Passing the Time
By Jim Sparks
Early on, when flying was still considered a novelty, passengers were entertained simply by looking out the windows at the passing scenery. The sights and sounds within the aircraft were ample stimulation for the senses.
Today, with aircraft routinely flying between five and six miles above the earth, sightseeing is all but eliminated. Additionally, the increased number of seats and decreased amount of free space has resulted in the lack of mingling between passengers.
The high volume of business travelers has driven the aviation industry to provide capabilities for business persons to work while in flight. To better meet the need, many business aircraft are in fact, an office in the sky — incorporating highly sophisticated communication and production capabilities, the executive traveler has most of the same capabilities offered while at corporate headquarters. In addition, when business is concluded, relaxation equipment is equally sophisticated.
In most cases carrying along a favorite singer or band is not an option; however, listening to music is still possible through the use of compact discs or cassette tapes. Likewise, a theatre troupe onboard would put a significant dent in the payload. First-run movies, as well as prerecorded performances, can be made available to passengers through the use of videocassettes and digital videodiscs. With the use of satellite communications, an aircraft almost anywhere within the earth's atmosphere can provide its passengers with the latest in news, sports, and financial reports.
Cabin Video Information Systems (CVIS) have been in existence for about 20 years. These systems make it possible for passengers to view geographic maps of the route of flight showing real-time aircraft position along with the flight plan, and even ground covered. In addition, multi-language place names and points of interest are highlighted.
Text pages can also be displayed in a wide array of dialects that list flight information such as ground speed, present altitude, outside air temperature as well as time en-route and time to destination along with distances. Custom graphics, including corporate logos, can be broadcast along with special announcements. Audio briefings for safety or instructions can also be provided and enhanced by video footage.
One company that has been a major contributor to the development of entertainment systems over the years is Airshow Inc. (ASINC). Airshow systems have been installed in over 3,500 corporate aircraft and utilized by over 100 airlines. Since Airshow systems are prevalent in the industry, we will look at a typical Airshow system to illustrate how air entertainment works.
For the system to operate, a Digital Interface Unit (DIU) is used to receive information from the aircraft's onboard long range navigation system, Inertial Navigation System, or Flight Management System as well as from the Air Data System. This information is then processed within the DIU and can be applied to a map of the specific geographical area. Maps are loaded via CD-ROM into the DIU. The current map inventory at ASINC includes North America, Europe, Asia/ North Pacific, South America, Africa/ Middle East and Asia/ South Pacific. These maps can be created and customized for close-up views of most metropolitan areas and include details such as buildings, highways and airport runways. Newer technology gives passengers a more realistic view of the land they are flying over by providing actual satellite images of the earth's surface. Perspective maps are also available enabling topographical information to be presented in a horizontal perspective — much as it would appear from the flight deck on a clear day.
An atlas database can be made available to passengers who wish to contrive future expeditions. By using a computer mouse or electronic pointer, passengers can zoom in on their hometown or explore far off exotic lands. Time zones can also be included so local time can be observed at any position on the map with the simple click of a switch.
Flight Display Systems has received Parts Manufacturing Approval (PMA) from the FAA for three upgraded cabin entertainment products.
The King Air 350i is the first business aircraft on the market equipped with the new Rockwell Collins Venue™ cabin management system (CMS).