Is it really a business jet if it has no internet connection?

Businessman with laptop working on corporate jet

When traveling abroad, understanding a few basic foreign language phrases can go a long way in making it a better experience, versus not having any at all.

The same goes for internet in a business jet – even having a little bit of connectivity makes it a better experience, compared to not having it at all. In fact, many newcomers to a business jet – the very people who will drive future demand for aircraft – are a surprised to find that many aircraft don’t automatically come with some kind of internet connection.

So what is the range of your aircraft connectivity options? What’s the connectivity metaphor to knowing a few phrases, versus being a United Nations linguist? Here’s a quick breakdown of the options available today.

If you need the basics

Iridium SATCOM – Iridium is a constellation of Low Earth Orbiting (LEO) satellites that give worldwide coverage for voice services but with lower bandwidth data rates. Most aircraft can take advantage of Iridium SATCOM using a blade-mounted antenna. While this solution is versatile and relatively low cost, the low bandwidth will limit connectivity options to telephone calls and text messaging only.

If you need a little more bandwidth

Inmarsat Swift Broadband – This is currently one of the more popular and capable systems. Using a geo-stationary constellation of Inmarsat’s I-4 satellites, this option is a versatile and higher-bandwidth solution that supports a variety of internet activities across a wide variety of aircraft. Depending on the antenna fit (blade or steerable dish), data rates can get from 200 to 432kbps, or nearly 0.5Mbps. Streaming media is possible, but some smart things have to be done in the router to bond channels together and increase available speed. Router management can also increase capabilities by enabling compression software to improve efficient throughput. Because it provides safety services, SBB is a complementary solution to the options below.

If you have more passengers on board

Yonder Ku and 2Ku – The Yonder Ku option leverages the same collection of geostationary high-bandwidth satellites used for broadcast television, allowing for “office in the sky” applications. The high bandwidth allows you to send and receive email, establish VPN connections, stream video and participate in video conferencing. The Yonder Ku antenna fits larger business aircraft with room to accommodate a 30cm antenna, while the fuselage-mounted 2Ku antenna solution is used almost exclusively in air transport. This is a capable solution to consider with some limitations when transiting oceans.

If you’re traveling globally with multiple passengers

Inmarsat Ka band – Branded as JX (or Jet ConneX) in business aviation, Ka-band is made available via a worldwide platform of recently launched I-5 satellites. JX offers The highest bandwidth quoted for the satellites is up to 50Mbps, and a typical business jet antenna can expected rates of up to 15Mbps. This high-speed connectivity will allow more devices to be in use on board an aircraft at the same time.

Let’s face it. Today the world – and your passengers – speak through and with the internet. Ask yourself: will your passengers want to fly in your aircraft if it doesn’t speak their language?

Read more about author James Hardie.

EBACE 2016 Report: Four Questions About High-Speed Connectivity

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High speed airborne connectivity is all the buzz within the business aviation industry, and EBACE was no different. In our latest post to our Aviation Week Special Topics Page, Dave Poltorak, vice president and general manager in our information management services business, talks about two questions he heard about Ka-band connectivity, and two more that owners/operators should also be considering:

EBACE 2016 Report: Four Questions About High-Speed Connectivity Industry exhibitions and conferences are a prime opportunity to get a firsthand sense of what is on our customers’ minds. And after three days at the European Business Aviation Conference and Exhibition (EBACE) in Geneva, Switzerland this past week, it’s clear that the big topic on private and corporate aircraft operators’ minds is connectivity.

To be more precise, I heard two questions over and over again during the show: 

To read the rest of the post, visit our Aviation Week Information Management Solutions page.

Internet Access—an investment must for your business aircraft

I-5 in flight

Lots of things are really important when flying an aircraft—aerodynamics, engines, cockpit avionics—but when you consider that those are expected requirements from passengers, you start to differentiate that experience. And today, it’s seamless, reliable internet access that is changing the game and increasing operator satisfaction.

The famous psychologist Frederick Herzberg, one of the most influential names in business management, pointed out that the things which make us dissatisfied or unhappy about an experience are actually different from those things that make us happy or even excited about an experience. He called them hygiene and motivational factors.

For example, I am going to be pretty dissatisfied with my flight if my aircraft is AOG and no amount of impressive features on the aircraft is going to make up for not getting where I need to go—this is what Herzberg referred to as “hygiene.” However, once you have the basics in place, then other things can start to matter and make us say, “Wow.” The trouble is, “wow” changes all the time and becomes familiar and expected.

At the heart of nearly every business is some level of online activity, be it in the office, on a mobile device or in a car. We are much closer to a world where the ability to access the internet in flight is a basic hygiene factor for keeping passengers satisfied. For some people, it already is. While it may not be officially on the Minimum Equipment List (MEL) for safe flight operations, reliable internet access is becoming so important that if it is not going to be available, then principals will find another aircraft—just as they would if there was an engine issue.

Beyond keeping passengers satisfied, access to the internet is changing how business jets are utilized. With the ability to use the aircraft as an office, flight times can be changed to make better use of the time spent flying. For example, business jets do not have to conform to the same issues affecting commercial airliners on long-haul, eastbound transatlantic flights that are typically overnight sleeper flights (and a bad night’s sleep at that!). A business jet has a wider choice of airports for point-to-point operation. Business jets can fit into an alternative flight operation pattern to keep the aircraft passengers as productive as possible on the internet while they travel so they are prepared when they arrive at their destination.

Access to the internet on board that aircraft just helped get an even better return on the aircraft investment and that can only help any justification of what is important to have on the aircraft.

If you are still not convinced as you read this, try turning off your computer and getting any work done today. It might be fun, but it won’t last.  Everything has changed.

Read more about author James Hardie.