Completion and refurbishment centers are racing to bring the latest technology into cabin entertainment with crisper, sharper pictures and better sound, user-friendly controls and improved reliability. On the cabin communications side, high-speed-data connections are finally poised to enter business aviation’s mainstream this year.
Teledyne Controls is leaping into the corporate-jet passenger information marketing scene as an equipment and software integrator, promising services “so powerful you’ll think you never left the ground.” These include worldwide voice and broadband data, real-time Internet and e-mail under the umbrella SmartCabin Office.
The HST-900 data satcom from Rockwell Collins has received STC approval for installation in the Falcon 50, 900 and 900EX. The installation permits the use of Inmarsat Aero safety services in the cockpit and simultaneous voice and high-speed data in the cabin, a first for business aircraft, said Collins.
The FAA awarded a contract to Lockheed Martin last month that will add a third leased geostationary satellite to the two existing satellites used for the wide-area augmentation system (WAAS). Acquisition of a third satellite follows a recommendation from an independent review board study that concluded it was too risky to depend on only two satellites for the availability of the WAAS signal.
TrueNorth Avionics has completed integration testing with Chelton of an Inmarsat data communications link for business jets using TrueNorth’s Simphone airborne telecom system. Jet Works in Denton, Texas, installed the first TrueNorth cabin communications system in a business jet last summer, a Simphone Chorus system in a Challenger 604.
Honeywell last month said it has installed on the company’s Gulfstream G550 a Wi-Fi com gateway that will allow passengers to use Blackberrys to send and receive e-mail in flight. The exercise is serving as a testing ground for new Wi-Fi services from Honeywell through its OneLink satcom service.
At the NBAA Convention last month, EMS Technologies announced that it will begin delivering its new four-channel HSD-400 satcom data terminal early next year. The product initially will support four channels of Inmarsat Swift64 and, according to the Ottawa, Canada-based company, can be upgraded to handle SwiftBroadband (formerly BGAN) service when Inmarsat launches its new I4 satellites in early 2006.
Hoping to cash in on new types of airborne communications capabilities, Airbus has combined forces with SITA and Tenzing to form an in-flight service called OnAir, the European airframe integrator announced last month. Starting next year, the joint venture will offer broadband Internet connections and satcom service, with the eventual goal being airborne personal cellphone links by 2006.
Honeywell on October 10 successfully flight tested new technology that will let passengers use their personal cellular telephones in flight. The trial proved that the technology works under actual flight conditions and will not compromise safety or interfere with the ground cell network, the company said. Current FCC rules do not permit cellphone use in flight.
For corporate aircraft passengers whose airborne Internet ambitions don’t extend beyond retrieving and sending e-mail, ASI, a small Australian communications engineering firm, is offering FreeMail, a service that allows users to access an e-mail inbox page and view the headers of waiting messages free of charge.