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Cabin electronic options offer new depth for the mobile office

Hardly a month seems to pass without the gurus of technology handing us some new way to stay in touch- to the point that going off the grid gets harder with each flip of the calendar page. Cell phones have morphed into PDAs and those new devices continue to evolve into hand-held computers capable of taking photos- importing wireless audio and video. To say it’s a little dizzying is a little like saying a business jet is “sort of fast”… understatements- both- to a high degree.

As it is with the humble cell phone of the past- so it is with the older business jets that dominate the fleet. Upgrade options for cabin systems have reached their own dizzying degree- with systems so fast and compact that even the cramped quarters of Steve Fossett’s Global Flyer could benefit. Inside the Global Flyer- Fossett enjoyed the benefits of a wireless satellite-based communications system on his latest record-shattering flight from Florida- around the world and on to England recently.

Not only did the Blue Sky system provide Fossett with the global communications capability needed for his adventure- it also helped the world keep track of his progress during a solo- non-stop flight that lasted nearly 79 hours. And when the electrical system failed near the end of his flight- Fossett still had back-up gear that provided the communications link needed to declare an emergency and make the unscheduled landing needed to snatch success from the jaws of imminent failure.

If a tiny- one-seat jet like the Global Flyer could accommodate such a system- imagine the benefits available for the more basic- day-to-day needs of the executives riding in the back cabin of a business jet built years ago.

Just as the business jet itself offers operators a higher degree of efficiency for executive travel- so do modern cabin electronics offer even more efficiency to executives in how they spend the time between takeoff and landing. Here’s a brief sample of what’s available for retrofit to existing corporate aircraft.

In-flight phoning
Options have increased for telephone access in-flight- even as some older services face ultimate phase-out. Several companies provide systems that bring a new level of access to the corporate market at costs far below past levels.

AirCell Axxess
This long-time supplier of in-flight cell-phone service has moved beyond the ground-based system on which it based its initial products and services into a satellite-based system of its own. AirCell’s Axxess was unveiled at the NBAA Convention last fall as an all-new- global- multi-channel- wireless and broadband-ready satcom system designed for use in medium-to-large business aircraft.

Since the launch last year- Cessna has picked the Axxess system as a factory option for its Citation X- Sovereign and XLS airplanes- thus continuing the two companies’ long-standing relationship.

The standard Axxess system includes two Iridium satellite communications channels for quality voice and narrowband data services. Through integrated expansion ports- operators may add up to two additional Iridium channels to meet their needs. In addition- through the system’s Ethernet port- operators may also opt for a high-speed Inmarsat connection on a plug-and-play basis.

Axxess’ wireless capabilities include a full 802.11b/g Wi-Fi 'hotspot' which- when paired with a broadband connection- can be used to operate personal laptops- PDA’s and other Wi-Fi devices in the cabin. Axxess’ standard- FAA-certified handsets include large- color displays – an industry first – as well as advanced noise-canceling technology and standard ear bud/headset jacks for clear- quiet calling.

More information from www.aircell.com

SKYLink by ARINC Direct
SKYLink is ARINC Direct’s in-flight broadband satellite service for business aircraft passengers – and it works at the speed of business today. SKYLink provides passengers with Internet/Intranet access- voice over IP- fax over IP and Virtual Private Network service even at 47-000 feet- with connection speeds exceeding three megabits per second (Mbps).

Designed for business aircraft users- SKYLink not only offers a faster connection- it also offers its benefits in a compact- lightweight avionics package that proves less costly than some other airborne satellite systems.

ARINC Direct also went out of its way to make SKYLink easy to use – you simply plug in your laptop using a standard network cable or wireless access point to connect to the plane’s SKYLink service- log on to the network and you’re on your way. If you have a wireless connection or a preconfigured server- the process is even easier.

As noted- the SKYLink equipment is compact and lightweight- starting with the tail-mounted dish antenna- which measures less than 12' across. The satellite terminal- including antenna- weighs less than 40 lbs.

The SKYLink antenna is tail-mounted and fits on larger business aircraft including: Gulfstream GIV- GIV-SP- G400- GV- G500- G550- Cessna Citation X and Bombardier Challengers and Global Express.

ARINC Direct is currently working with original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to make SKYLink a standard option on many new aircraft- but will also retrofit the necessary equipment to existing aircraft.

More information from www.arinc.com

Blue Sky Network
Blue Sky Network- the company that supplied hardware for the GlobalFlyer mentioned above- offers the Blue Sky C-1000A in-cabin satellite phone system for cost-effective access from aircraft flying anywhere around the world to any phone on the ground.

Developed around the Iridium Satellite transceiver system- the in-cabin package can replace existing flight-phone systems for as little as $12-000 plus installation. A hand-held version is available for under $3-000.

At this price- global-access in-flight phone service hits an all-time low in cost effectiveness. And- the variety of installation options is huge. The package is small enough to work in many cabin-class piston business aircraft – so fitting the C-1000A into larger aircraft should present even fewer challenges.

If the aircraft had space for a phone before- this new system can fit right in with little effort beyond connecting power and mounting and wiring the antenna; if it’s an addition to an aircraft- finding space presents few problems- thanks to the company’s well-conceived- well-executed package.

Blue Sky also offers its D1000 and ACH1000 - the D1000 Flight Tracker hardware as a part of its asset management product line- which adds the ability to follow the progress of an equipped aircraft anywhere it may roam over the planet. The ACH1000 adds two-way messaging and an Iridium voice channel. Availability is immediate- according to the company.

More information from www.blueskynetwork.com

Rockwell Collins’ eXchange
Back-cabin passengers flying with Rockwell Collins’ eXchange system receive the tools they need to stay connected- both to home and the office. Whether the connection is maintained via real-time email access- the high-speed broadband Internet access- or from watching live satellite TV- eXchange maintains the lines of communications on which busy executives have come to depend.

Indeed- eXchange gives its users access to the same information and people as are accessible on the ground- increasing executive productivity and availability to the people who need them.

Geared toward larger business jets- eXchange provides the conduit through which information can flow to and from the cabin like never before. Users get the same experience of streaming data to and from their laptops via eXchange’s high-speed broadband connection- making use of e-mail and Internet as seamless as it is on the ground.

Relaxing in front of a good movie – or tracking world events via the news - is equally easy- thanks to the 475-plus channels of live satellite TV beamed into the aircraft’s in-flight monitor. And with eXchange TV- passengers now have the ability to view time-sensitive TV programming at the same time you are receiving your email – even when far from land on long transoceanic legs. Prices vary according to equipment and service selections.

More information from www.rockwellcollins.com

Shop the options
This synopsis of in-flight connection systems available is just a start. Other options do exist. But before any operator heads out into the ever-expanding world of in-cabin communications gear- the savvy ones will first start with an assessment of needs.

If the needs point toward being in constant contact- you should consider first targeting the specific needs to you- and shop specifically for the gear that meets them.

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