Image: Marcelo Cáceres

APEX Insight: With APEX TECH less than one month away, Peter Lemme gives a preview of his session on the Cabin Announcement Task Force’s mission to make all forms of passenger announcements universally accessible.

Peter Lemme

Last year, the United States Department of Transportation (DOT) created the Cabin Announcement Task Force (CATF) as part of a rule-making activity. Aviation industry veteran and consultant Peter Lemme (known to many as the Satcom Guru) volunteered to lead the working group.

The CATF’s mission is to make all forms of passenger announcements universally accessible, including to those who are blind, deaf or hard of hearing. The working group includes advocates for accessibility, the FAA, airplane manufacturers, airline operators and equipment/service suppliers.

In advance of his session on the topic next month at APEX TECH (June 13–14 in Los Angeles), we asked Peter a few questions about the group’s activity so far.

Why are you involved in the CATF, and what’s your role within the task force? What are the group’s ultimate objectives? 

The DOT created the CATF last year as part of a rule-making activity. I was asked to lead the working group by the DOT, as a volunteer.  

CATF’s mission is to make all passenger announcements accessible to all passengers, including those who are blind, deaf or hard of hearing. The working group includes advocates for accessibility, the FAA, airplane manufacturers, airline operators and equipment/service suppliers. 

What findings will you be sharing in your session at TECH?

Airplanes safely accommodate all passengers today, but the CATF’s emphasis is to broaden access to more information such as: flight disruptions, weather, food/beverage specials and connecting gates. 

Airplanes with overhead/seatback displays that use audio/video pre-recorded announcements can use captioning (and several airlines are doing this today) to ensure all passengers are aware of announcements. However, the feasibility of translating audio in real-time, from the PA into verbatim English text, is under analysis ­ and the means to interact similarly with a passenger’s own device is at a crossroad.

CATF may recommend that new airplanes should not include audio-only pre-recorded announcements, in favor of audio/video capability. Any use of personal devices for sharing announcements will not likely be recommended for certification credit.

How can wireless technology help more passengers receive critical information in the cabin?

CATF promotes the transmission of information to passenger devices, overhead monitors and seatback displays.  Wi-Fi and Bluetooth will play a role in connecting to passenger devices. 

A new category of Information Display (not used for entertainment) may emerge for airplanes without any wireless infrastructure.  A low-cost Wireless Accessibility Interface may be another option for airplanes without a wireless network to connect to passenger devices. 

User-based solutions will empower an explosion of individual connected appliances.

What will you tell the attendees of your session that they don’t already know? What’s the main point/thought you want folks to walk away with?

We have a choice to promote optimized user-based features based on a holistic fabric or enterprise-based features representing arbitrary design preferences to enhance accessibility.  With commitment and effort, user-based solutions will empower an explosion of individual connected appliances that can offer everyone a better experience not just on the road ­but also at work, in a museum, at a restaurant or even at home.

Why should APEX TECH be on everyone’s conference agenda?

APEX TECH tries to answer the questions from a collegiate perspective, rather than a parade of thinly veiled marketing and talking points from a few suppliers and providers. 

Click here to learn more or register for APEX TECH.