Oct. 7, 2014

A working group, formed two years ago to address the need for improved in-cabin connectivity standards for passengers and crew, has evolved into a dedicated Connectivity Subcommittee of the NBAA Maintenance Committee. The new subcommittee will work with manufacturers and end users to develop an industrywide standard for integrating cabin electronic systems.

Establishing common equipment, performance and serviceability standards are the key goals of the new organization, according to the two co-founders of the initial Connectivity Working Group: Boeing’s Mike Wuebbling and Jim Janaitis, manager of aircraft maintenance services for IBM’s flight operations.

“The first standard must be customer expectations, aimed toward the end user, but also establishing a standard that OEMs may manufacture and certify their equipment to,“ noted Janaitis, who is co-chair of the new subcommittee. “We are also examining post-certification aspects, including servicing that equipment and training for the technicians, flight attendants and flight crew members in the delivery of the service to the end users of the aircraft.“

Inflight connectivity solutions for business aircraft range from relatively basic inflight email and texting capabilities to full Internet connectivity for teleconferencing and entertainment, utilizing L-, Ku- and, in coming years, Ka-band communications frequencies. The demand for such products has led to a diverse and disparate range of systems available, with the most modern systems offering speeds rivalling ground-based home and office Internet services.

“Manufacturers like Honeywell, Satcom Direct, [Rockwell] Collins and Aircell have all made equipment to be installed a certain way,” Janaitis explained. “However, OEMs and third-party vendors have found multiple ways to integrate these systems in order to meet their customers’ expectations, and for different installation parameters. One reason we formed this subcommittee was to determine industrywide standards that not only work for one application, but also have accepted workarounds available if they don’t work.”

The first meeting of the Connectivity Subcommittee will be held Wednesday, Dec. 3 at NBAA headquarters in Washington, DC, with an initial roster of 12 members that includes pilots, IT specialists, flight attendants and maintenance professionals. Janaitis noted the subcommittee is also seeking the participation of manufacturers’ representatives.

“We’d also like to see operators involved to provide their feedback on current standards and where they’d like to see the industry go,” he concluded.

Those interested in participating on the Connectivity Subcommittee may contact Janaitis at jimjan@us.ibm.com, or Wuebbling at michael.g.wuebbling@boeing.com.