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MAS prepares hardware for IFE system prototype


New entertainment device for the Airbus A380 should be ready by early next year

Matsushita Avionics Systems (MAS) has started building hardware for a new generation in-flight entertainment system being developed for the ultra-large Airbus A380. It expects to have a prototype ready next year, Alan Pellegrini, MAS senior vice-president of marketing and operations, told Flight International at the World Airline Entertainment Association (WAEA) exhibition in Seattle, Washington, last week.

The system, being developed as Project Kayak, will include a 25-30% size and weight reduction compared to MAS's interactive seatback IFE systems, which include the System 3000/3000i for widebody aircraft and the eFX for narrowbodies.

MAS has been working on technologies for new-generation IFE systems, but recently formalised its efforts as Project Kayak. The A380 and Boeing's Sonic Cruiser are the targets for the new generation system, but technologies from the programme will be incorporated in MAS's widebody and narrowbody product lines, says Pellegrini.

The new system will incorporate the functionality of MAS's existing systems, including audio and video on-demand (A/VOD) and e-mail/internet connectivity, with size and weight reduction.

Media-oriented systems transport (MOST) technology is under consideration to achieve the size/weight benefits, says Paul Margis, MAS senior vice-president and chief technical officer. MOST, pioneered by the automotive industry and used by MAS parent Panasonic for car entertainment systems, would allow a reduction in the required wiring.

MAS is aiming for an almost 75% reduction in the thickness of seatboxes - from the System 3000's 100mm (4in) to 25mm - and a 25-30% decrease in power consumption. It is also looking at new lighter display technologies which require less power, in addition to the possibility of installing IFE boxes under aircraft flooring rather than under seats to increase passenger space. MAS is scheduled to deliver prototypes of the A380 design to Airbus in mid-2003 for testing, says Margis.

Meanwhile, MAS is winning business for its existing systems. Northwest Airlines has selected MAS's latest hardware, the System 3000i, which supports passenger connectivity, for 24 Airbus A330s, while South African Airways has selected the system for six A340-300s.

MAS recently won an order to equip KLM's new Boeing 777-200ER fleet with its System 3000, which Iberia has also selected for three Airbus A340-600s. International Lease Finance has selected eFX for its new Airbus A320 family and Boeing Next Generation 737 deliveries.