Here at EBACE, PGA Electronic is unveiling its keyboard touch screen (KTS), which provides passengers control and command capability for cabin in-flight entertainment and lighting. The KTS is a lower-cost alternative to the PGA’s video touch screen (VTS) and makes it easier for passengers to control audio, video and lighting devices, as well as the flight attendant call feature from a single control point.
Explaining that the new product reflects market trends, Jean-François Piaulet, PGA’s president and CEO, said, “Our customers ask for live TV, video on demand and mood lighting.” He said mood lighting is an advanced way to control cabin brightness and color combinations.
The palmtop computer-sized KTS has the graphics capability of a PC, Piaulet said, however, it cannot display video with the same quality as the VTS. He added that the main innovation afforded by the KTS is regrouping several controls in a single point, which should reduce the amount of wiring required in the aircraft cabin.
Generally speaking, Piaulet sees a major trend toward all-digital, wireless IFE equipment. Although turning to wireless technology has obvious benefits in terms of installation, maintenance and weight, it still holds some difficulties. “The amount of information conveyed per second and electromagnetic interferences are the remaining challenges,” he explained. “The first KTS in a business aircraft should fly late this year or early in 2007,” Piaulet told EBACE Convention News.
Last year, Chateauroux, France-based PGA Electronic’s revenues were close to $24 million. CEO Piaulet claims the firm is achieving 20 to 30 percent growth every year. Its workforce, currently at 130, is growing at the same pace. The company was founded in 1989 by three engineers, including Piaulet.
A U.S. Base
PGA is active in the airline market as well as in corporate and VIP aviation. In the latter, it has equipped mainly Dassault Falcon and Airbus aircraft through European completion centers such as Dassault Falcon Service and Jet Aviation. The firm’s products have been fitted on approximately 50 Falcons, about 15 Airbuses (ranging from the A320 family to the A340), a Boeing Business Jet and a Raytheon Beech King Air twin turboprop. “We are talking to other manufacturers, but we first have to accommodate our strong growth,” Piaulet noted.
Nevertheless, this year PGA plans to open a U.S. sales and support base. Production is being mulled as a future project. Having some manufacturing done in the U.S. should yield a benefit for the firm in hedging the euro/dollar exchange rate, Piaulet said.
The company is likely to settle in Seattle on the U.S. West Coast, he speculated, since equipment for business- and first-class airliner seats accounts for 70 to 80 percent of its revenues. Therefore, being close to Boeing Commercial Airplanes is more important than being close to a business jet manufacturer–whose completion centers account for the rest of its business.