Emma Kelly/LONDON

Seat manufacturer Recaro has produced a prototype multi-media aircraft seat to take advantage of the broadband in-flight internet services under development by companies such as Boeing (Connexion) and Rockwell Collins/News Corp's In-Flight Network.


The German company is developing the Sky Surfer seat without involving any in-flight entertainment (IFE) system manufacturer. Instead it is taking advantage of its years of experience integrating interactive IFE systems with its own seats in an attempt to avoid the seat-IFE integration issues which have plagued the industry.

The Sky Surfer seat is designed to be a fully integrated entertainment, communications and information unit, including internet access, video-on-demand entertainment, television broadcasts, a keyboard, telephone headset and airline information, all accessed via a touch screen.

The prototype has been developed from Recaro's Premium Traveller seat, but the product, says the firm, could be adapted for any of its seats. The manufacturer has been developing software for the product since the beginning of the year.

The company's move is unusual since seat manufacturers usually incorporate the products of dedicated IFE manufacturers into their seats and have no involvement in IFE system development themselves.

"Our intention was to develop this in-house," says Recaro. "If you develop the system yourself you can save space, eliminate any integration problems and deal with issues such as cabling day-by-day," adds the manufacturer .

As IFE systems have increased in sophistication, integrating them with seats has become more challenging. In response, the IFE industry body, the World Airline Entertainment Association (WAEA) has established seat/IFE integration teams to produce guidelines to streamline the process. Recaro executives visited the recent WAEA show in Anaheim, California, to study the market.

The development and certification schedule will be governed by an airline order, says Recaro, but the seat is expected to be available as the broadband in-flight internet services come online from late next year or early 2002.

Source: Flight International