Wireless aims high; skills in demand

Conputerworld –

Air France has ambitious plans beginning next month to deploy wireless LANs at 12 French airports and to add applications to its first wireless LAN here at Charles de Gaulle Airport.

Michel Lacoste, Air France's wireless systems engineer for all 155 airports it serves worldwide, said the carrier will launch its second wireless LAN operational next month at the country's Strasbourg airport. These LANs, which will support aircraft maintenance and other ground operations, will provide Ethernet-like connectivity to PCs mounted in support vehicles.

Federal Express Corp. has also started a pilot test of wireless LANs to support aircraft maintenance and ramp operations, said Jimmy Burk, the Memphis-based company's vice president of IT. "The payback is huge" in extending high-speed network connections to mechanics, who can use the wireless LAN to tap into a remote database to help with repairs, he said.

Air France, based at Charles de Gaulle, installed here what some call the world's largest wireless LAN, with 160 access points. It's designed to help ground crews match bags loaded on an airplane with the passengers aboard. Air France has already achieved more quickly dispatched flights.

The baggage-matching requirement, established by civil aviation authorities after Libyan agent Abdel Baset Ali Mohmed Al-Megrahi planted a bomb on a TWA plane that then crashed in Lockerbie, Scotland in 1988, is designed to prevent unaccompanied bags that could contain a bomb from being loaded on a flight.

In the past, if the carrier couldn't get a match between bags and passengers, it had to unload all the bags

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