AirTV has pushed back to 2005 its plans to have a fully operational constellation capable of providing airlines with worldwide TV and internet coverage. In the meantime, the consortium is pressing on with trying to raise $180 million in private financing needed for Alcatel to begin constructing the four planned S-band satellites.

The overall schedule for AirTV has slipped several months following 11 September, with potential launch customer Saudi Arabian Airlines now due to begin initial flight trials of internet and e-mail connection using a Boeing 747-400 in January. AirTV's biggest hurdle remains financing.

According to AirTV chief financial officer Calvin Chrisman, the company is working on completing a $200 million strategic equity deal with backers Alactel and Arianspace as part of which they will build and launch the satellites.

Around $90 million has already been committed, but the remaining deferred financing depends on AirTV being able to raise another $180 million privately.

The venture needs $1.3 billion in total, but AirTV claims to have enough cash to carry it into next year. Subject to financing, AirTV hopes to begin work early next year on the broad band satellites. The company hopes to launch two satellites in 2004, covering Europe and North America, and the final pair in 2005 to extend coverage worldwide excluding over the Poles.

Despite problems at Boeing's Connexion, AirTVis confident of selling the TV service to the airlines, which it estimates will costs $1 per seat per flight based on a 1,000 aircraft market.

Source: Flight International