Boeing has unexpectedly ditched plans to fit leading-edge wireless in-flight entertainment (IFE) technology to the 787, but insists the move to the more conventional hard-wired replacement system will not impact either schedule or cost.
News of the change, which the company says was only firmly decided on in the second week of January, comes just two days after an industry analyst issued a disputed report saying some 787 customers had been told their aircraft deliveries could slide.
Boeing denies the Wachovia Capital Markets report and insists the schedule remains firm. Boeing says “there are no delivery delays in 2008 and we are still scheduled to meet entry-into-service in May 2008”.
The first flight remains on track for the end of August 2007.
Boeing’s 787 systems director Mike Sinnett says the “hard decision” to reject wireless IFE was made “because a couple of things converged on us”.
Boeing could not get 100% international confirmation from countries around the world to allocate frequencies in the IFE system’s 5GHz operating bandwidth. The frequency issue, he adds, was due to several countries requiring the bandwidth close to the IFE frequency for various air traffic, weather radar and military requirements. “We got 99% complete, but there are a couple of places in the world where those frequencies are already allocated to other uses.”
Concerns were also raised about the ability of the wireless chipset technology to use the same frequencies for multiple uses, and for it to keep pace with the expected growth in volume of seat-back content.
The IFE wires will now run to each seat through the adjacent seat track using similar housings developed for the power supply. “In the end we did not add a whole lot of weight. In fact, when we look at the antenna modules we had for each seat group, we end up with more than 45kg (100lb) of weight saved,” says Sinnett.
IFE suppliers Panasonic and Thales are adapting their respective systems to meet the change by developing floor distribution boxes in place of the original wireless access points. Sinnett adds airlines in the 787 working group were satisfied with the change once concerns of cabin re-configuration and quality were addressed.