Pilot's Guide to Avionics 2017-2018 - 57
he world seems to be moving toward a state
in which we can connect to anyone at any
place from anywhere and, of course, anytime.
Smartphones, tablet computers, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth
together treated the world to a washed-on-hot-driedon-high cycle that made it shrink even more than our
earlier communications technologies.
As the world gets busier and smaller in the
connectivity sense, the need to connect went skyward
- primarily in larger Part 25 aircraft.
Avionics makers now offer solutions suitable for
light aircraft - that is, Part 23 aircraft - and continue
to develop more suitable for everything from the
business-turbine aircraft at the upper end of the
segment right down through factory-built piston and
propjets and further to light sport aircraft - when the
LSA manufacturer approves the installation - and
It's been a long, slow slog, but today, operators
of light aircraft - piston, turboprops and jets - enjoy
access to systems offering a variety of ways to stay
connected to people on the ground.
It all started decades ago with the first flight phones,
systems with high installation costs, expensive
operating costs and hardware limiting them to aircraft
at the upper end of the spectrum. The connections
frequently were tenuous, the audio quality uneven and
the time-based usage fees high enough to limit their
customers from dialing up a ground number to only the
According to numbers quoted by several avionics
executives, 15 years ago, fewer than 10 percent
of the world's aircraft employed any sort of in-flight
connectivity; today the number is nearing 25 to 30
percent - and in another 15 years, connectivity
capabilities will be in 90 percent of the aircraft flying.
And consider that forecasters expect a significant
larger fleet will be flying in 15 years. Clearly, in-flight
connectivity is growing - and diversifying.
Today's in-flight access works across a much
broader spectrum. Voice communications remain an
option, along with small-message-service texts and
airborne internet connectivity that, while generally
not (yet) in the same speed and bandwidth range as
ground-based, hard-wired and Wi-Fi internet, but still
robust enough to take care of business - and at costs
far more reasonable and affordable than before.
Consider these options available today.
Calling home or surfing online ...
all are options
With the proper equipment installed, some of today's
systems provide passengers with the option to phone
home from the sky, but without using the expensive
and limited flight phones of years past. Instead,
some of these systems support direct calls using the
passengers' personal smartphones.
That's right - that Android, iPhone or Windows
phone in your pocket. No special codes or access keys
needed by the folks on the ground - and only an app
loaded into the phone to let it connect to the airborne
hardware supporting the service. So folks at the office
- the land-based office - can reach you the same way
they always do: dial your number.
Honeywell's BendixKing division recently announced
the start of shipments of its new low-cost AeroWave
100 system with component and system enhancements
created to broaden its appeal and expand its applicability.
The AeroWave 100 in-flight internet solution now
employs a new Active Low Gain Antenna package and
the option to add Wi-Fi routers, both of which simplify
installation and provide easy voice or data connectivity
for passengers and crew.
BendixKing prices AeroWave service plans to make
them more affordable - and attractive to users - with an
hours-based billing structure. This approach is easier for
customers to decipher than billing based on data use.
AeroWave not only provides voice and internet
connectivity to passengers, but opens up a world
of connected Honeywell services to GA pilots
such as weather services, flight planning tools and
communication with flight dispatchers or FBOs.
"Building on our first-generation AeroWave 100,
BendixKing is excited to enhance the system with a
simpler install process and easier passenger access to
in-flight internet," said Justin Ryan, former president of
BendixKing when the announcement was made. "The new
antenna and routers reduce the system weight, install and
setup time, and component count. When you combine
that with our simple per-hour plan, which eliminates the
potential surprise data charges often seen on plans billed
by the amount of data used ... it is now easier than ever
for passengers and crew to stay connected."
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