Thales touts success of TopConnect test on DC-9

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Thales is championing Inmarsat's higher-bandwidth aeronautical service SwiftBroadband after flight-testing its TopConnect suite of connectivity solutions on a McDonnell Douglas DC-9.

Unveiled last year, TopConnect combines Thales' TopFlight satcom with core avionics to provide cockpit voice and data, and cabin connectivity. Using SwiftBroadband, TopConnect supports Internet browsing, Wi-Fi connectivity, GSM and corded or cordless voice over Internet protocol (VoIP) telephones. It can be integrated with Thales' TopSeries in-flight entertainment (IFE) system, as well as other vendors' IFE solutions.

Attendees at Inmarsat's Aeronautical Conference in Vancouver last week watched a video that showed Thales engineers putting TopConnect through its paces on the DC-9 testbed aircraft. Thales head of AVS civil business Andrew Musgrave says the April flight tests were a success.

In developing TopConnect, Thales "wanted to make sure we had a scalable architecture" for long-range aircraft, single-aisle aircraft and regional jets, says Musgrave.

He says Thales is "fully behind embracing" SwiftBroadband.

The company is seeing growing interest from airlines in the solution that integrates TopConnect with Thales IFE. The onboard in-seat Intranet portal, featuring live news updates from the Internet to augment cached onboard content, makes smart use of the bandwidth, says Musgrave.

At the same time, airlines can "control the environment" viewed by passengers, thereby increasing their ability to grow ancillary revenue, he adds.