When the first Airbus A380 enters service with Singapore Airlines on 25 October, one of the most extensive testing programmes for an in-flight entertainment system ever conducted will be behind it.

Of the two IFE systems offered on the A380 - Panasonic Avionics' eX2 and Thales' TopSeries i-5000 - SIA selected the eX2. The airline, renowned for being an IFE pioneer, has selected Panasonic equipment for every other widebody it has operated and has been the launch customer for a number of Panasonic systems that have preceded the eX2.

The eX2 is a development of the IFE manufacturer's System 2000, 3000 and 3000i seatback IFE systems developed for widebodies, incorporating elements of the eFX system designed for narrowbodies. It includes the latest developments in media management capabilities, a larger network than previously available and improvements in weight, size and power consumption. Improved in-seat integration and reduced wiring, coupled with the distribution of applications over an Ethernet network, smaller seat boxes and distributed electronics in the display have resulted in a widebody IFE system 40% lighter than its predecessors. The result is that SIA passengers will have more than 1,000 on-demand entertainment and communication options, including movies, television programming, interactive games, audio CDs, learning applications and office tools.

The eX2 has undergone extensive testing since 2004, when system design was finalised. The system's test racks in A380 configuration have been operating at the IFE manufacturer's California facilities and with Airbus in Hamburg since then. The system was also installed on Airbus's cabin test A380 MSN007, which performed route-proving as part of the certification programme.

Panasonic believes this extensive testing ensures it has a system ready to face passengers. "We participated in the early long-range flight-test campaign as well as the head of version lab at the Airbus Hamburg facility. This allowed us to do extensive stress testing of the system and its aircraft interfaces in both a test environment and during full passenger flights," says the IFE manufacturer.

"We've carried out a great deal of maturity and robustness testing on [SIA's first aircraft] MSN003 and MSN007. We feel confident that the system will perform well from the outset," it adds.

Despite this confidence, Panasonic says it will be providing "fly-along support" for the first month of services and "a meet and greet support" at destination airports for the first six months. "This support will be offered in conjunction with the Airbus A380 enhanced support initiative, which has grouped all the major suppliers together to create a 'super' technical team to ensure that the aircraft has 24/7 support," says Panasonic, adding that the IFE manufacturer is the only buyer-furnished supplier that is part of this group.

Panasonic says similar support programmes will be in place for subsequent A380 operators to ensure that airline crews and maintenance personnel become familiar with the system.

One factor that will help Panasonic with the A380 service entry launch is that SIA is no stranger to the eX2, having launched the system last year on its Boeing 777-300ERs.

Panasonic declines to reveal targets agreed with SIA for the A380's eX2 system availability - the availability of all defined IFE functions at the passenger's seat for the duration of the flight. SIA has high standards when it comes to IFE and industry sources say it is targeting 99% seat availability on the A380.

Source: Flight International