The Future of Aerospace

CCATCCAT’s latest breakfast event yesterday was an engaging panel discussion about the future of technology and aerospace, focusing on air travel and the expansion plans for Calgary’s growing International Airport.

Sharon Edwards (former CBC host and currently with the Voice of Influence) played the role of moderator, and posed several interesting questions about how we are affected by cabin technologies, the mechanics of aircraft, and safety in today’s airports.

Darren Marchinko from WestJet and Bob Schmidt from the Calgary Airport Authority weighed in with their vision of where the industry is heading, and what technologies they see on the horizon. Darren is the Manager of Fleet Configuration at Westjet and focused on in-flight Entertainment as one area that he sees a huge potential in. Connectivity is the buzz, and while some airlines are already rolling out in-flight Wi-Fi, Westjet is still in the process of establishing the platform for their service. One interesting thing I learned was that while Aircanada has already rolled out in-flight Wi-Fi in the US they won’t be rolling it out in Canada any time soon. Their platform is based on the old infrastructure left over from the days of the $10 per minute telephones that have now been replaced by LCD’s on the back of seats. In the US this infrastructure was purchased by Aircell and is now being used for Wi-Fi. Unfortunately (or fortunately depending on your view) in Canada this network was decommissioned so an alternative (and arguably more up to date) solution must be implemented. Hopefully someone reminds them that Wi-Fi should be free…the decision makers can learn something from Starbucks!

Bob’s role as Senior Vice President of Planning & Engineering for the Calgary Airport Authority spurned some interesting conversation on the evolution of how you’ll catch a flight here in Cow-town. Not only are we adding a new 14,000 foot runway to accommodate larger airplanes and direct flights to Asia, but we’re looking at a new international wing as well. While much of the technology at the terminal level is geared toward making you and airport workers safer, Bob talked about a very cool techno-play that could be coming in the near future: RFID tagged baggage. Imagine knowing, not hoping your bags are safely stowed in the belly of the plane!

Soon, as you kick back in B3 with your tomato juice and pretzels, you’ll fire up your laptop (802.11 now enabled) and let out a sigh of relief as you confirm your bags are on the same flight as you. Now how about some complimentary noise-cancelling headphones to protect your ears from that screaming kid across the isle?

CCAT’s next event, The Future of Transportation, is coming up on November 19th. The technology behind Calgary’s new Park Plus System will be discussed, and one of the fancy new Saturn “camera cars” will be on-site! Visit www.ccat.org for more details.