A Close Look at How Inflight Entertainment Gets Installed on an Airplane

While I was up in Seattle for the APEX expo, I got invited to something fun. Dubai-based low cost carrier flydubai took delivery of its latest 737 from Boeing. It was following that up with an install of the new Lumexis inflight entertainment system. I was invited to see the install in progress. If you’ve ever wondered how an inflight entertainment system gets installed, here’s a look at it.

flydubai's New 737

Flydubai took delivery of the airplane and it was immediately sent over to Paine Field in Everett where it would have the inflight entertainment system installed. You might remember Lumexis from my post a long time ago. That’s the company that introduced a fiber optic system that goes direct to the screen instead of via those bulky boxes that often block your legroom. The capacity of these wires is tremendous in that you can watch on a big screen in high definition. It’s a beautiful sight. The simple system makes it easier to install than a traditional inflight entertainment system, but it still does take time.

Docked for Install

When the airplane gets to the installer’s hangar, it sits outside but is pulled forward into a bay where the nose sits (above). This allows the workers to get on and off the airplane inside – it also allows them to keep the seats nice and dry in the perenially-wet Pacific Northwest (below).

Seatbacks with Screens

You can see the seats are all wrapped up – these are new seats that have the screens installed in them. (flydubai is also proud to say that these are the only seats with a painted seat recline button.)

The Orange Recline Button

Before these seats can go into the airplane, they have to install all the wiring. So walking in, we found an airplane that’s not nearly ready for primetime. We were early in the 3 day installation process so there was a lot of exposed area (below) that the customer will never see.

The Empty Cabin

Some of this stuff was interesting to see from the side not usually seen by travelers. Below, you’ll see the back side of the passenger service units. You can see the air conditioning vents, the oxygen masks, and on the right, they’ve put life vests where the space is for a traditional drop-down screen for entertainment. (No need for those on this bird.)

Passenger Service Units

The wiring itself comes from the front of the airplane where the head-end unit is installed. Wires go back through the ceiling so you’ll never see them, but there are surprisingly few wires anyway since fiber optics have a lot of capacity. Below is a shot of the entire bundle toward the front of the airplane. Wires start peeling off to go to each row until there’s nothing left in the bundle at the end of the airplane.

Wiring Bundle in Ceiling

Some of those wires go off to power units in every few rows. These are in the sidewall of the airplane (below). They use electricity from the aircraft to power the entertainment systems. Since they sit in the sidewall, a passenger will never see them. Wires just come out to each row of seats from the unit, but that’s all covered well once the seats are installed.

Power Units

That’s about it for the cabin. There are some units installed down in the avionics bay under the passenger floor. As you can see (below), they are small and barely take up any room down there.

Avionics Bay

And that’s really about it, believe it or not. Once they finish with this wiring, they can start putting the cabin back together. The seats will follow and then the system will work like magic, or something like that. This aircraft has certainly already been in Dubai for awhile, flying throughout the system which includes some pretty exotic places, by the way. I didn’t realize how quickly flydubai got big but I guess I shouldn’t be surprised.

If you want to try the Lumexis system for yourself, flydubai is your best bet right now. Transaero out of Russia is also installing the system and there are more on the way.

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