|Lufthansa makes the 'Connexion'
Passengers aboard one Lufthansa 747
can expect to begin using the Connexion by Boeing system later this year
should come as no surprise that Lufthansa German Airlines is the launch
customer for the Connexion by Boeing aerial broadband system. After all,
Lufthansa was among the first to order Boeing jetliners when it contracted
for four Boeing 707s way back in 1956. The first 707 to sport the flying
crane logo was followed by 301 more Boeing jetliners, including 727s,
737s, 747s and DC-10s.
Lufthansa's plans to install Connexion by Boeing were announced at the
Paris Air Show in 2001. "We have made a deliberate decision to rely on
global, highly efficient and future-oriented broadband technology rather
than the restrictive narrow band solution which has limitations on capacity
and speed," Wolfgang Mayrhuber, deputy chairman of Lufthansa's executive
board and chief executive officer of the passenger service, said at the
Lufthansa's interest in Connexion was no surprise to Tom Basacchi, vice
president of Customer Support at Commercial Aviation Services and former
vice president of Sales and Marketing Support at Connexion by Boeing.
"Lufthansa has been, from an airline perspective, as advanced as anybody
when it comes to being connected while in flight. They see the benefit
that connectivity offers to their operations and productivity. Lufthansa
also is concerned about building passenger loyalty. They see Connexion
by Boeing as a way to further their relationship with their passengers."
Lufthansa also has been a key participant in "Connexion Working Together"
sessions, where airlines from around the world work with Boeing to create
the optimal system. The German carrier emerged as the overall launch customer
when the impact of Sept. 11 on U.S. carriers led Connexion by Boeing to
focus on an international rollout schedule ahead of a domestic rollout.
Lufthansa installed an initial, demonstration Connexion by Boeing system
aboard a 747-400 during a D-level (major) maintenance check earlier this
year. The installation used a kit delivered Jan. 21, two days ahead of
Delivering the kit on time and working closely with the customer
throughout installation minimized any risk of delay. Lufthansa
technicians, laying cables and installing a wireless local area network
system, connected 380 seats to a server aboard the 747. They connected
the server in turn to two Connexion by Boeing phased-array antennas mounted
above the fuselage, just behind the 747's distinctive forward hump. The
airplane since has returned to service on schedule.
Passengers aboard the plane can expect to begin using the system on a
three-month trial basis in late 2002, after the service and system have
been tested and validated thoroughly. If the tests are successful, Lufthansa
intends to install the service aboard its fleet of long-range jetliners,
enabling passengers to send and receive e-mail and surf the Internet or
company intranets in real time.
Connexion by Boeing's system development team, including the satellite
communications link team, joined with Star Aviation, a Boeing supplier
based in Mobile, Ala.; Boeing Fabrication in Auburn, Wash.; and Boeing
Modification in Wichita, Kan., to build the kit. The Auburn team designed
the antenna-mounted fairings. The Wichita team added two extra mounting
lugs to the original four, using parts previously supplied by Star Aviation,
after aerodynamic load data analysis showed a stronger installation kit
Connexion by Boeing, a separate business unit of The Boeing Company since
October 2000, also serves executive jet customers, including VIP transports
for private and government customers. Eight executive jets have been equipped
with a prototype system in recent years. In January, the U.S. government
announced it would equip four C-32A VIP jetliners with the Connexion by
Boeing system as part of an overall communications upgrade. The C-32A
is a modified version of the Boeing 757 passenger jet.
Recently, the Federal Communications Commission licensed the business
unit to operate its commercial service above the continental United States,
and the Federal Aviation Administration certified the Connexion by Boeing
system for use aboard Boeing 737-400 jetliners.