Qatar inks cockpit communications deal with SITA

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Fast-growing Qatar Airways has inked a new three-year deal with SITA covering cockpit communications for a range of new-delivery aircraft.

"Over the next three years our fleet will expand from over 80 aircraft today to 120, including the Boeing 787. This growth needs to be supported by a partner who is leading the way when it comes to use of satellite and ground communications between the cockpit and the control tower," says Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker.

SITA claims the distinction of being the first company to implement an ACARS service for air traffic control communications via the new 4th generation Inmarsat satellites (I-4). In light of this achievement, Qatar is "confident that SITA can support our expansion which includes the introduction of six new long-haul routes this year".

Inmarsat's higher-bandwidth SwiftBroadband aeronautical service also runs over the I-4 network. SwiftBroadband supports Airbus/SITA joint venture OnAir's in-flight mobile phone service, which is already in use on Qatar's Airbus A320s.

Qatar also recently selected Thales' next generation TopSeries in-flight entertainment and connectivity (IFEC) system, plus the OnAir mobile phone service, for its 787s. The connected elements of the IFEC system are operated via SwiftBroadband.

Qatar expects to take delivery of its first 787 before the end of 2011. The carrier would like to see the SwiftBroadband-supported Thales IFEC system line-fit offerable on the twinjet.

Alan Pellegrini, head of Thales In-Flight Entertainment, recently told ATI and Flightglobal that Thales is currently working with Boeing and Qatar to define the provisioning on the aircraft for connectivity, but notes that Thales is "running a few steps ahead of Boeing now".