Today’s cutting edge won’t make the cut tomorrow.

Cabin Electronics Manufacturers

Ten years ago, nobody even talked about lighting aircraft cabins with LEDs. Today, not an airplane rolls out of a completion center that isn’t LED from nose to tail. The result: illumination that’s brighter, lower maintenance, longer lasting and more economical.

In 2008, the idea of wireless cabin electronics was little more than a geek’s dream, but five years later, you can transfer information wirelessly aboard many business jets; in fact, the lack of this feature can be a deal-breaker, whether you’re buying an airplane or simply chartering one.
Movies, music and PowerPoint presentations from a tablet or smartphone can now be wirelessly streamed to the cabin entertainment system, allowing access by any passenger.

This year at the Aircraft Interiors Expo in Hamburg, Germany, meanwhile, electronics giants Panasonic and Thales were promoting their video eye-tracking and hand-gesture-control features. The technology is available now, according to Panasonic, and should start showing up on aircraft within two years.

As for connectivity, major satellite communication suppliers predict that in-flight data-transfer rates will be the equal of those of any home or office system, also within two years.

Inmarsat is teaming with Honeywell and Boeing to put its Global Xpress Aviation network into service as early as 2015 and is expecting “consistent, high-capacity broadband coverage” with data-transfer rates up to 50 mbps worldwide.

Viasat’s Yonder Internet for business aviation, which had a maximum data-transfer rate of about 1 mbps a year ago, took a quantum jump to 4 mbps in May. And the company expects its new Exede Internet to provide global rates of 12 mbps or more as the Ka-band satellite system becomes fully operational and available to aviation users.

Clearly, buyers of new aircraft would be well advised to keep a sharp eye on developments in cabin electronics, because what you select in 2013 may be old technology by 2014. This list of cabin electronics suppliers is a good starting point to stay informed.