OnAir Plug is first initiative in e-Aircraft programme

OnAir's CEO Ian Dawkins.
OnAir’s CEO Ian Dawkins.

Geneva-based OnAir is working on a new aircraft e-Enablement programme that it says could bring big benefits to airlines.

Called OnAir Plug, it uses the aircraft’s satellite connection and a secure network to allow real-time data exchanges with the ground.

This will allow airlines to optimise their inflight and ground operations, plus support crew member applications

Ian Dawkins, CEO of OnAir, said that OnAir Plug is a fleet-dedicated service that could allow for live electronic flight bag (EFB) updates, including flight plans and weather updates, plus aircraft health monitoring.

“OnAir is providing the innovation to allow airlines to exploit connectivity beyond passenger communications,” Dawkins said. “OnAir Plug will also provide operational real-time data for the cabin crew.

“This is the first major step in unleashing the full potential of the e-Aircraft.”

OnAir Plug will be platform agnostic. At the moment OnAir’s inflight internet and telephony services are carried over Inmarsat’s SwiftBroadband service. But Dawkins is pointing the way forward for the future use of Inmarsat’s GX Ka-band service, which will offer global data speeds of up to 50mbps.

Philippine Airlines will be the launch customer for OnAir Plug. It was the first airline in the world to provide mobile phone, Wi-Fi and wireless inflight entertainment for their passengers and now has access to a range of services previously unavailable to the crew.

OnAir said it was working on three further “use case” applications that should be complete by the end of the year. Going forward it will develop further e-Enabled aircraft applications with parent company SITA.

For example, OnAir Plug could connect the airline’s point of sale devices to enable real-time credit card transactions during onboard retail sales. Secure live flight tracking is another option.

Key to all of this is a secure SSID connection to the cockpit, rather than a priority connection such as will be required for Inmarsat’s SwiftBroadband safety services when it is certified.

“OnAir helped us lead the way with our wireless inflight entertainment system. We are very excited about OnAir Plug both in what it will enable us to do in the future and the myriad opportunities it presents us, as an airline keen to leverage the e-Aircraft,” said Ana Leah V. Rodriguez, Head of Marketing and Ancillary Sales, Philippine Airlines.

“Philippine Airlines is keen to exploit what can be delivered today with existing technologies, such as Inmarsat’s SwiftBroadband,” said Dawkins. “This is the first stage of a development programme that will see a lot of new exciting e-Aircraft developments.

“We are also looking at what data are required in real-time and what can be downloaded when the aircraft is at the gate. Many of the processes required are not there at the moment, but we will see a gradual development of the e-Aircraft concept over the next five-ten years.

OnAir and SITA are running a number of global workshops on e-Enabled aircraft developments; the next is in Asia in October.

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