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

With thoughts turning towards APEX/AIX/IFSA EXPO in sunny Los Angeles in early September, the attentions of Inflight towers are currently preoccupied with the announcement that we’re launching Inflight Europe in May 2020 (20-21) in Manchester, co-located with ap&m Europe.

As with the successful Inflight Middle East and Inflight Asia-Pacific events, The Inflight Europe pavilion will provide an area of the exhibition floor reserved exclusively for the latest innovations in passenger experience, with leading in-flight entertainment and connectivity manufacturers and aircraft interior suppliers invited to showcase their product and service solutions.

The Inflight Europe workshop will again feature senior airline executives and industry leaders from across the cabin technology and aircraft interiors spectrum debating the latest topics affecting the market.

This includes developments around LEO in satellite communications; the ability of in-flight connectivity to support a ‘connected crew’; the response of airlines to the demand for in-seat power and the potential battle lines between AC and USB power and how airlines can capture revenue opportunities through cabin connectivity, as well as other issues.

The free to attend sessions will provide valuable insight to inform future strategic decisions, and a full agenda will be available soon.

The Inflight Europe awards again brings the curtain down as we recognise outstanding IFEC and aircraft interiors product or service offerings from across the European region. Watch out for news of the opening of the nomination process, and get ready to give your team, products and services the recognition they deserve.

Regardless of whether the UK is out of the EU come next year, Manchester and Inflight Europe is the only place to be in, come May.

If you’d like to participate in the Workshop and share insights and commentary with peers, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

The editor’s comment is published weekly as an accompaniment to the Inflight e-newsletter. If you do not currently receive our email updates, you can subscribe here.

In an UK airline first, British Airways is trialling a new virtual reality headset on select flights in First from London Heathrow to New York JFK.

The AlloSky headsets from VR eyewear specialists, SkyLights, will give customers access to a selection of award-winning films, documentaries and travel programmes in 2D, 3D or 360° formats, as well as a specially curated range of therapeutic programmes, including guided meditation and sound therapy, specifically designed for customers who have a fear of flying.

Sajida Ismail, head of Inflight Product at British Airways, said: “We are always looking at the latest technology to enhance our customers’ experience on the ground and in the air. Virtual reality has the power to revolutionise in-flight entertainment and we’re really excited to trial these new glasses as they should create a unique and memorable journey for our First customers”.

Embraer Services & Support has unveiled its new Interior Workshop showroom at Sorocaba Service Center, Brazil.

Embraer’s Interior Workshop has two strategic partners in Latin America: Embraer Design Operations (EDO), responsible for the internal and external design of the company’s executive jets, and F/LIST Brasil, which has expertise in high-end cabin interior services, from on-site repairs and upholstery services to cabin interior upgrades and complete retrofits.

Among the projects already completed by the Interior Workshop is the complete revitalisation of a 10-year-old Legacy 600, with the replacement of leather armchairs, removal and application of varnish on wood surfaces, replacement of carpet and vinyl flooring installation in the Galley. In another project, an eight-year-old Phenom 100 received new ultra-leather panel coating, varnished cabin bulkheads and doors, formica repairs and seat leather and base restoration.

To streamline the aircraft customisation process, Embraer has launched an iPad app for customers to evaluate and validate various aircraft configurations with immediate visualisation of selected interior and exterior design options. The application shows the materials and colours available, allowing the customer to select every detail, simulate from multiple paint schemes, choosing colour and pattern composition, saving options for later comparison and refinement of final selection.

“We prioritise customer experience and productivity. It was once an interactive, multi-meeting process where the client and our design team relied on material samples or photos generated from previous projects. The app has revolutionised this experience by opening up the possibilities for the customer to explore the limits of creativity and their preferences for colours and materials from the comfort of their home, giving them immediate insight into potential interior and exterior design schemes,” says Frank Chavez, director of Interior Design at Embraer Executive Aviation.

ThinKom Solutions has revealed its new innovative solution for efficient and effective land-based gateways designed to accommodate current and next generation low-Earth-orbit (LEO) and medium-Earth-orbit (MEO) satellite constellations.

“The proliferation of cubesats, nanosats, microsats and other miniaturised satellites will require a new way of thinking when it comes to gateway antenna technology,” said Bill Milroy, chairman and chief technology officer of ThinKom Solutions. “The answer is not to deploy more and larger dish farms. Instead, we’re proposing an entirely new paradigm that’s designed for the future yet employs currently available proven phased array technology.”

ThinKom’s approach uses multiple, tightly arranged, phased-array antennas, which are coherently (and reconfigurably) combined. The antenna units work together to track multiple LEO, MEO and GEO satellites simultaneously with look angles between 5 and 90 degrees in elevation and full 360-degree coverage in azimuth. The software-defined system is reconfigurable in that a single array is capable of supporting multiple links, modifying the number of beams and radiation properties dynamically to meet the link budget and throughput demands of the ever-changing number of satellites in view. It does all this without the high-power consumption of electronically scanned arrays, which is a critical feature in areas that rely on solar power or are otherwise energy-constrained due to geographic location.

The array, to be initially deployed in S and X-band operation (with higher frequencies brought on line as the market demands), is constructed in a fixed convex shape in order to provide maximum low-elevation coverage and minimise signal blockage while promoting the shedding of rain and snow. The visual signature of an array is less than two meters tall serving to eliminate the effects of high wind conditions and the footprint for a typical array (equivalent to eight 2.4-meter dishes or three 4.5-meter dishes or any mixed combination) occupies less than seven square meters, uniquely enabling flexible deployment in areas with limited real estate, such as rooftop locations.

“This radical new gateway concept is inherently flexible and scalable with far lower installation and maintenance costs,” said Milroy. “The low power and built-in redundancy provide greater reliability without routine maintenance, and individual units are hot-swappable in order to minimise or even eliminate downtime.”

“Most importantly, we’re not out to reinvent the wheel. This solution uses our patented, proven phased-array antenna technology that is in service today, minimising R&D and time-to-market,” he added.