Avionics Technology: Evolution or Revolution in the Cabin

A look at cabin management systems

CMS is not always intended to be strictly a business tool. Adding components such as Direct TV or a Blue Ray player can bring an element of fun to the cabin. In addition, several makers of premier audio systems can turn an aircraft passenger chamber into a virtual concert hall complete with sub-woofers and surround sound. Individual headsets, some with noise-cancelling abilities, can be tuned into any active iPod or even XM Radio when the aircraft is operating in or around North America. XM Weather can be presented to passengers and those with an aviation background will interact with the system through a computer mouse to select en route or destination weather.

Devices such as external cameras or infrared sensors provide those in the cabin with a sense of what is going on around them even on the darkest nights.

Maps displayed on monitors have gone from grainy and vaguely defined to those with the resolution of Google maps and may even incorporate street level or pilots eye views of the terrain beneath the aircraft.

Ergonomic features
The ability to control other ergonomic features is another possibility. It is now achievable to control cabin temperature and in some cases humidity from any seat position, and based on cabin design, separate temperature zones can be established and independently regulated. Of course independent temperature controls will only function as well as the airframe air delivery and recovery circuits will allow.

Potable water systems have been brought in under the control of CMS. Water quantity can easily be displayed along with system operating pressure and on/off controls for water heaters. Safety circuits are engineered through software that will turn off the water heaters automatically when the water storage tank is empty.

Various preset modes are custom designed to select various situations. A "boarding" mode will bring up a specific slide show on the video monitors perhaps showing a "welcome aboard" message along with a map illustrating the route of flight and a company logo where applicable. This mode may also engage specific cabin lighting and appropriate audio. A "movie" mode may dim select cabin lights and can also command cabin window shades to darken the windows against ambient light. The "night" or "sleep" feature can further reduce cabin lighting and may command designated night lights to illuminate along with automatically deploying berthing divans and driving motorized seats to a position conducive to supporting the body at rest.

One of the great features is maintenance access. A design plan that includes back doors will often be a life saver if required lights are inoperative and a normally hidden circuit can be initiated that will restore lighting through secondary controls.

The great thing about digital technology is that most of the common buses work on a two wire principal, almost like the old time reading light. What could be simpler than troubleshooting a pair of twisted wires?

One of the most desirable applications I see is the ability to interact with the CMS from an iPhone no matter where in the world the aircraft is flying. This is a tremendous asset to help stage parts and support at the destination even before the aircraft arrives in the event of a problem reported in flight.

Conceptually if someone you need to get even with is on a night trip and sound asleep on one of the electrically berthing divans which might happen to be located next to a highly amplified sub-woofer, you can make their waking experience very memorable from miles away.

Jim Sparks has been in aviation for 30 years and is a licensed A&P. Currently when not writing for AMT, he is the manager of aviation maintenance for a private company with a fleet including light single engine aircraft, helicopters, and several types of business jets. He can be reached at sparks-jim@sbcglobal.net.

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