European avionics giant Thales may decide to exploit its airline IFE and connectivity expertise to develop a multi-function cabin network for the corporate aviation market.
“We are studying whether it makes economic sense for us to do this,” Thales Airborne Systems chief executive Emmanuel Grave said here this morning. “No decisions have been made, but potential functions include connectivity, in-flight entertainment, productivity and management of the cabin environment. The necessary core competencies and basic technologies already exist in our air transport operation.”
Such a move would set Thales up in opposition to established cabin network suppliers as such as Rockwell Collins with its new Fusion product, Lufthansa Technik (NICE) and Honeywell (Ovation).
Any new Thales product would draw on its existing TopSeries IFE system for the airlines, which has captured 40%of the current market and more than 70% of the selections for the Boeing 787, and its TopFlight Inmarsat SwiftBroadband satcoms system.
The latter is being trialled aboard an Air France Airbus A318 as the air-to-ground link for one of the world’s first onboard mobile phone systems. A more compact repackaged version will enter service next year as standard equipment, along with WiFi cabin wireless communications, aboard one aircraft type from an unnamed business jet manufacturer. The system will be optional on other types from the same supplier.
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