Passing the Time: Entertainment systems

Passing the Time Entertainment systems By Jim Sparks September 1999 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...


Digital Video Discs (DVD) represents a new medium that squeezes an entire feature film on a Compact Disc (CD). In fact, most DVD Players will even accommodate standard audio CDs, so by using this new technology, an audio player could be eliminated from the overall system. The new DVD format offers an extensive array of interactive videos similar to a CD-ROM. Each disc can provide up to eight sound track language options and up to 32 subtitles. Digital control enables frame by frame disc advancement, slow motion, instant jumps to any point on the disc, as well as fast forward, and freezing on a single frame. There is also the ability to program specific segments to play in a preset order or at random. Like a VCP, DVD will also have a specific video output format. For aircraft that travel internationally and may want to show video purchased outside North America, a DVD with a selectable output would be imperative.

Handheld remote control transmitters are every bit as important on the aircraft as in the home. With many cabin features operating on IR technology, one "do all" remote may be used to select an audio or video source, as well as set speaker volumes, light intensity and even control window shades. Infra Red transmitters are in use with passenger headsets allowing a person to move freely about the cabin without being restrained by wires. Locations for IR receivers and transmitters have to be well thought out. Just like at home, if an object is blocking the light beam, the television station will not change and somebody has to get up!

Recent revelations in the in-flight entertainment business is the ability to deliver live television directly to the aircraft. Now the same programming that is available to millions of homes can be seen at 40,000 feet, so the CEO won't have to worry that his home VCR will miss recording "I Love Lucy." In addition, a wide array of commercial free, CD quality music channels are available. This phenomenon is accomplished by using an antenna mounted at the top of the vertical fin that can be positioned to look at a Direct Broadcast Satellite (DBS) operating in a geostationary earth orbit. The Inertial Reference system will supply the Airshow Multiple Receiver Decoder Unit (MRDU) with present aircraft position.

The MRDU contains internal information on satellite position and will allow a computation to be made which ultimately causes the electric servo motors on the DBS Antenna Unit (DAU) to react and adjust the antenna so it is aligned with the satellite and will continue to maintain alignment as the aircraft travels onward.

The MRDU then processes the Direct TV signal and sends it on to through the normal aircraft video system. This is a direct satellite link operation beneath the clouds or in precipitation is not guaranteed. Even on a clear day, the system may not function on the ramp unless the aircraft IRS is operating. At present this service is only available over the continental United States and its territorial waters.

We Recommend