Alitalia is to run a single-aircraft trial of new-generation satellite-communication (satcom) avionics intended to reduce call charges drastically.
The Italian flag carrier has agreed with the Honeywell/Racal Avionics satcom team to put the Aero-I equipment on a McDonnell Douglas MD-80 once the new service is implemented by Inmarsat - due later this year. It will be used primarily for passenger telephony.
Alitalia is following Swissair and Meridiana to become the third European carrier to opt for satcom telephone systems in its narrow-body aircraft rather than using the terrestrial flight-telecommunications system (TFTS).
The Aero-I service makes use of the spot-beam capability of the new Inmarsat-3 satellite constellation to cut the capital costs of satcom avionics and to permit call charges which are expected to rival TFTS fees.
Alitalia head of telecommunications infrastructure Bernado Nicoletti says that, depending on the outcome of the trial, Alitalia will either implement the Aero-I throughout the narrow-body fleet, or use the existing, more expensive Aero-H service. He is looking to equip up to 90 MD-80s and at least 40 Airbus narrow-bodies in service or on order.
Both he and Honeywell/Racal decline to confirm that the Anglo-US team is the vendor, but those companies provided the satcoms for Alitalia's long-haul fleet and a source involved in the negotiations confirms that no switch of supplier is planned.
Source: Flight International