OnAir demonstrates cabin, cockpit connectivity on A340 flight

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Airbus/SITA partnership OnAir has successfully conducted a 10-hour Airbus A340-600 flight using the full spectrum of cabin and cockpit connectivity solutions that are supported by Inmarsat's higher-bandwidth SwiftBroadband aeronautical service.

This is the first time that such an extensive range of services - GSM/GPRS together with Wi-Fi Internet - has been operated on any one flight, claims OnAir, adding that the test demonstrates "the robustness and global reach of OnAir services both for cabin and cockpit".

Passenger services on the flight provided Internet access via laptops, both wireless and cable, as well as the ability via mobile phones and smart phones to make and receive calls, to send and receive text messages and emails, and to access the Internet.

During the flight, Airbus engineers successfully placed as many as 16 calls simultaneously during the flight, according to OnAir.

The engineers also tested connectivity services for the cockpit establishing both 'classic' voice and ACARS datalink communications via the SITA ground infrastructure.

The flight route took the aircraft far north over Greenland and triggered seamless satellite handovers between the I-4 and I-3 satellites, demonstrating the ability to maintain flight-critical services across such handovers.

"This milestone underlines OnAir's leadership as the only service provider today capable of offering the full set of aircraft connectivity services for cabin and cockpit - GSM/GPRS and WiFi Internet with global coverage," says OnAir CEO Benoit Debains.

"The OnAir link will help airlines to improve operational efficiency through services such as electronic flight bag (EFB), and the communication of engine maintenance data."

OnAir has signed agreements with more than 18 airlines worldwide, and is set to exceed 100,000 flights before year's end.