NBAA 2013: Editor’s blog – High stakes pay off at Vegas

This year saw the in-flight entertainment and connectivity (IFEC) community at NBAA play a strong hand.

Booths were bigger – there were more on the floor and plenty of IFEC press announcements. For the first time there was an IFEC press conference every day. There was risk and excitement a plenty as companies took a gamble on the latest terrestrial technologies to provide exciting cabin offerings.

We saw a great deal of borrowing from military systems and the biggest show news came from Dassault Falcon Jet, which introduced its long awaited ‘SMS’ – dubbed the Falcon 5X, the large-cabin $45 million business jet. The cockpit will feature the industry's most advanced head-up display technology, provided by Elbit Systems. The new HUD will combine enhanced vision and synthetic vision for unsurpassed situational awareness, even in total darkness, fog or dense haze. Enhanced vision uses infrared sensors to display terrain in darkness and reduced visibility. Synthetic vision uses a global terrain database for the same purpose. In the 5X, they will be combined for the first time on the head-up display providing a high fidelity view of the outside world even when actual visibility is zero.

Rockwell, too, introduced its own HUD, which Embraer will fly on the new mid light and mid size Legacy 450 and 500 jets. The HGS-3500 head-up system and new multi-spectral EVS-3000 enhanced vision system are now offerable options on the aircraft.

The Cedar Rapids based firm also upgraded its Venue cabin management and HD entertainment system to allow for wireless sharing. Not to be outdone, Aircell introduced Gogo Cloud, a new wireless content delivery network that delivers automatic in-flight entertainment (IFE) updates at select FBOs and individual hangar facilities.

Claimed to be the first service of its kind in the business aviation market, Gogo Cloud allows customers of Aircell’s new IFE service, Gogo Vision, to automatically receive the latest updates whenever they visit a Gogo Cloud location.

There was more small portable hardware on offer. Flight Display Systems, for example, launched JetJukebox, a storage solution that allows for IFE in a small space. Avionca, meanwhile, gambled on its new product, dubbed PuC, being a hit with the market. The single channel device uses satcoms to transit SMS messages and phone calls and is still in the R&D phase. Since it is a carry on device it does not require the intensive certification process that an integrated device would.

ARINC was also in bullish form about prospects for its new small portable Iridium-powered onboard communications device – ARINC Direct Xplore, which is a small box that users will carry onto the aircraft, and therefore requires no avionics installation. It has to be attached to power and to an external dual Iridium/GPS antenna to enable communication with Iridium satellites.

The general sense from the show is that IFEC is taking a firm hold of the business aviation market. There were old and new faces, and a feeling that in-flight entertainment is no longer a ‘nice to have’ so much as an onboard necessity. It was good to be part of such a positive energetic buzz. That all adds up to a winning hand for our community.

Liz Moscrop, Inflight / Inflight-Online.com

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