Satcom Direct (SD, Booth X101) is offering customer demonstration flights of its Plane Simple satcom terminal and antenna system aboard the company’s Gulfstream G550 at EBACE 2022. The system includes two line replaceable units (LRUs)—the tail-mounted SD Plane Simple antenna and the SD modem—and it operates on Intelsat’s global FlexExec Ku-band satcom network.
Last month, the FAA approved supplemental type certificates (STCs) for installation of the Plane Simple system in the Gulfstream G550, G450, GV, and GIV. In parallel, EASA has approved an STC for Bombardier’s Global 6000, 5000, Express, and XRS. SD collaborated with Germany’s Alamo Engineering to develop the first EASA STC for the Global airframes.
A Global Express is the first aircraft equipped with the Plane Simple system outside of the U.S., with the installation completed by ACC Columbia Jet Service in Hannover, Germany. Additional approvals from the FAA, EASA, and Transport Canada are expected by July, and formal launch of FlexExec service commences in the third quarter.
“One of the challenges that many aircraft owners are facing is that the lifetime of their aircraft is longer than the technologies that are on board,” said SD international v-p Michael Skou Christiansen. “Plane Simple addresses that by simplifying the terminal for lower production and installation costs.”
SD estimates about 2,500 business aircraft are candidates for Plane Simple satcom installations. For now, the smallest jets that will be STC’d for Plane Simple are 600-series Challengers, but SD is looking at being able to provide a system for aircraft as small as Beechcraft King Airs.
A Plane Simple system costs about $235,000, not including installation or a router. Installation takes about 600 person-hours. Airtime is available on a per-hour, pay-as-you-go basis, with packages starting at 200 hours per year, and there is no limit on the amount of data consumed. System weight is 26 pounds for the antenna and 13 pounds for the SD modem LRU. System speed is up to 15 Gbps.
Intelsat’s FlexExec network runs on 16 high-throughput Intelsat 33e satellites in geostationary orbits, with dedicated bandwidth for business aviation customers. The company is adding more satellites to the network. To maximize service to business aviation users, Intelsat provides multiple spot beams to make more bandwidth available where traffic is higher, according to Mark Rasmussen, Intelsat senior v-p of mobility. “We can pile one beam on top of another,” he said, “so it’s an additive network and puts the right beam to the right airplane.”
During a demo flight from Geneva Airport held on Sunday, SD’s Gulfstream G550 flew a dozen EBACE media and Intelsat and SD executives who used 38 connected devices that consumed 4 GB of data during the flight. This reporter ran three devices simultaneously during the flight: a MacBook Air sending and receiving emails and downloading and uploading Adobe InDesign graphics files; an iPad Pro running a Netflix movie; and an iPhone FaceTime call. All worked smoothly with no issues due to bandwidth limitations.