Net gains

How ‘one size fits all’ connectivity benefits business aviation

Reliable inflight broadband is the number one request from commercial airline passengers, which is why airlines with any commercial sense are now investing heavily in new-generation technology to deliver it. Business aviation is ahead of the curve on this, as many private jets already offer this service. However, passenger experiences vary greatly, which just won't cut it for arguably the most demanding set of the customers on the planet. Quite simply, they expect best-in-class performance.

High-speed connectivity means private jet passengers have a productive high-altitude office rather than just a cabin with comfortable seats. While cockpits can exploit new real-time services that boost operational efficiency. These are more than just fringe benefits – they’re serious economic advantages. With forecasts that some 9,000 business jets worth £267 billion will be delivered over the next 10 years, consistent and reliable inflight broadband gives owners and operators an unprecedented opportunity to maximise the return on their considerable investment. 

The goal for business aviation owners and operators should be seamless service.

Fast connectivity brings new flexibility

When it comes to inflight internet connectivity, the goal for business aviation owners and operators should be seamless service. Consistent and continuous wireless broadband is now wholly unremarkable at work, at home, and even on the street – and an aircraft cabin should be no different.

New-generation satellite technology rolling out over the next couple of years means private jet passengers will soon be able to open their laptop or reach for their smartphone to use just as they would on the ground. Whether that’s for web browsing, video conferencing, making a telephone call or just watching live TV – fast internet access will just work, no matter where in the world they are.

The cabin isn’t the only part of the aircraft to benefit. Private jet pilots already use PEDs (Personal Electronic Devices) as a more convenient way to store the reference material they need on every flight. With fast wireless broadband onboard, these ‘electronic flight bags’ become even more powerful.

Need to reroute from Bilbao to Bremen while over the North Atlantic? No problem. The pilot calculates the most efficient flight plan that takes account of prevailing weather data (uploaded live), reports the new route to air traffic control and grabs the airport diagram from the internet for good measure – along with its latest fuel prices. The passenger makes that important last-minute meeting and the jet operator can make any necessary logistical changes while the plane is still in flight.

Add to this new avionics that report everything from the state of the air conditioning system to expected brake life in real-time to maintenance services, and high-speed inflight internet connectivity has the potential to transform the economics of business aviation. And that’s not mere conjecture. As Carl Esposito, the Vice President of Strategy, Marketing and Product management for Honeywell Aerospace told Aviation Week: “There’s not one Honeywell product that does not have strategies impacted by connectivity.”

Coverage must be consistent

There’s a catch, of course. If business aviation is to realise the many benefits offered by the ‘complete connected aircraft’, it needs high-speed inflight connectivity that’s utterly dependable – and that goes double for operational and safety services.

Getting communications satellite coverage with a global footprint is no longer the challenge – it’s now about getting coverage that’s consistent and seamless across all time zones. Business aviation’s needs are diverse, but combined services from multiple providers may not be the best option. If nothing else, a high-speed internet connection that grinds to a halt or drops altogether during handover between different satellite networks or suffers from a complete lack of coverage in some regions – is detrimental to the whole experience.

‘One size fits all’ satellite communications services have traditionally been hard to find for business aviation, but new-generation networks wholly owned and operated by single providers mean there is now a choice. Business aviation owners and operators just need to make the right one.