John Croft

Cockpit Regeneration 

WHEN COMMERCIAL JET goes looking for customers for its 737-300/-400 cargo conversions later this year, the Miami-based maintenance and refurbishment center plans to offer a differentiator it thinks will set it apart from the competition: The best new avionics in cookie-cutter cockpits. Along with its partner in the effort, Universal Avionics, Commercial Jet is planning to retrofit a slew of 737 Classics with large-format liquid crystal displays, flight management systems, terrain awareness warning systems and even Universal's new synthetic vision product. Once its supplemental type

Connectivity Post-Connexion 

Spring is the time of year associated with renewal, but this year it is the holiday season that will herald regeneration for inflight connectivity. By year end, a host of new services for airline passengers are scheduled to be springing to life. Counterbalancing the arrivals will be the departure of the 800-lb. gorilla of connectivity: Connexion by Boeing.

All or Nothing

When information overload hit the information technology department at Vancouver International, officials concluded that IT support wasn't one of the airport's core businesses and outsourced it. By contrast, when the same thing happened at Las Vegas McCarran International, officials decided to beef up their in-house team to take on the new work.

The Drive to Self-Handling 

When Catherine Mayer found herself waiting in an airline customer service line to find out why her luggage didn't show up after an international flight in early April, she knew there had to be better way. In fact, she knew exactly what that way should be. Mayer is VP-airport services for SITA, which is at the forefront of an industrywide push to accelerate passenger self-service options.

IT at the mile-high airport

Frontier Airlines knows that its customers are quite enamored with the animals pasted on the tails of its aircraft. With help from Denver International, the carrier now hopes to bring that brand recognition inside the airport.

Avionics: Beaming Bits & Bytes 

FAA and several contractors in March will begin testing a prototype communications scheme that theoretically could save millions of dollars per year for airlines and possibly give them some extra revenue to boot. The concept, called Aerosat Airborne Internet, calls for using the thousands of en route aircraft in the skies at any moment to create a communications "mesh" that proponents say could increase bandwidth dramatically and reduce the cost of existing communications pipes.

Real-Time Runways

FAA may be closer to weeding out a thorny safety issue persistent enough to have made the National Transportation Safety Board's "Most Wanted" list for 15 straight years: Coming up with a real-time cue to warn pilots of an impending on-airport collision.

IFE: Home Theatre in the Skies 

Consumer electronics advances and airline expansion, particularly overseas, have rekindled an inflight entertainment industry that faded considerably following 9/11.

Registered Traveler Redux

A hare has joined the tortoise in the race to bring so-called trusted traveler programs to US airports. At Orlando International, a private company called Verified Identity Pass Inc. is taking a lead role in a program that promises a speedier trip through airport security in return for an $80 fee. Industry observers say the entrance of businesses into a realm where the government has held the reins is sure to speed up the eventual rollout of an interoperable program nationwide, though concerns about privacy and profit- making could pose hurdles.

Taking the Oops Out of Vehicle Ops

In education circles, it is understood that an intense experience teaches more than a boring one. John E. Ostrom can see the principle in action every time he watches the reaction of one of his drivers as the truck's windshield fills with the hulking mass of an airliner about to ruin everyone's day. "I call it the 'Oh (expletive) factor,' " he says. "I guarantee they'll remember that."

New Legs for 

When Southwest Airlines decided to retrofit Blended Winglets on its 170 737-700s two years ago, managers had the advantage of a clear, concise cost-benefit tradeoff: The $750,000 drag-reducing devices would save the discount carrier an average of 92,000 gal. of jet fuel per aircraft per year and boost payload by about 6,000 lb., paying for themselves long before the aircraft would have to be retired.

Almost Ready for Prime Time 

By summer, the fruits of nearly four years of seemingly disparate government biometric technology tests could weave together quickly into a cohesive strategy for US airports as key mandates come due and various trials conclude.

Because of the sheer size of the US market, with more than 200 airports receiving scheduled service, decisions here will play a large role in influencing technology development and choices around the globe.

The Nexcom Nexus 

Airlines soon may get an inkling as to which radio technology to buy-or not to buy-for their future aircraft.

The enlightenment will commence in a meeting room in Montreal next month when technical experts from FAA, NASA and Eurocontrol unveil to a 30-member ICAO aerocommunications panel their top six or so ideas for what type of communications system will make the most economical and functional sense for global interoperability through 2030.

Faster, Better, Cheaper Passenger Processing

Coming this May, Disney in a partnership with ARINC and Baggage Airline Guest Services Inc. will take the "hold" out of hold baggage and put a zip in the trip to the airport for guests at its Walt Disney World Resort.

Saving Private Luggage

On any given day, the specials at Bryan Owens' Unclaimed Baggage retail store in Scottsboro, Ala., include deals like a $75 Sharper Image pillow for four bucks, a brand-new Trivial Pursuit 20th anniversary edition board game for $15 and a Schwinn double jogging stroller in excellent condition for just $40.

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