BBC set to bring live TV to the skies

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Eastenders at 35,000 feet? Or perhaps sir would prefer to watch Match of the Day. The BBC is in discussions with Boeing to start providing airline passengers with live in-flight television.

The US aircraft maker plans to start offering live TV next spring through its Connexion by Boeing system which entered service with the German flag carrier Lufthansa in May and has also been selected by seven other airlines.

Passengers will be able to choose from four live channels supplied by different broadcasters, by connecting their laptops to an on-board internet service. As well as the BBC, Boeing is also thought to have approached the US cable television network CNN. One of the BBC programmes which could be screened is the News 24 channel.

Boeing estimates the market for in-flight internet access at $2.5bn to $3bn a year within the next decade. The Connexion service costs $29.95 for unlimited access on long-haul flights of more than six hours. There is also a pay-by-the-minute tariff.

The rival European plane maker Airbus is promoting an in-flight system known as Tensing, which is cheaper to install on aircraft and less expensive to use but is limited to e-mail access.

Ryanair is among a number of airlines which have opted for a third system - a portable video player known as the digeplayer which offers Hollywood films, cartoons and sports programmes at £5 a flight. Michael O'Leary, Ryanair's chief executive, said he had looked at Connexion but decided it was "overly complicated and targeted at rich business-class customers".

In a separate development, Boeing and Rolls-Royce are working on an innovative engine technology which could radically reduce emissions of greenhouse gases at airports. The technology involves injecting water into aircraft engines alongside fuel at take-off in order to lower combustion temperatures. David Daggett, the scientist leading the research at Boeing, said the technology could cut Nox emissions by up to 90 per cent. Reducing environmental emissions around airports will be the key to BAA's hopes of building another runway at Heathrow.