President's Letter

Timothy P. Villegas, M.D.

Timothy P. Villegas, M.D. | President's Letter

The Wonders of Air Travel
Some of you may recall that at the time I wrote my last article for this bulletin I was traveling abroad and commenting on some notable differences between cultures. On the day I returned home, I found myself marveling at the idea that I had my breakfast in Madrid, Spain and my dinner in Columbus, Georgia. What an incredible time we live in to be able to travel so easily between continents.

My recent transoceanic travel experiences also lead me to ponder the history of commercial aviation and in-flight entertainment (IFE). It was in 1914 that the first commercial air flight took place... with just one passenger on board. In 1921 the first in-flight video was shown: a promotional short film named "Howdy Chicago". In 1925 the first Hollywood-produced film was featured on a flight on Imperial Airways in Europe. It was well-received by passengers and other airlines quickly began providing IFE as well. Interestingly, not just films: live radio broadcasts of popular shows and sporting events and even on-board live performances by comedians and singers were offered. Modern era IFE began with Transworld Airlines in the early 1960's with changes to film formats and the installation of headphone-based audio for each passenger seat.

Fast-forward to present day air travel where typical IFE systems now cost as much as $5 million to install and weigh more than a ton. There is nearly 100 miles of cable and wires required with these systems! As we all know, we currently have access to noise-cancelling headsets, personal electronic devices, in-seat personal video and audio, in-flight WiFi connectivity and streaming, interactive games, hundreds of on-demand movies and satellite television. Airlines spend as much as $20 million each year just on entertainment content.

Last Summer I traveled from Atlanta direct to Seoul, South Korea in about 14 hours. Watching three full-length movies of my choosing back-to-back on the touchscreen in front of me greatly helped to pass the time; however, afterwards it was disheartening to realize I still had over 6 hours to go! That was a long flight, to say the least; especially since I was in a middle seat. Let's just hope in the years to come airlines invest as much into seat comfort and leg room as they have
in-flight entertainment technology...