Emma Kelly/LONDON

Communications specialist SITA is in discussions with two major carriers regarding its Aircom Gatelink programme, the first phase of which will see British Airways use the wireless datalink services on a Boeing 747 from next month.

Meanwhile, Thomson-CSF is talking to gatelink service providers to add the capability to its 'connectivity' venture with Astrium, while US industry and airport bodies have formed a wireless association designed to further the use of airport wireless gatelink services.

BA's 747 will use the wireless gatelink system for the transfer of flight information at London's Heathrow Airport. Although the trial has been planned for some time, no aircraft has been available until now for the installation of the on-board server and antenna, says Jean-Marie Begis, SITA's director of airport wireless services.

Two other airlines are preparing for gatelink programmes, and are due to select providers by year-end, with other carriers keen to explore passenger, cabin and cockpit crew applications, says Begis.

Airlines are becoming increasingly interested in gatelink services as the standards become more mature and off-the-shelf equipment becomes available, he says. Gatelink applications include cockpit communications, such as flight operations, maintenance and engineering; crew services, including inventory, fault management, log books and duty free applications; and passenger services, including internet and in-flight entertainment content delivery, with the latter being a key driver.

Meanwhile, Thomson-CSF Sextant In-Flight Systems is working under a non-disclosure agreement with an unnamed company to provide gatelink systems and wireless networks for the manufacturer's recently announced venture with Astrium. Thomson-CSF aims to announce new partners for the connectivity venture, dubbed ESeries, within the next month. ESeries is designed to provide passengers and cabin/cockpit crew with in-flight internet, e-mail and communication services. The programme is similar to the Integrated Information System programme pioneered by Rockwell Collins with German carrier Condor.

In an effort to further the development of aeronautical wireless services, the American Association of Airport Executives, the US Air Transport Association and the Airports Council International-North America have formed the Wireless Airport Association, which will provide recommendations, models and best practices for the provision of wireless services at airports. Members of the association include Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, ARINC, Delta Air Lines, Finnair and SITA, plus numerous US airports.

Source: Flight International