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Aircraft Interiors: OnAir sees Internet service intro before end of year

3rd April 2009 - 11:21 GMT | by The Shephard News Team

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Onboard mobile phone provider OnAir expects to see its next service offering, an Inmarsat SwiftBroadband-based Internet access service, introduced by two long-haul carriers before the end of the year.
 
“Passengers will have WiFi access to the Internet and email at speeds just a little slower than they are accustomed to on the ground,” Stephan Egli, the Geneva-based company’s chief commercial officer, told Inflight Online at this week’s show. “It will be a fully workable Web browsing and email service.”

Meantime, OnAir’s initial offering – voice, text messaging and email via passenger mobile phones and other handheld devices – is rapidly gaining market traction. It is currently the subject of trials by bmi of the UK, Ryanair and TAP Portugal. “But,” said Egli, “we’re really no longer in trial mode. Our system works and it has been shown that voice services do not cause any disruption in the cabin.” 
 
OnAir is in full commercial service with Wataniya Airways of Kuwait and Royal Jordanian. OnAir anticipates a flurry of new launches in the coming months. First up, this summer, will be Airblue of Pakistan, offering OnAir in new Airbus A320s. Then will come AirAsia, which has said it will equip its fleet of 100+ Airbus A320-family aircraft, followed by the British Airways transatlantic premium-only operation, Oman Air and two as yet unannounced customers.

“We’re also in advanced negotiations with four Airbus A380 airlines,” said Egli. “Some of them have already received aircraft and will retrofit. The others will have the system installed on the line. Finally, we are seeing airlines that have already committed for their single-aisle fleets deciding that they must have us on their long-haul types as well. They are committing to true fleet fits.”    

Meantime, OnAir says it has just recorded the 10,000th commercial flight of an airliner with its system aboard and functioning. The milestone was achieved on a TAP Portugal Airbus A320 flight from Lisbon to Munich. The company expects the 100,000-flight milestone to be passed within the next nine months.

OnAir has announced that it has successfully tested the 432kbit/sec SwiftBroadband service, which it uses for its air-to-ground link, with the telemedicine capabilities of UK company RDT. According to the two companies, SwiftBroadband offers enough bandwidth to support simultaneous real-time video, voice communications and vital-signs data relating to the diagnosis and management of serious medical conditions arising in-flight. The system was trialled on a bmi flight at the end of February.

* OnAir cabin system provider KID-Systeme says the equipment has received European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) supplement type certification for the Boeing 737. The certification is the system’s second, following clearance on the Airbus A320 family.
 
The Boeing retrofit installation design and STC process was managed by KID-Systeme with US partner ECS. The design includes an innovative distributed-LRU installation concept, allowing the equipment to be put aboard during regular maintenance checks and activated during an overnight stop so that the aircraft does not have to be taken out of revenue service.

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