Taking care of business aloft

Contented passengers on long flights need more than good catering. They need reliable cabin communications and entertainment systems.

Thrane & Thrane Aviator 700 inflight communications suite allows ATC voice and datalink communications over oceans as well as VoIP telephone calls from both cabin and flightdeck.

A tragic case in point is the IFE installation that Swissair had done on their McDonnell Douglas MD­11s.

The airline's management actually opted for a low-cost installation by an inexperienced company, because earnings from airborne inflight gambling were supposed to pay the installer of the system in the following years.

But the power supply for the system was installed at the wrong juncture of the MD11's electrical grid. In Sep 1998, on Swissair flight 111 out of JFK, arcing of the IFE power supply led to a tragic and irrecoverable inflight fire. Several hundred lives were lost when SR111 crashed off the coast of Halifax NS, Canada as a result of this error.

I only mention this because the added risk of electrical malfunctions should not be overlooked when installing IFE systems. The power consumption and heat generated can be significant.

On the other hand, IFE and inflight Internet are essential parts of the experience for today's executive jet passengers, especially on long international trips. And time spent productively onboard can quickly pay for the cost of the trip. In these economic times, this is a good argument for supporting the aviation department.

Peter Berendsen is a Boeing 747-400 captain for an international airline. He writes regularly on aviation-related subjects.



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