Grace's Guide

British Industrial History

Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 143,793 pages of information and 230,107 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

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.

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." ..[1]

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Sources of Information