The European Space Agency (ESA) and Air France have extended their four-year collaboration to let passengers on many of the airline’s flights see the features of hundreds of areas over which Air France aircraft are flying, even when the weather is cloudy.
Satellite images on the passengers’ in-flight entertainment system screens show the landscapes below, in cloudless or near-cloudless weather.
Among the images passengers can see (depending on which flight they are traveling) are the crystal waters of the Andaman Islands while en route to Singapore; the snaking Senegal River after taking off from Dakar; and the rolling dunes of the Gobi Desert before landing in Beijing.
In addition to 250 satellite images which ESA made available to Air France in 2007, the space agency has provided more than 1,200 new images to incorporate into Air France’s in-flight Geovision program, which displays satellite views that link to the route on passengers’ onboard screens.
The scenes have been selected by ESA from various Earth observation satellites, including ESA’s Envisat and Proba, Korea’s Kompsat and France’s Spot.
“This collaboration offers a unique opportunity for passengers to experience Earth’s vast beauty and even get an up-close look at some of the untouched areas of the world,” said Volker Liebig, ESA’s director of Earth observation programmes.
“While we recognise the immense importance that Earth-observing satellites have in advancing the understanding of our planet and its environment, these images allow us to appreciate the aesthetic aspects of Earth observation,” adds Liebig.
For eastbound destinations from Paris, 628 new images have been added. These include the mouth of the Ganges River emptying into the Bay of Bengal and the 3,776-meter (12,388-foot) peak of Mount Fuji in Japan.
Passengers on flights heading west can – for the first time – enjoy the show of 390 images, which include the Canary Islands and Canada’s shallow Foxe Basin.
The route on southbound destinations can be followed thanks to 367 new images, which cover landscapes such as the vast Sahara Desert and Mount Kenya.
“Air France seeks to make each client’s journey a special moment for leisure and discovery,” says Christian Herzog, senior vice president marketing for Air France-KLM. “The images of the world that we offer on board our long haul flights, thanks to ESA, contribute to the journey’s magic.”
The collaboration began in 2007 when ESA initially made available 250 images on flights operating between France and India, China, Japan and Singapore. Today, the show is accessible on some 70 flights covering Asia, North and South America, Africa and Oceania.
ESA and Air France are looking into extending the service by generating complete destination coverage and, as a next step, adding visual flight animations to the Air France portal.