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Inflight editor Alexander Preston summarises the latest happenings across IFEC and cabin technology.

This week, research studies have been like London buses. You wait ages for one to appear, and then three turn up in quick succession.

That’s been the case for reports on the state of in-flight connectivity.

According to EuroConsult, over 23,000 commercial aircraft will offer connectivity to their passengers by 2027, up from 7,400 aircraft in 2017. The report authors contend that the need to improve profit margins, and to benefit from economies of scale, vertical integration and consolidation in the IFC value chain is needed. Are we set for some robust M&A activity in the coming months?

They also say the next 10 years will see the full emergence of the SmartPlane concept or connected aircraft. Aircraft being more and more connected will start to support all the latest IT trends such as IoT, Big Data, analytics, cyber-security and so forth, allowing aviation to enter a new era with connectivity at its heart.

It’s a picture supported in the latest findings by Honeywell in its new ‘Connected Aircraft Report’, which says that investment in connected technologies is expected to rise significantly during the next 12 months, and to increase even more rapidly over the next five years. The focus of the spending is expected to be beyond the cabin, with maintenance a key area.

In news that will please airline CFOs, the London School of Economics claims that the potential for multiple savings, efficiencies and safety opportunities could equate to a 0.75% – 1.00% reduction in the IATA consolidated US$764 billion annual global airline costs of operation.

In a co-authored report with Inmarsat, LSE forecasts that if technology is introduced such as using real time data to create a live electronic tech log, in which flight performance data is digitally integrated with maintenance suppliers, allowing airlines and advanced algorithms to identify any maintenance required before the aircraft arrives at its destination, it could halve maintenance costs and deliver annual cost savings of $5.6 billion.

Elsewhere, the operational benefits from enhanced broadband are forecast to generate up to US$15 billion for the global airline industry by 2035, as greater connectivity is adopted.
Such projections might just make discussions with CFOs just that much easier.

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Cathay Pacific Airways has taken delivery of first of 20 A350-1000 aircraft which, from September, will fly on the airline’s new non-stop route from Hong-Kong to Washington DC, representing the longest flight – approximately 17 hours – performed by any airline out of Hong Kong.

According to Airbus, passengers will benefit from absolute well-being in the cabin, with more personal space, optimised cabin altitude, more fresh air, controlled temperature & humidity, integrated connectivity and the latest generation of in-flight entertainment system.

Paul Loo, Cathay Pacific chief customer and commercial officer, said “We already have one of the youngest long-haul fleets in the sky, and with the arrival of the A350-1000, our fleet is only going to get younger. The aircraft follows the successful entry of the A350-900 variant which has enabled us to expand our long-haul network at a near unprecedented rate. The A350-1000 has an incredible range, is remarkably fuel efficient and quiet, provides customers with an unsurpassed cabin environment and has extremely attractive operating economics.”

SkyWest has become the first commercial airline in the US to equip and operate its entire fleet with newly FAA-approved Electronic Maintenance Log (eAML) technology.

“The eAML provides a significant boost to our already-robust maintenance program,” said SkyWest chief operating officer Mike Thompson. “The elimination of paper streamlines processes from the flight deck to maintenance technicians and our operations control centre teams, resulting in improved reliability that benefits employees and customers alike.”

The deployment across 443 aircraft comes after years of preparation and cross-departmental collaboration.

Aerkomm Inc. of California, USA, has signed a strategic co-operation framework agreement with Guangdong Tengnan Internet Information Technology Co, a wholly owned subsidiary of Shenzhen Tencent Computer Systems Co. Ltd.

Through the terms of the agreement, Aerkomm and Tencent will co-operate to consider ways of incorporating Tencent’s platform product offerings such as WeChat Pay and QQ instant messaging into Aerkomm’s in-flight entertainment and connectivity systems.

With the incorporation of Tencent technology, users of Aerkomm’s in-flight systems should be able to access rapid mobile phone interconnection and in-flight Wi-Fi, among other things.

Jeffrey Wun, CEO of Aerkomm said, “The overall presentation of in-flight entertainment services can be enriched and a closed loop of user experience can be created based on a demand for Aerkomm’s products in combination with Tencent’s numerous technologically superior internet-based offerings.”