,” says Panasonic vice-president global communications services David Bruner.

“Boeing has adopted thisfor its new aircraft (i.e. most of Lufthansa’s Boeing 747-8s will be linefit with the offering). The first Lufthansa aircraftwith an EMS antenna will be coming up shortly,” adds Bruner.

But what about Lufthansa’s Airbus A380s? The carrier has said it wants these birds to be linefit with Panasonic’s in-flight Internet system with EMS antennas, although Bruner specifies that we’re likely to see a Service Bulletin for installs long before that.

Indeed, Panasonic still has a bit of work to do in this regard. The firm will have to demonstrate that they meet Airbus interface requirements, ARINC Ku antenna installation standards and complete required systems integration testing.

That sounds costly….

In any case, let’s celebrate the MELCO bump, which, alongside Panasonic, is hurling Lufthansa back into the leadership position for in-flight Internet on overseas flights!

(Photo above courtesy of Addison Schonland)


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5 Responses to PHOTO: Under the Lufthansa blister lies a beautiful beast

  1. Dave December 17, 2010 at 4:08 am #

    Mary- that looks like a mechanically scanned antenna… Have you looked into whether these companies are looking a electronically scanned phased arrays- either active or passive? Those would cut down on maintenance for sure, and probably have better transmit/receive capabilities. Just wondering if AESA technology has started to migrate over from the defense sector.

  2. MoJoh December 21, 2010 at 3:33 am #

    Hmmm, no matter how good the antenna looks there can surely be no need for profanity Mary?

  3. Mary Kirby December 21, 2010 at 8:07 am #

    Too right MoJoh. I’ll add an “e” and temper my enthusiasm.

  4. Phillip Cabbagestalk December 22, 2010 at 3:59 pm #

    I Thank you for taking the time to explain this affair. I like your perspective on this matter.

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