Air Transport World

New cabins in the sky. (seatback entertainment systems; includes Air Transport World survey of airline cabin technology plans)

Only a couple of years ago, it sounded like something out of science fiction but suddenly, it's reality. Airlines are rushing to install seatback video systems that by next year will allow passengers not only to watch their choice of movies and other programs but to play electronic games, shop for products that will be waiting when they land, order beverages and other on-board services, make flight reservations, obtain connecting-gate information, communicate worldwide via telephone, facsimile or modem and do other things that carriers are beginning to only contemplate.

Singapore Airlines provided the first glimpse of this future last year, when it equipped a 747-400 with a single-channel Honeywwell/Racal Satfone system with which passengers can make telephone calls worldwide via the INMARSAT constellation of geosynchronous satellites. Honeywell/Racal already has contracted to supply upgraded multichannel systems to SIA in 1993, for an additional 19 747-400s; to China Airlines, Finnair and Swissair for MD-11s; to Emirates for A310s and to Saudia for 747-300s. Trials are scheduled this year with British Airways, Lufthansa and Northwest.

Honeywell/Racal says the Swissair/Finnair/China Airlines agreement represents the "first true multichannel voice and data satcom sale."

The widespread interest in satellite communications for both data and voice is evident in the results of a special ATW survey that are tabulated on these pages. …

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