Connected for Flying

Until now, one of the great bugbears of flying is that, basically, from the time you enter the aircraft until the time that you land you are out of contact with the world.

This, of course, is a new phenomenon that has really only become noticeable in the past decade or so as cell/mobile phones have become popular. With increased technology and the revolution in Smartphone ownership which has seen phones do much more than simple make calls of send and receive text messages, people have started to use their phones as tools for social networking and business.

Changes are afoot in the aviation industry and within a short while being on a plane will no longer mean that passengers are temporarily out of touch with their normal connected world.

Boeing has announced that it continues to advance its suite of connectivity offerings on its family of commercial jetliners. Systems to be installed during production on the 747-8 and 777 by the end of 2013 have the capability to provide in-flight use for cell/mobile phones, wi-fi connectivity for passengers, internet access using in-flight entertainment, and live television broadcasts. The 737 already includes wiring provisions for connectivity systems.

Boeing has already announced that Qantas will be the launch customer for the Boeing Onboard Performance Tool (OPT) for iPad. The Onboard Performance Tool gives pilots the ideal speeds and engine settings for any aircraft, in any weather, on any runway. It helps to create vast gains in efficiency, range and payload. This marks the first time the OPT application has run on iPad. The Australian carrier will deploy the OPT for iPad on 130 of its Boeing airplanes.

Other airlines, such as American Airlines, Alaska Airlines and United are also replacing heavy pilot manuals with iPads.

American Airlines will be issuing cabin crew with Samsung Tablets to be used for customer information including name, seat number and frequent flier status, which can be viewed in list or seat map view. Additional services awaiting FAA approval include providing passengers with information such as connecting gates, weather reports and delay updates, which will automatically be updated when the devices are connected to wi-fi.

Tests between American Airlines and a company called Aircell have been underway for some time to provide a service which enables passengers to stream movies, TV shows and other content from an in-flight library to their Wi-Fi-enabled devices.

The Qantas subsidiary Jetstar has also announced some time ago that it will be utilising iPads for passenger entertainment, which means that we may be saying goodbye to the seatback monitor. The savings in installation and operating costs may mean that flying will become even cheaper in the not-too-distant future.

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