The chatter within the inflight entertainment and connectivity (IFEC) industry is increasingly about the “passenger experience” — broadly meaning the gestalt of interaction between the passenger and the flight, from booking, to the terminal experience, to the cabin environment.

For the business aviation flight department that encompasses anticipating and meeting the passenger’s every need, which, in turn, can raise the expectations bar into the stratosphere, both literally and figuratively. Some business aviation users can be exceptionally demanding. The IFEC products and services providers described here continue to do a remarkable job of delivering on those expectations.

To underscore this, you’ll see that we’ve noted the most-significant recent developments within the cabin electronics market. Meanwhile, the providers, in addition to enhancing passenger IFEC capabilities, are upping their game to include better cockpit connectivity, flight tracking, quick access recorders and other resources.

AirFi

Arkefly, a Dutch charter company operating a fleet of Boeings, recently partnered with another Dutch company, MI Airline, to install MI Airline’s AirFi Box to power both Arkefly’s ground-based and inflight passenger streaming
initiatives.

The AirFi Box is a compact, portable self-scaling Wi-Fi network that runs entirely on battery power. Roughly the size of a shoebox and weighing a little over 2.5 lb., a single AirFi Box can support streaming to as many as 50 users at once. The AirFi Box is placed by the cabin crew either in the ceiling compartment or in a dedicated overhead bin and is not in any way connected to the aircraft.

The unit was designed to be an alternative to more-complex IFE options.

Applications on the AirFi platform are HTML5/Javascript-based. AirFi also provides an API to obtain basic flight data, passenger data and product data if the connected crew platform is also used on that flight.

MI Airline is talking to other IFE and fixed Wi-Fi providers to deploy the platform on their servers. Content is updated on the ground while the boxes are being charged, via the AirFi Proxy Box connected to the Internet. When passengers connect their tablets or smartphones to the network, the AirFi delivers a range of options including multiplayer games, onboard chat, destination information, etc.

While the AirFi Box will stream video, bandwidth limitations compromise video quality. Also, since the AirFi Box is purely browser based, there are digital rights management (DRM) considerations, as the studios do not allow their protected content to be streamed to a browser (without online connection). Via partners, MI Airline is able to provide a preloaded tablet that in combination with the AirFi Box is able to unlock DRM content for passengers.

Alto

Sterling, Massachusetts-based Alto Aviation has expanded its line of cabin entertainment systems, adding new high-end audio/video options for business aviation. The company has teamed with Innovative Advantage to use its audio video distribution system (AVDS) nodes as an integral part of Alto’s audio/video offerings. The AVDS supports video switching to multiple monitors in either standard-definition or high-definition modes.

The development provides business aviation retrofit customers with an advanced, turnkey stand-alone IFE system specifically configured and designed to each aircraft’s requirements.

Avionica

This avionics data collection and transmission manufacturer has earned its 18th STC from the FAA for installation of its avWIFI router system on transport and business
aircraft.

The avWIFI router system lets airliner and business jet operators retrieve real-time flight data over wireless high-speed Internet and network connections no matter how remote the airport. The single router functions as a secure onboard server with up to 1 terabyte of solid-state drive capacity for file storage and management services.

Intended to provide secure device-to-device connectivity in the cabin during all phases of flight, avWIFI provides high-throughput capabilities to update IFE systems, electronic flight bags, onboard maintenance terminals and other Ethernet-enabled mass-storage systems.

In combination with the Miami manufacturer’s avRDC quick access recorder (QAR), the equipment can support full ARINC 615-4 and 615A data loading capacity.

The avRDC QAR is standard equipment on the Gulfstream G650. Avionica developed the platform when Gulfstream engineers needed an interface to several aircraft data buses on the G650’s advanced aircraft health trend and monitoring unit (AHTMU). The avRDC converts multiple aircraft data buses to a single Ethernet communication bus compatible with the AHTMU.

BAE Systems

Passengers will be able to enjoy current movies streamed to their personal devices on aircraft equipped with BAE Systems’ IntelliCabin wireless IFE system.

According to BAE, IntelliCabin became the first IFE product to secure approval from a major Hollywood studio for viewing early window content — movies recently out of theaters but not yet available for home viewing — on both passenger- and operator-owned devices. The movies are streamed from a server installed on the aircraft. For approval to share such content, the IntelliCabin system had to satisfy Hollywood data security requirements to safeguard copyrights.

Betria Interactive

The new Interactive FlightPath2D and Interactive HTML Moving Map services from Betria are designed to support past and future IFE platform requirements. Both services are similar to the fully interactive and content-rich FlightPath3D service offering.

The new Interactive FlightPath2D also supports earlier generations of IFE platforms and offers a cost-effective way to enhance an older or outdated map service. And the new Interactive HTML service is browser based and supports newer wireless systems, portable laptops and tablets. It requires no application download and supports all major browser types. FlightPath2D is now in service with airlines and the new HTML service launch was scheduled to be announced this fall.

Blue Sky Network

The new HawkEye 7200A tracking system is FAA-certified with an AML STC and features pinpoint tracking with GNSS precision and optional Bluetooth connectivity.

In addition, Blue Sky Network’s newest system exceeds the proposed required performance criteria for transport aircraft under the future ICAO Global Aeronautical Distress Safety System (GADSS). Over the next several years, air transport operators will be required to equip aircraft with enabling hardware products that are married to back-end services to support GADSS. These units will have to autonomously identify abnormal circumstances in flight and may also have to be tamperproof with independence from the ship’s power.

Supported by Iridium’s global network, the HawkEye 7200A weighs only 1 lb. and its GNSS receiver incorporates GPS and GLONASS for double-level tracking.

Firmware from the La Jolla, California, manufacturer also allows for remote upgrades to onboard hardware as the evolution of performance-based GADSS criteria changes. The small form factor of the HawkEye 7200A was designed to allow the unit to replace the required No. 2 ELT (a pending ICAO proposal).

Meanwhile, SkyRouter, Blue Sky Network’s cloud-based Web portal, brings more utility to the HawkEye 7200A, allowing operators to easily view, manage and communicate with aircraft at any location in the world anytime.

digEcor

The new, fifth-generation portable digEplayer NV portable audio/video on-demand (AVOD) player is available in 8-, 10- and 12-in. versions. It is approved for early window content from all major studios and independent distributors and features high-definition screens, faster processing power, capacitive touch and accelerated graphics.

The digEcor player has either a Linux or Android operating system, which support motion/gesture games and allow for easy integration of applications and new media, including customizable GUIs to generate ancillary revenues and branding opportunities.

Other features of the digEplayer NV include an integrated stand mounted directly to a metal chassis, reinforced dual headphone jacks, up to 1 terabyte of SSD storage, USB power and gigabyte Ethernet content loading. The device also supports Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. Content is updated with a content update rack via gigabit Ethernet or by swapping optional SD cards. Smart status battery charging and changeable batteries offer either 12- or 18-hr. charge life.

Flight Display Systems

Flight Display Systems has a new line of high-definition, lightweight displays for business jets, measuring just 1-in. deep. Additionally, the new designs are fanless, allowing for quiet operation, and feature 1080p resolution at 60 MHz.

Initially, the displays will be available in the most popular sizes, including 17, 22 and 32 in. The displays can be mounted proud, semi-proud and flush. An optional front bezel attaches with magnets. The bezel can be custom coated upon request.

Meanwhile, the user interface of the Alpharetta, Georgia, manufacturer’s Smart Cabin CMS control modules has been redesigned with updated graphics and icons on the main screen. This allows passengers to adjust inflight entertainment options, access and share files, and control cabin features like temperature, lighting, shades and more. The designs are now available in more colors, including blue, gray, charcoal and gold.

The company also has launched “do,” a streaming media platform that lets passengers enjoy new content without having to pay any Internet fees. The content is stored on two 1-terabyte removable solid-state drives and driven by the do CAPSULE (a base unit mounted within the aircraft and attached to a Wi-Fi router).

Users can stream to any device with iOS, Android or Windows operating systems. As many as eight passengers can individually access different streaming content, including video, audio, images and work files. A worldwide moving map and video content also can be streamed to a bulkhead monitor.

The do CAPSULE also has the ability to interface with Flight Display Systems’ Smart Cabin cabin management system, enabling users to control lights, video, audio and more through the wireless interface.

Gogo Business Aviation

When it becomes available in early 2017, Gogo Biz 4G will provide the business aviation market 4G connectivity, resulting in faster streaming video and audio, email with attachments (particularly uploading), Web browsing, voice and VPN support. Service coverage will be limited to the continental U.S. and portions of Alaska and Canada for the time being, however.

Created specifically for business aviation, Gogo Biz 4G is a specially designed application of Gogo’s latest air-to-ground technology. The equipment package will incorporate dual-band 802.11ac Wi-Fi service and a host of other features all from a single, lightweight box.

The company’s existing range of Gogo Biz solutions will remain available after Gogo Biz 4G shipments begin. Gogo will be offering loyalty programs with significant trade-in incentives to current Gogo customers wishing to upgrade to Gogo Biz 4G.

Gogo has received the final STC from the FAA required to launch Gogo’s 2Ku next-generation satellite connectivity service. The technology is cleared for inflight testing on the company’s Boeing 737-500 flight test aircraft and Gogo expects to launch commercial 2Ku service before year-end. Seven airlines have signed up for either a trial or fleet deployment of 2Ku, covering more than 500 transport aircraft. Gogo expects to begin rapidly equipping the fleet in 2016.

The 2Ku technology is expected to deliver peak speeds of more than 70 Mbps to an aircraft, which is more than 20 times the bandwidth provided by Gogo’s first-generation air-to-ground service in the U.S.

Meanwhile, the company is launching an enhanced version of its Gogo Vision wireless IFE and information service, bringing more Hollywood entertainment to business aircraft.

Recently selected by NetJets and available globally, Gogo Vision serves up approximately 200 on-demand movies and TV shows, along with moving maps, news, flight progress information and destination weather. 

The content is stored in an onboard server and streamed directly to personal electronic devices.

The enhanced version of Gogo Vision offers many performance improvements, including the ability to view content on iPhones, tablets and laptop computers; compatibility with a greater range of cabin management systems; and design enhancements that make the system more intuitive for the user.

Gogo Vision’s content comes from the well-known entertainment providers, including Discovery Communications, Disney Studios, Magnolia Pictures, NBCUniversal, 21st Century Fox, Warner Bros. and more. Customers can update their content libraries monthly via removable USB flash memory drives issued by Gogo, and they have the additional option of receiving automatic updates every time the aircraft visits a participating Gogo Cloud location in the U.S.

The system is powered by Gogo’s UCS 5000 all-in-one smart router and media server. The unit uses fully certified, DO-160-compliant aviation componentry, which eliminates obsolescence issues found with off-the-shelf, consumer-based technologies. If a customer has UCS in place aboard the aircraft for router functions, the Gogo Vision inflight entertainment service is activated by purchasing a software key.

Gogo will soon add a new suite of services from Honeywell’s Global Data Center (GDC) to its business aviation portfolio. The program will provide customers with single-source activation, support and unified monthly billing. The additional Honeywell services include Inmarsat Classic Aero (voice and data services) along with a variety of flight planning, data link, graphical cockpit and weather information, flight following and concierge services.

Gogo’s other inflight voice and data services for business aviation include Gogo Biz, SwiftBroadband, Classic Aero, Swift64 and Iridium in addition to terrestrial 3G/4G service.

Honeywell

A new aircraft router from Honeywell offers higher Wi-Fi speed potential and growth to 4G LTE on-ground capability, among other benefits. The CNX-250 Cabin Gateway is a multi-port network router that acts as the communications hub for all aircraft data links, enhancing the performance of both Honeywell’s current Aspire 200 and MCS Series SwiftBroadband and the forthcoming JetWave Ka-band satcom systems.

Because of the stronger Wi-Fi signal inside the aircraft, passengers will immediately gain faster data transfer rates. In addition, using the wired gigabyte Ethernet port capability, passengers and crew can gain even higher speeds for certain devices.

Another advantage of the CNX-250 over its CNX-200 predecessor is “smart routing” to obtain the best available network through the system’s multi-WAN (Wide Area Network) capability. While on the ground, the upgraded router gives passengers the same 3G/4G service they currently enjoy with their cell phones and this will transition to the latest 4G LTE when available.

Honeywell is now offering a new cabin management upgrade program for its “C-Series” customers, called Ovation Select CS. The all-digital, scalable system gives business jet passengers advanced inflight entertainment, business productivity and connectivity features. Passengers can also control a variety of cabin environmental conditions including lighting, seats, temperature, galley and window shades with a simple touch-screen interface at the seat or from a personal electronic device (PED).

The upgrade for the more than 1,600 operators of existing C-Series-equipped aircraft integrates new, digital Ovation Select components with the existing analog Ovation C-Series components. A flexible upgrade menu can include a variety of optional cabin upgrades. These include adding an Ovation Select digital backbone and components that convert standard definition displays to “Full HD” (1080p high-definition video), replacing the existing Pronto remote control with personal iPod, iPhone, iPad and Android devices on the customer’s own tablet or smartphone and replacing discrete switch panels with Ovation Select touch-screen controllers. Key components of the Ovation Select CS upgrade solution include the 8.9-in. Ovation Select Touch-screen, the Utility Interface and the Cabin Interface Unit.

Honeywell is also offering a “quick and easy” software upgrade for operators with its satcom terminals that reportedly can double data throughput speed and provide fast voice and data links to Inmarsat’s SwiftBroadband global satellite network.

The high data rate (HDR) upgrade can be installed in the factory or in the field and takes about an hour.

The upgrade is available now for Honeywell’s HSD-400, MSC-7163/7147 and Aspire 200 terminals, connected to a range of Honeywell high-gain and intermediate-gain antennas. HDR communications enable data rates as high as 1.3 Mbps on the HSD-400 and MSC-7163/7147 terminals and 650 Kbps on the Aspire 200 unit, which is almost twice as fast as units without the upgrade, equaling broadband performance that is offered only by L-band systems. For helicopter operators, the HDR upgrade also includes specialized interleaver waveform to compensate for rotor blockage.

Innovative Advantage

Innovative Advantage has updated its AVDS backbone system to allow for real-time wireless streaming of onboard IFE equipment to iOS and Android devices. As a result, PEDs can act as personal monitors for the cabin IFE. The update also allows for the wireless sharing of unprotected content from your carry-on PED to the IFE system.

According to the Redmond, Washington, manufacturer, the AVDS architecture and PED streaming can be added to virtually any aircraft, from a light jet to a widebody, and integrating with the existing IFE equipment or as part of a new system.

AVDS streaming allows any IFE sources on the aircraft — cameras, aux ports, map servers, etc. — to be wirelessly streamed to personal PEDs. The system uses an industry-standard DRM mechanism to allow any IFE input on the aircraft to be viewed real-time. The DRM mechanism is offline, which allows the system to be installed on aircraft without connectivity. In addition, the system can be integrated with the aircraft’s existing Wi-Fi system or installed with other wireless routers. Optionally, customers can configure the AVDS to enable sharing of personal content from passenger PEDs to the aircraft, including music, photos and personal videos.

Inmarsat

The news from Inmarsat is its joining forces with Deutsche Telekom to provide inflight broadband services for European airlines and other operators. Lufthansa is set to become the first airline to trial the LTE/satellite-based service in 2017.

The London-based mobile satellite communications service provider is collaborating with the German operator to develop the European Aviation Network, which aims to combine satellite connectivity from a new Inmarsat S-band satellite with a new LTE-based ground network run by Deutsche Telekom in the same frequency.

The satellite utilizes Inmarsat’s 30-MHz S-band spectrum allocation in all 28 EU member states, while Deutsche Telekom will build and manage around 300 LTE sites on the ground. Each site will have a range of more than 50 mi. and transmit data to aircraft.

Latitude Technologies

New to our listings this year, this Victoria, British Columbia, company offers satcom-augmented products for helicopter operators. The company’s ION100 flight data monitoring (FDM) flight data recorder is now FAA-certified for installation on all Airbus EC135 models. Also included is Latitude’s SkyNode S200 satcom voice and data transceiver.

The IONode ION100 is available in five models, each designed to meet specific flight data collection and forwarding requirements. For the EC135, this includes collecting VEMD bus data along with the spatial and inertia sensor information.

Lufthansa Systems

BoardConnect Portable, developed by Lufthansa Systems, allows passengers to transfer movies and music wirelessly to their Wi-Fi-enabled devices. According to Lufthansa Systems, the new IFE system combines all technical components, such as server and access points, into a single mobile streaming unit (MSU), which can supply up to 50 passengers with streaming content.

The manufacturer says each MSU is about the size of a conventional tablet, weighs about 3.3 lb. and requires no costly cabling. An integrated modem enables wireless updates of content while the aircraft is on the ground.

Panasonic Avionics

AirAsia has chosen to equip its aircraft with FlightLink, Panasonic’s aircraft tracking and flight deck communications system. Additionally, Panasonic will be providing its new AirMap suite of products enabling Aeronautical Operational Control (AOC) fleet communications, management and aircraft tracking.

FlightLink uses Iridium’s satcom system to support flight-deck voice and data communication, as well as autonomous GPS-based flight tracking. Additionally, the system can provide fully integrated data communications for an aircraft’s ACARS system and electronic flight bags (EFBs).

AirAsia is also installing Panasonic’s Tropospheric Airborne Meteorological Data Reporting (TAMDAR) atmospheric sensor, an advanced airborne weather instrument, enabling improved flight planning and situational display of atmospheric conditions, including icing and turbulence.

Panasonic partnered with UTC Aerospace Systems (UTAS), which is supplying key enabling components to the EFB installation on the AirAsia aircraft, including the onboard Aircraft Interface Device (AID), Tablet Interface Modules (TIM) and associated EFB mounting hardware and brackets.

Panasonic says more than 516 aircraft have installed its connectivity systems in 2015 alone.

Rockwell Collins

The new Stage content service for business and private aircraft is a total content delivery solution that enables up to 70 passengers to stream media, including Hollywood DRM-protected movies and TV shows, to their personal devices from an easy-to-refresh onboard server. Media is specifically licensed by Rockwell Collins from leading studios and other content owners, and packaged in ways similar to what users get at home, but best suited for an aircraft environment. Stage is a cloud- and subscription-based service with a catalog.

Meanwhile, the company’s Venue HD cabin management and entertainment system, Airshow Moving Map and audio/video on-demand (AVOD) streaming solution were selected by an undisclosed customer for a widebody Airbus A340 business jet. The package was installed in mid-2015. The updated A340 features full-cabin video and music streaming capabilities for both Apple and Android personal devices, made possible by Venue’s AVOD function. The aircraft also features various-sized large HD monitors in parts of the cabin for optimized viewing of Blu-ray movies and other high-resolution content.

Rockwell Collins has delivered 600 Venue systems, which have been installed in business aircraft ranging from turboprops to long-range business jets and large VIP transports.

In addition, the European Aviation Safety Agency has issued an STC with FAA validation for installation of Rockwell Collins’ PAVES Wireless media distribution system in Airbus A320 and A321 aircraft. PAVES Wireless can stream video content to more than 250 passengers simultaneously and supports a wide array of apps and services.

Satcom Direct

Few IFEC industry players seem to have more irons in the fire than the soup-to-nuts aeronautical connectivity doyen Satcom Direct. Highlighting one of its recent developments, the company, which is based in Cape Canaveral, Florida, has developed the first app that enables passengers to use their smartphone, in flight, anywhere in the world.

Powered by the proprietary GlobalVT app and the company’s new Satcom Direct Router (SDR), passengers are connected to the appropriate network coverage, facilitating calls and SMS text messages during all phases of flight from taxi, to takeoff, to landing.

The SDR offers 3G cellular connectivity worldwide with any service provider while on the ground and provides data compression and acceleration. It also supports mobile applications for onboard cabin services, including moving map and Flight Tracker, and real-time connection status reporting.

The router interfaces with ViaSat’s Ku-band and Honeywell’s SwiftBroadband systems, and is designed to work with future connectivity systems, including Ka-band.

Installation of the SDR and accompanying software is standard on new Gulfstream G550 and G450 aircraft and available as a retrofit for in-service G550s and G450s. The new equipment, which weighs less than 10 lb., is designed to be installed inside the cabin or avionics bay. Gulfstream’s company-owned service centers have exclusive rights to perform the work. The airframer is pursuing similar STCs from the FAA to add this cabin communications enhancement to G650/G650ER, GV and GIV aircraft. Michigan-based Pentastar Aviation was also awarded an STC for the router.

Earlier, Satcom Direct was designated a Value Added Reseller (VAR) to provide Inmarsat’s Global Xpress (GX) products and services via Inmarsat’s Ka-band satellite network.

With new locations in Melbourne, Australia; Ottawa; and Denver, Satcom Direct now has nine international offices and five U.S. operations. These provide on-site training, support and satcom system consultation for pilots, flight operations staff and maintenance crews while development teams work to bring new products to market.

Securaplane Technologies

A Meggitt company, Securaplane Technologies has been selected to supply the cabin surveillance system (CSS) for Embraer’s E-Jets E2, in a deal worth approximately $19 million over the life of the program. The product is based on a system developed by Securaplane in response to growing aircraft security requirements. The Airbus A320, A330, A340 and A380 have all been fitted with versions of the system. The Embraer E175-E2, E190-E2 and E195-E2 aircraft CSS will be equipped with cameras that remain effective over the full light-intensity range and provide multiple views of individuals attempting entry.

Telephonix

In 1992, Telefonix’s first aerospace cord reel was installed as part of the Airfone air-to-ground phone system installed on Delta Air Lines aircraft. Millions of cord reels and 60+ patents later (Telephonix develops the cord reel technology found in over 80% of inflight entertainment systems), the Waukeegan, Illinois-based company’s role in the IFEC industry has expanded. It now designs and builds passenger control units, servers, content loaders, video monitors, Android-based handsets and custom aerospace devices.

Telephonix (and partner PDT, a product design and development firm) recently teamed with Gogo to develop a plug-and-play upgrade for Gogo’s connectivity service.

TrueNorth

Ottawa, Ontario-based TrueNorth Avionics’ newest product offering provides light-to-medium jet and turboprop aircraft with communications capabilities previously reserved for long-range business aircraft. The company’s new Optelity Hot Spot product is an “N” wireless access point and integrated router powerful enough to host embedded applications and is the latest addition to its family of connectivity products.

Purpose-built for smaller cabins, the Hot Spot will let pilots use electronic flight bags and passengers use phones, tablets and other Wi-Fi devices in flight. Among business aviation’s smallest, lightest and fastest wireless access points, the device fits in the palm of your hand and weighs just over half a pound. Unlike consumer-based carry-on gear, it is aviation certified for safe inflight operation and installed on the aircraft to eliminate power conversion issues. Hot Spot supports embedded apps, which allows the device to be tailored for specific needs, and is built to accommodate new mobile devices as they come on line.

There are two variants available to address installation needs, one with an integrated antenna and one with an external antenna. In either case, users can connect Hot Spot to the aircraft’s existing satcom or air-to-ground broadband equipment. Additionally, pilots and passengers can use TrueNorth’s MyStylus app to make calls from their own iOS and Android smartphones.

ViaSat

Getting that first STC is the milestone that transforms cabin systems contenders into prime IFE contractors — and so ViaSat is now officially a prime player in the business. The late September STC approval for installation of its in-cabin distribution system on Airbus narrowbodies is the first of two significant STCs the Portland, Oregon, manufacturer expects to obtain with respect to inflight entertainment and connectivity. The second STC, anticipated in early 2016, will be for its hybrid Ku-/Ka-band antenna system.

The ViaSat in-cabin distribution system bridges the company’s antenna system to the inflight entertainment system in order to provide full Internet connectivity with streaming capabilities to all passenger devices and complete distribution of broadcast TV over satellite to the onboard seatback display.

The ViaSat system consists of a network access unit (NAU), wireless access points inside the cabin and cabling to interface between the satellite terminal and the IFEC system. Now deployed by ViaSat on Virgin America aircraft, the system provides both Internet connectivity and broadcast TV across ViaSat’s Ka-band and hybrid Ka/Ku-band terminals. The ViaSat in-cabin distribution system was designed to be universal and interface with different IFE
systems.

Earlier this year, ViaSat signed a technical agreement with Boeing to initiate the evaluation process for airlines to specify installation of the ViaSat inflight Wi-Fi connectivity system on Boeing commercial airplanes.

Vision Systems

Visi-Stream, Vision Systems’ new wireless IFE system for PEDs, offers Wi-Fi AVOD including DRM-approved streaming and other options. The connectivity feature provides Internet access, email, videoconferencing and personal smartphone usage over VoIP. The system can also provide cabin management and interactive moving maps and is customizable both in functionalities and user interface design.

Different configurations are possible with one single box for up to 200 tablets. The system can also send information to the passengers’ PEDs, with priority data flows for safety videos or announcements.

Beware of Cyber-Complacency

No, the Geek Squad can’t help you at FL 250. And yes, business aircraft are just as prone to cyber-hacking as anything else in our digital world until someone figures out a truly foolproof way to stop scoundrels from sneaking past all the hard- and software barriers we’re supposed to be building around our airborne digital appendages. That’s one reason corporate IT departments exist.

In case you missed it, in April the Government Accountability Office (GAO) warned the FAA that late-model aircraft may be vulnerable to cyber attacks that could affect the operation of avionics systems needed to keep the airplane airborne (see GAO-15-370).

According to the GAO, the FAA faces “challenges protecting aircraft avionics used to operate and guide aircraft” and that “significant security-control weaknesses remain that threaten the agency’s ability to ensure the safe and uninterrupted operation of the national airspace system.” Among those weaknesses: a lack of clear certification for aircraft airworthy readiness that encompasses cyber-security protections. That lapse, it maintained, could allow airplanes to fly with remotely exploitable vulnerabilities that could affect aircraft controls and guidance systems.

So until a better cyber mousetrap is invented, ask the makers and installers of your aircraft’s sophisticated avionics and cabin electronics what they recommend you do to harden them from attack.

The Big View

Meanwhile, 3-D glasses, used in movie theaters since the 1950s, have finally matured. Osterhout Design Group’s new R-7 SmartAR augmented-reality-enabled Smart Glasses provide 3-D, virtual reality (VR) experiences for computer gamers, moviegoers and other users. The San Francisco-based design company has been working on the R-7 for more than six years with help from NASA and corporate partners to build, refine and advance the technology.

Osterhout is competing with, among others, Sony’s PlayStation VR and Oculus Rift, a Windows PC-based, head-mounted VR display system that’s been getting lots of media coverage. Oculus Rift is transforming video games, movies, travel, medicine, education and more. The VR goggle-maker recently moved its headquarters to Menlo Park, California, to be closer to its new parent, Facebook. The Rift is slated for release in first quarter 2016. It won’t be long before VR products come looking for a home in business aircraft cabins.

And, finally, when flying commercially (it happens), you’ll be relieved to know that Google’s Flight Search Portal provides information on your chosen flight’s IFE options, power sockets, Wi-Fi and legroom. Just hope that the Wi-Fi you’re sharing with 200 other passengers can handle the bandwidth load. Meanwhile, we’ll keep you posted on this and other cabin electronics
developments.

Download BCA’s directory of cabin electronics manufacturers and service providers.