Passengers on international flights at 30,000 feet may soon have a way to stay tuned to news on earth while waiting out those long-haul junkets across the ocean.
A new satellite-based information service being developed by Comsat Aeronautical Services and Sony Trans Com, a subsidiary of Sony U.S.A., will offer international passengers a way to keep up with breaking news, developments in the world's financial markets and updates on everything from sports scores to weather, said Ken Lew, Sony's program manager, based in Irvine, Calif.
"On long flights across the Atlantic and Pacific, people are basically out of touch with the world," Mr. Lew said. "That's when people could use this kind of information."
He said the need for an in-flight information service is especially critical given the lightning speed with which some world-changing events can happen, as evidenced by the Persian Gulf crisis.
"What if you were a passenger on an international flight during those 14 hours" when Kuwait was taken over, he said. "Can you imagine how important that information could have been for some stock dealer?"
The service, which will be marketed to airline companies, is expected to be ready for sale by early next year, said Rick Roguski, a Sony spokesman.
Under an agreement worked out between the two partners, Washington-based Communication Satellite Corp. will provide the satellite link for the new service, and Sony will provide the hardware necessary to make the system operable, Mr. Roguski said.
The new service, which is on display this week at the World Airline Entertainment Association convention in Scottsdale, Ariz., initially will transmit news and information to airliners in the form of text and graphics, Mr. Lew said.
Depending on the wishes of the customer airline, breaking news could be transmitted to all passengers at the same time on one large television screen or piped in to individual monitors built into each passenger seat, he said.
Mr. Lew said he did not know what the new service would cost.