The FAA awarded a supplemental type certificate to StandardAero for installation of SmartSky air-to-ground connectivity equipment in the Embraer ERJ135/140/145 and Legacy 600/650. The STC will support SmartSky customer JetSuiteX and its ERJs, and it comes as SmartSky’s 4G LTE airborne connectivity network nears service entry in June.
“We’re cranking,” said Nancy Walker, SmartSky Networks chief commercial officer. The U.S. network is expected to offer service beginning in June over areas where 80 percent of business jet flights (by flight hours) take place, followed by continental U.S. coverage by the end of the year.
StandardAero will complete SmartSky installations at its Augusta, Georgia, Springfield, Illinois, and Houston locations. The company is developing additional SmartSky STCs for the Embraer 450/500 and Dassault Falcon 50EX, 7X, and 8X. “The demand for a more compelling user experience is driving our customers to new [airborne connectivity] networks and services like those SmartSky has demonstrated to the marketplace,” said StandardAero certification services director John Miedwig.
SmartSky will be offering two versions of its air-to-ground service: SmartSky Lite for smaller aircraft and 4G LTE for larger aircraft. The 4G LTE service will launch first with subscription plans ranging from 15 GB/month for $3,800 to 100 GB/month for $4,500. The Lite service will start at $75/hour. These are introductory prices.
The 4G LTE system requires two antennas, a high-performance blade weighing 13.5 pounds and 30 inches long and a full-duplex quad antenna weighing 6.5 pounds and 15 inches long. The Lite service requires just the full-duplex antenna. In addition to a cabin router, the onboard equipment includes a base radio, which weighs 12.1 pounds. SmartSky network speeds allow multiple users at the same time and video streaming.
SmartSky’s total funding is nearly $350 million, following closing in February of a funding round of $104 million, “including $75 million in debt commitments from funds managed by the Global Credit team at BlackRock and equity investments by private equity firms Tiger Infrastructure, WP Global, Platform Partners, and Meritage Investors,” according to SmartSky.