THE WORLD'S three largest airframe builders have joined together to warn the in-flight entertainment (IFE) industry that it has to standardise hardware or face serious consequences.

Airbus, Boeing and McDonnell Douglas (MDC) executives shared a stage at the recent World Airline Entertainment Association conference in Amsterdam to give notice to airlines and IFE suppliers that they will face higher installation costs if they select non-standard equipment in the future.

The companies lay the blame for the series of IFE failures suffered by the airline industry on hardware suppliers. Jorg Reitmann, the Daimler-Benz Aerospace Airbus manager of cabin and communications systems, places the blame on "...highly compressed schedules and optimistic marketing, resulting in later deliveries of hardware and documentation, together with incomplete software, validated and debugged years after entry into service".

Reitmann says that standardisation would cut schedules and certification requirements, keep owner- ship costs to a minimum and reduce development costs.

Boeing chief engineer of cabin systems, Dave Sebring, warns airlines that they face financial consequences if they opt for non- standard solutions. He says: "It will cost more to do non-standard systems. We will still do systems which are non-standard, but it is a question of how much that will cost and how long it will take."

Among features the airframers want standardised are:

a strict separation between aircraft systems and IFE;

minimum interface between the two;

built-in flexibility for reconfiguration;

modular design;

non-proprietary architecture;

suitability for retrofit.

Sebring says: "I know this is a market-driven business, but you have to be able to deliver what you sell."

ARINC 628 is being developed as the standard which, by late 1996, should specify interfaces and protocols for head-end and seat equipment, and later provide specifications for the aircraft system/IFE interface and the cabin-distribution system.

MDC senior staff engineer Barney Graves says that airlines must "...ask people if their systems meet 628 that will encourage standardisation".

Source: Flight International