NBAA Convention News

Digital video-on-demand coming to a cabin near you

 - November 7, 2006, 9:20 AM

Cabin electronics specialist PGA Avionics (Booth No. 1473) is introducing at NBAA an in-flight entertainment system called Paradize 3, notable for incorporating digital video-on-demand capability.

Paradize 3 will be offered for sale next year, so PGA is exhibiting only some components of the system here in Orlando. As described by the manufacturer, the system’s network links an aircraft’s IFE system and cabin lighting.

The complete system includes audio and video on-demand, DVD, CD and videotape players, external video cameras, live television and moving maps, high-definition monitors, mood lighting and individual reading lights.

The French company is also exhibiting an upgraded video touchscreen (VTS) for cabin control. Paradize 3 is compatible with the existing remote controls, the VTS and the more basic keyboard touchscreen (KTS). The VTS now includes mood lighting, audio, live tv and video on-demand controls, as well as attendant call. “Our customers like nice interfaces,” Jean-François Piaulet, the firm’s president and CEO, told NBAA Convention News.

A less expensive alternative to the VTS, the palmtop-sized KTS has the VGA graphic capability of a PC. However, it cannot display video with the same quality as the VTS. The main feature of both products is regrouping several IFE controls at a single point. This should help reduce the amount of wiring in the cabin.

The order book stands at 10 high-end business jet and three BBJ-sized aircraft equipment kits. “About 80 to 85 VIP aircraft are in operation with our products,” Piaulet claimed. In business and VIP aviation, PGA has equipped mainly Dassault Falcons (55) and Airbuses (almost 20) of all models, through European completion centers such as Dassault Falcon Service and Jet Aviation.

Piaulet said he believes his company still has a chance to be on the Falcon 7X trijet, Dassault’s flagship. The manufacturer’s CEO recently voiced concerns about the difficulties he had finding serious suppliers and thus reopened its supplier list.

For the future, Piaulet closely monitors progress in wireless IFE technology. It would offer obvious benefits in terms of installation, weight and maintenance.

Piaulet has seen recent advances in data speed rate, even for data-greedy applications such as video on-demand applications. However, the need for protection against electromagnetic interferences still makes it difficult to install wireless video or local computer networks.

PGA employs 130 people  at the Châteauroux headquarters. Most of its business comes from airline first- and business-class equipment. Revenues reached $27 million in fiscal year 2005-2006, a 12-percent increase over the previous year. Piaulet expects 15-percent growth next year, thanks to the product launches.

PGA executives hope to establish a sales office and accompanying support workshop in the U.S. soon–probably early next year. The company is considering doing production at the new base, but that should start later.

Having some manufacturing done in the U.S. should yield a benefit in hedging the euro/dollar exchange rate, Piaulet pointed out. The company is likely to settle in Seattle, close to Boeing Commercial Airplanes’ final assembly lines.