Thales managing director of in-flight entertainment systems Alan Pellegrini believes the firm's joint venture deal with China Electronics Technology Avionics (CETCA) marks a "statement of intent" of its long-term global IFE intentions.
Operations of the joint venture, a deal for which was completed at Aircraft Interiors in Hamburg, are set to begin in the third quarter and will support integration of the Thales Top-Series system for the C919. But the joint venture has wider aspirations.
"We think this is new ground to break. We wanted to set up an organisation that could think out of the box," says Pellegrini. "The C919 is the perfect clean sheet of paper we can design stuff for." This innovation can then be fed into other Thales IFE products.
"This is a statement of intent by Thales," he says. "If you look at it from our perspective, we've committed to making a significant investment in an area that is growing the fastest. There is a tremendous capability of resources in China."
The agreement with CETCA follows investments such as in science and research development facilities in Qatar, close to one of its flagship customers Qatar Airways, and facilities in Heathrow near another customer British Airways. "We need to have a local presence and a local footprint," he says. "We are building a global IFE company."