Are We There Yet? Systems that keep passengers informed

With the evolution of longer range transport aircraft one of the leading questions for aircraft operators is how to keep the passengers occupied during the journey.


This all too common phrase is often the source of dread for many parents taking the family on a planned outing. The utterance of these simple words is the usual indication of the onset of severe boredom. Of course another interpretation might be "Where exactly are we"? Followed by "How long will it be until we have reached the journey's end?" This is a situation that not only parents have to contend with but often plagues aircrew members. With the evolution of longer range transport aircraft one of the leading questions for aircraft operators is how to keep the passengers occupied during the journey. What may hold the attention of a pre-teenage child is probably not going to do a lot for the middle-aged chief financial officer being transported to a shareholders' meeting in some far-off destination.

Staying in touch

A means of staying in touch is a necessity in today's business travel environment and a device that can deliver not only stock market data but world news and weather along with pertinent information about the flight has become a reality on many corporate aircraft.

The Collins Airshow system is one such device. A modular concept is adapted for the purpose of presenting text and or graphic displays on monitors available to the passengers and crew. Information pertinent to the current trip such as position and time to destination are obtained by the Airshow computer from the aircraft navigation and air data systems while news, weather, and financial data is obtained through a subscription service using a radiotelephone link with a ground based Network Operations Center.

The content format and sequence of the cabin displays can be defined by the specific aircraft operator at the time a new device is ordered. Even the languages most common to the aircraft passengers can be loaded allowing easy understanding of the information contained on the various text pages. Giving cabin occupants the ability to select the information they most value makes the time spent flying fruitful to those using the system.

The Airshow system

At the center of the system is a box containing a server running the various applications in a Microsoft Windows environment. The unit is designed to operate within the pressure vessel on 28v DC with a power backup to allow a graceful shutdown. Also contained in the box are cooling fans providing an adequate airflow to prevent overheat conditions. An accessible front panel indicator provides a means of reporting fault information. Included is a "power on" indicator which illuminates when the power supply circuit is operational. In addition a BITE Failure indicator will illustrate that an internal defect has been detected. In normal operation this light will illuminate during system startup and extinguish after proper initialization has occurred. Audio connectors are also installed in the case and are wired in parallel with the main audio output to support 300-ohm impedance headsets.

In the flight deck is a controller used by the flight crew to enter a destination airport identifier, Greenwich Mean Time or even a time to destination. A menu function will allow selection of various modes including a preflight briefing and various passenger advisories.

The Airshow reads both digital and analog signals from the aircraft onboard avionics systems. This is accomplished by using up to three ARINC 429 buses. Provisions are also available via USB port to facilitate the installation of a mouse, keyboard, or even a printer.

What's on the menu?

A flight deck display is used to select the option mode. These include national weather, airport weather, destination identification, weather files, aircraft position information, and a means to update the cabin display. Once again the displayed information is decided at the time of system purchase and the content as well as display order is written into the specific software package for that installation. The available data includes geographic maps capable of depicting the route of flight and illustrating real-time aircraft position, previous flight path, and planned route. In addition, place names and points of interest can be displayed. Multi language text pages illustrate real-time flight information including ground speed, altitude, temperature distances, and times. The system also has a feature that produces audio briefings for safety.

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