Low-cost Iridium communication devices are a growing option for smaller business aircraft, but there is a limitation when traveling outside the U.S.—the inability to send and receive text messages from non-U.S. cellphone users. Send Solutions, which makes the Airtext line of portable and installable Iridium satcoms, has resolved that issue by connecting its service with WhatsApp’s text messaging.
Airtext users can send and receive text messages to anyone with cellphone service from any provider via WhatsApp, according to Send Solutions founder and CEO David Gray. WhatsApp bypasses foreign telecom providers and eliminates the need for Send Solutions to obtain local phone numbers for its texting system to work outside the U.S. “It’s a game changer,” he said.
The Airtext satcoms range from a portable $4,950 system for texting only to about $15,000 for an FAA-approved STC’d and PMA’d installable system that also offers voice calls via Iridium. The portable systems can be powered by a cigarette lighter power outlet or by USB outlets. Text messaging via AirText costs five cents per message.
When using WhatsApp via Airtext, the Airtext smartphone app automatically defaults to WhatsApp when flying outside the U.S. If an Airtext user on an airplane sends a text message to someone on the ground, the first message will ask permission, for example, “David wants to send you a message via WhatsApp.” The recipient must agree, then messaging can take place. Once the Airtext flight lands, the recipient on the ground will receive a message that the airborne messenger has landed.