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.

A main menu can be displayed in the cabin allowing occupants to make selections from the Airshow network which includes news, sports, weather, and stocks.

In fact the weather information available through WSI uses Doppler radar images combined with text updates which can be used by the flight crew to form a trend analysis of storm cell direction, intensity, and even velocity.

Anytime a new mode is selected a message appears on the video monitor for a short time advising the viewer of the mode currently being displayed. When the network is not being accessed it is typical for the display to cycle through various modes. This is programmable depending on the user's requirements. A typical cycle includes a display of high-resolution maps illustrating aircraft track followed by flight information and then a company logo could be displayed. This sequence would continue for the duration of the flight or until a network selection was made or an override input was given by the flight crew for a safety briefing or other required presentation.

Passenger interaction can be accomplished by a cabin mode selector panel either using one main panel and a binary switching principle or a pulse mode installation which enables multiple switches to be installed throughout the cabin.

Another common installation feature will accommodate a Master Power switch which is in line with most other types of in-flight entertainment systems.

Installation and maintenance

The installation of an Airshow system involves practices that are in line with most other avionics. Any location for electronics should be in an area free of heat sources. There should be adequate space allowance for installation cables and maintenance electrical connectors. There should also be a clear area around the unit of at least 1 inch to allow for proper internal heat dissipation. A common problem encountered with electronic equipment installation especially in newer composite aircraft is locating a good electrical ground for the device. Even the mounting shelf should have an electrical connection to the airframe. In fact precautions should be exercised when the connection is made to apply adequate protection to prevent galvanic action which could disrupt the electrical circuit. The routing of data lines is another area where caution is needed. In some cases locating digital buses near coax antenna cables or high voltage AC wires can cause the data on the bus to become corrupt. Improper termination of shielding around digital buses is another circumstance which can jeopardize the validity of digital information.

Electrical noise finding its way into the Airshow system will result in a degradation of system performance. Plus unnecessary wiring should either be disconnected or at least capped and stowed near the connector.

Maintenance diagnostics play a strong role in the Airshow installation. In fact the ground test procedure is based on sequential completion of five separate validating functions. Each step depends on successful completion of the previous to allow progression. As the Airshow operation is strongly dependent on other aircraft systems it may indicate the presence of certain faults anytime all information is lacking. In addition the result of the tests may appear differently based on specific configurations. This means that two aircraft with the same system installed may not display exactly the same results during the testing phase of operation.

System updates are also handled electronically and the Airshow 4000 Series gives the capability to use a USB key provided by Collins. The installation process is automatic once the key is attached. To initiate the upgrade process the system will first have to be powered and operational. The cabin video display will allow monitoring of the loading sequence and status. Once the USB key is installed the Airshow will verify the information on the key is valid. In the event of bogus data the key will be ignored and the system will continue to function without interruption. Once the information is verified as proper, the part number of the software to be installed is displayed and a 60-second countdown begins. At the end of the time-out the new software will be automatically loaded. If the key is removed prior to the one-minute period the software installation is aborted and the system will go into a restart condition. Once the software upgrade commences it is very important not to remove the USB device until prompted to do so by the system. It is also important to leave the system powered during any software upgrade application.

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