DeCrane Aircraft Holdings’ e-Cabin.Connect system, featuring long-awaited 512-kbps high-speed in-flight Internet access, is in the final stage of testing and the El Segundo, Calif.-based company expects to begin deliveries by late December.
A test series to clear the last major hurdle–the ability to maintain continuous satellite lock in flight–was scheduled to begin this month. For the test program, DeCrane expects to use either a Global Express or Gulfstream and will install a Rantec Ku-band antenna in the existing vertical stabilizer fairing created to house the satcom antenna. An auto-directional tilt-table will allow the antenna to maintain a link between the aircraft and any one of six Telstar 6 satellites. “That’s the ultimate test,” said Chuck Curry, v-p and business manager for the program.
Curry described the in-flight pitch-and-roll tests as “critical” to the overall success, but added that DeCrane’s Cabin Management Group is sufficiently confident that it expects to begin taking orders in mid-November. DeCrane plans for the full-time engagement of system transponders in early January. The basic e-Cabin.Connect system is priced at $325,000, uninstalled.
Before the NBAA Annual Meeting and Convention was postponed in the wake of the terrorist attack on September 11, DeCrane had planned to display a complete
e-Cabin system at the September 18 to 20 show. The fully operational setup included an integrated server/receiver (ISR) and 512-kbps interface with the ViaSat Ku-band satellite system. Live feeds were to go through the ViaSat satellite network with the Teledyne MagnaStar C2000 phone system as a back-channel interface. The satellite link was to go through a dish antenna on the convention center roof.
If DeCrane attends the rescheduled NBAA show in December, it will be with virtually the same e-cabin display. Rantec of Calabasas, Calif., has been selected to provide the test and production antenna, and a Rantec antenna will be on static display at the booth.
Curry said the decision to go with Rantec was based on its ability to provide future upgrades and options, such as direct broadcast satellite television (DBS) programming. Other options are expected to include on-demand audio/video and Map.net from DeCrane’s Audio International division. DeCrane is also developing STC packages for aircraft that do not already have the fairing to accommodate DBS and/or satcom or Inmarsat.
For smaller aircraft, DeCrane is already offering a “hardware only” e-cabin engineered to interface with AirCell or MagnaStar communication systems for Internet access. According to Curry, the $60,000 version gives users the same speed available through AirCell or MagnaStar, “in the 9.6-kbps to 19-kbps range,” and automatically looks for the lowest cost routing. It has already been installed on three Challenger 604s by Bombardier at its Tucson, Ariz. completion and modification facilities.
Bombardier has selected DeCrane as its e-Cabin.Connect provider and will use DeCrane’s Infinity Partners as the cabin systems integrator.