Want to be linefit? Bring cash and a big customer!

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Why is Zodiac’s SiT seat-centric in-flight entertainment (IFE) system offered linefit on Airbus A330/A340 aircraft, while the likes of Lumexis’ fiber optic-based IFE system and IMS’s own seat-centric solution (pictured above) is not? Well folks, like so many things in this world, cash plays a big part.

Airframers can’t afford (and are unwilling) to do the kind of engineering, integration work, certification and qualification testing required for every IFE system that comes to the market. And so the cost of ensuring that a system is compatible with the aircraft’s architecture lands squarely in the lap of the vendor.

In essence, the vendor needs to pony up before it gets to put on a show.

That’s exactly what SiT did to break the Panasonic/Thales duopoly and gain linefit status on the A330/A340, says a source with knowledge of the situation. “They made a significant contribution to cover the costs and it had a customer that wanted the system on the aircraft (Royal Jordanian),” adds the source.

But SiT had something else working in its favour. The company is part of the Zodiac group and Zodiac is an approved Airbus supplier. As any reputable airframer does, Airbus goes through a rigorous process to approve its suppliers. It looks at the quality of a vendor’s systems, how the firm manages its supply chain, how it manages its inventory, and customer support, and how it industrializes its stuff (i.e. where does it source its parts from).

Additionally – and significantly – Airbus doesn’t do anything until it has a reasonably sized customer saying it wants the equipment installed on its new aircraft.

So, if you’re a Lumexis or an IMS, the time-line for gaining linefit status depends on if you can meet all the criteria (and not on whether the system is super, awesome, and freaking fantastic!)

Oh, and it helps if you’re able to maintain a level of respectability within the industry. Aviointerios, for instance, did itself NO favours when it showcased a clearly uncertifiable saddle-seat at the Aircraft Interiors Expo in Hamburg a few years back .”Aviointeriors shot itself in the foot,” says the source. It shot itself in the foot while riding in a saddle? Well alrighty then.



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2 Responses to Want to be linefit? Bring cash and a big customer!

  1. kmz August 9, 2011 at 2:56 am #

    “So, if you’re a Lumexis or an IMS, the time-line for gaining linefit status depends on if you can meet all the criteria (and not on whether the system is super, awesome, and freaking fantastic!)”

    Not so sure if that is true. I have the impression that all Airbus intends to do is reduce workload for its armchair managers…quality plays no role. It honestly think that shifting responsibility to big suppliers like Zodiac will solve all their problems: What happens if one supplier fails, everybody knows by now. If it is the only supplier, even worse. I bet there is no supplier that fully fulfills all Airbus criteria, which is probably per se not possible. So in the end it is only size that matters…and Lumexis and Co can keep on dreaming but will never wake up with a happy end…

  2. jetcal1 August 15, 2011 at 2:09 pm #

    kmz,
    STC certification costs are astronomical making it financially impossible for Airbus or Boeing to certify every possible option their customers might desire.

    NRE/Qualification/TSO costs alone (Not even counting actual certification costs.) can easily run into the millions of dollars.

    The end result is not many suppliers have enough capital and willingness to assume a huge risk, and only companies like Lufthansa have a large enough fleet to spread the NRE costs down to a reasonable per-unit level.

    I would imagine an IFE STC by minor change is still prohibitively expensive for some organizations.

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