The dream of having an in-flight entertainment system onboard PIA, the national flag carrier, seems to be becoming a reality. In the last few months, PIA has been frequently in good news, from reforms to increased reliability, from reducing its losses to bringing new exciting destinations, it seems PIA has finally started its journey back in the right direction.
The absence of an inflight entertainment system was one of the biggest demands from the people intending to travel with PIA. The airline is now moving to induct an indigenous Inflight System and for that matter, a contract has been awarded to M/s Aviation Avionics, a Pakistani company developing customized systems for the national airline.
Functionality of the entertainment system is one of the biggest challenges for PIA which has to compete with Middle Eastern & Western carriers which offer the world’s best entertainment system in terms of technology and content variety.
PIA had been trying to upgrade its Boeing 777 fleet since long with off the shelf solutions. However, newer systems also require newer seats and the whole solution becomes expensive requiring hundreds of millions to upgrade even one aircraft, an extremely difficult proposition for a cash-starved company like PIA.
The matter was brought to the notice of the Government of Pakistan which directed PIA to look towards indigenous cost-effective sources. The idea seems better because it will boost the local industries to develop their capability in line with international aviation and safety standards, because nothing can be put on a commercial aviation aircraft unless it has certifications of FAA, EASA, and PCAA.
Not only is indigenization a part of a greater strategy to reduce reliance on foreign sources but it will also create jobs and opportunities for specialists and engineers within Pakistan. Defense industries have already moved in this direction and have achieved self-reliance to a greater extent. PIA following the same path should be a welcoming initiative.
Sources within PIA say that work is underway to develop a new touchscreen-based entertainment system using the experience and expertise of PIA engineers to undergo the modifications required by EGPWS and TCAS modules. A specific service provider will provide the hardware and the requisite safety and operational certifications from the regulators.
PIA Engineering is hopeful that after getting this capability, it will be in a position to use their aircraft for technology demonstration and for future sales as well. It will be a marked improvement from the current practice of acquiring systems from international sources at exorbitant costs which are very restrictive and quickly go obsolete.
Having developed a system from indigenous sources will give PIA the flexibility to modify, change and troubleshoot the system at will and at a marginal cost. The total cost for this project will be PKR 700 Million for a fleet of 8 aircraft which is a fraction of the cost estimation mentioned earlier.