Some leaky feeder cables installed on aircraft fitted with the eXPhone mobile connectivity solution will require replacement following the discovery that they failed flammability testing, in a development that will impact big eXPhone customer Emirates and other airlines, ATI and Flightglobal can exclusively reveal.
The coaxial cable that radiates RF and supports a mobile phone pico-cell system on board aircraft is known as the "leaky feeder". AeroMobile supplies the mobile connectivity system that is branded by Panasonic Avionics as eXPhone.
A source with knowledge of the situation said AeroMobile leaky feeders "failed flam and [it] looks like many will need to be removed/replaced".
Furthermore, noted the source, Boeing "knows all about it also as they have stopped installing" eXPhone.
EASA is expected to publish a report on the matter in the coming weeks. With 86-plus aircraft installed with eXPhone, Emirates is AeroMobile's biggest customer. However, eXPhone customers Air New Zealand and V Australia are also understood to be affected.
AeroMobile confirmed that it is "working with a new leaky feeder provider following a quality issue" with its prior cables.
It said it does not know how many aircraft are affected "at this point", but that it is working with customers to ensure a seamless transition to the new cables if required.
Asked by ATI and Flightglobal if Boeing is comfortable with the new plan, and will not hold up linefits of eXPhone, AeroMobile said: "We are not in a position to speak for Boeing."
Boeing could not be immediately reached for comment. Panasonic did not provide immediate comment.
Emirates said: "This quality issue was identified during routine testing and we are working with AeroMobile to assess the effect on installed aircraft, however expect it to impact only a small number of aircraft."
As such, the failure could be relegated to a certain batch of cables, although it remains unclear how the cables originally passed flammability testing required for certification. An expert in the field of cabin systems explained: "The quality system in aerospace should be that you can trace back to birth any product so there should be a quality paperwork system linking every batch to that qualified part number. There should be a paper trail. So with anything like the leaky line you have the design, and then how it was produced, and whether it was produced per design and if all the materials were designed per qualifications."