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British Industrial History

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GEC-Plessey Avionics

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Handset. Designed by Ron Bird.
Screen sample. Designed by Ron Bird.
Screen sample. Designed by Ron Bird.

GEC-Plessey Avionics of Martin Road, West Leigh, Havant, Hampshire.

Successor to Plessey Avionics, which had announced an inflight entertainment and phone system (see below) for commercial aircraft in 1989.

1989 GEC Siemens plc, a jointly-held company of GEC and Siemens AG, acquired Plessey. Although Plessey had argued that in avionics it competed mainly with GEC, the Monopolies Commission did not find this to be the case, and the MOD was not too concerned about the loss of choice in suppliers except in one area[1] The takeover was completed in September 1989.[2]

1990 GEC-Plessey Avionics was listed as a subsidiary of GEC[3]

1992 Developing head-up display for Eurofighter[4]

After this there does not seem to be substantive reference to this company name in Flight Archive.


In-Flight Entertainment and Services System (IFESS)

The company created an information system to entertain airline passengers during their journey. It was the world’s first in-flight entertainment system, launched at the Paris Air Fair in 1989.

The in-flight entertainment included an real-time flight information system that informed curious passengers of their whereabouts at any specific point during their travel. Each multi-functional terminal was built into the back of every passenger seat complete with high resolution colour liquid-crystal screens linked to a central computer that provided a range of listed services. Using specially made handheld key pad controls, passengers could scroll through and select a choice of six movies, six audio channels and a variety of games for entertainment.

Real-time flight information included speed, altitude, local maps, aircraft position, arrival time and weather a destination.

Other functions of the terminals included:

  • Ability to make reservations for cars, hotels etc
  • Browse through mail-order catalogue
  • Order Duty-Free goods (to pay for before landing and collect at destination)
  • Full radio-telephone service
  • CD read-only memories for video/audio programs

For first class passengers, the screen was mounted on a bracket extending from the armrest.

"SkyTrading Holdings, a subsidiary of Candlestar Plessey, to market the Plessey-developed integrated flight entertainment and service systems to airlines." ..[5]

See Also

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Sources of Information

  1. The Times Apr. 22, 1989
  2. The Times Aug. 5, 1989
  3. Electronic News 1990-09-03
  4. Electronic News 1992-03-02
  5. Flight Global Archive 1989