Business aircraft are essential tools for making businesses run efficiently and helping to grow and maintain relationships with customers and vendors all around the world. As a business tool, most business owners and travelers would prefer ideal conditions for their aircraft to not only be the most efficient way to travel, but a true office in the sky
CFO Friendly Installations that Increase Productivity
By Mark Wilken
Imagine how many hours a company’s middle- and upper-management spend travelling being less productive than they could be. To calculate this, take each person in the airplane, multiply by the average hourly salary rate, times the number of hours flown in the month. You will find that in most cases, you are spending thousands of dollars of lost productivity each month by not being connected with the technology that is available today, at prices that are more competitive than ever. WiFi and other options for ‘connectivity-in-the-sky’ are therefore CFO-friendly installations.
In addition to cost associated with lost productivity, you might also want to consider the ‘quality of life’ aspect for the passengers. If you are a business owner, you have a business to run, and you want your most important assets - your employees - to be at the top of their game. Offering them a true ‘office in the sky’ aboard your airplane allows those employees to take advantage of otherwise lost time and turn it into a highly efficient office environment.
By maximizing your employee’s time in the air, you can allow them to have a better quality of life on the ground. Employee morale can be so much higher if your most trusted group of individuals can be fully engaged in their child’s soccer game after work, or fully devote proper time and attention to their spouse when they are at home because their travel time was used effectively to manage their workload.
Offering a higher quality of life with aircraft connectivity can not only keep your current managers performing to their highest level, but also act as a powerful recruiting tool. Imagine having a key middle-management position available for a highly qualified candidate that has a few good job opportunities they are considering. Each option pays a similar wage and they are situated in similar areas, but one option offers not only an airplane for efficient travel, but an airplane that acts as an office so the prospective employee can have more free-time when they are on the ground. This could very much act as an incentive to land the next generation of forward thinking individual for your business.
Many airlines, charter operators and larger-cabin aircraft owners have realized the endless benefits of keeping their passengers connected in the air, paving the way for being connected in-flight to become something of an unwritten requirement. Many companies, such as Aircell, have realized that connectivity is an ever-growing need for aircraft, not only in the airline and charter businesses, but for all business aircraft around the world.
Connectivity systems are pretty straight-forward to install as they do not add much weight to the aircraft and can be installed nearly anywhere in the airplane. Oftentimes you do not have to sacrifice items such as cabin entertainment to install the systems.
Traditionally, the high cost of equipment, installation and monthly service have limited connectivity technologies to larger aircraft - however, there have been many recent changes that will allow operators of mid-cabin and smaller cabin jets and turboprops many of the same advantages that larger operators enjoy for significantly less cost.
Having a connectivity solution in your aircraft not only gives you many benefits for you and your employees but also a nice selling point when you are ready to move on to another aircraft.
Types of Systems
In general, in-flight connectivity can be split into three categories:
Iridium service is a voice-only solution that uses the Iridium satellite network (utilizing low Earth-orbit satellites). Iridium service offers full global voice coverage – even over the poles. Iridium service can be used from the time the aircraft is powered-up until it is powered down. Iridium does not offer any broadband data packages, but systems such as the Aircell Axxess allow options to add broadband service by adding the Aircell ATG 4000.
For operators in North America, the most common broadband WiFi system is the Gogo Biz Air-To-Ground (ATG) system. This system uses Aircell’s Gogo Biz cellular-based network that has more than 160 towers in North America that have been equipped to have their signals sent toward the sky rather than the ground. ATG systems come in the standalone ATG 5000 and the ATG 4000 (which requires an Aircell Axxess system).
Both the ATG 5000 and ATG 4000 allow you the widest range of broadband connectivity, with voice connectivity for up to two simultaneous calls. Both systems give you the option to use broadband on your laptop, smartphone or tablet and are compatible with personal smartphones with the Gogo Text & Talk service. The systems are restricted to use above 10,000 feet above ground or higher and will not function outside of North America.
Until recently, owners of smaller aircraft had difficulty justifying the cost of broadband systems. However, last September, Aircell announced the ATG 2000; a business-focused version of their larger ATG 4000 and ATG 5000 systems. With a retail price of approximately $57k, the ATG 2000 is designed to be installed with minimal downtime in conjunction with a maintenance event.
Elliott Aviation is pursuing STCs for the installation of the ATG 2000 system in multiple small and mid-size aircraft, including Hawker 800/850/900, Phenom 300, King Air 350 and King Air B200/B200GT models - allowing thousands of aircraft a more palatable option for keeping them and their passengers effective and efficient in flight.
The Aircell ATG 2000 is ultimately positioned as a more affordable cabin broadband wireless system aimed at mid- and light-sized jets and turboprops that will allow passengers to connect to the internet via laptops, smartphones and tablets. In addition to internet, voice service is available on your personal cell phone using your own mobile number or on Gogo OnePhone cabin handsets via the Gogo Text & Talk service.
A Gogo OnePhone can be used with Iridium systems and any Gogo Biz system and offers customers an android based phone dedicated to the airplane. This device offers superior voice quality, advanced noise-reduction technology and a large display.
For international operators, one of the best solutions available is an Inmarsat solution. Inmarsat is a network of satellites that provide phone and data services almost anywhere in the world. In addition to the Inmarsat system itself, you can have a low-gain, intermediate-gain and high-gain antenna.
While the high-gain antenna offers you the highest possible Inmarsat speeds (432 kbps), the actual size of the antenna is generally limited by the size of aircraft where they are installed. Intermediate- and low-gain options are priced competitively, and although they do not offer speeds as high as the high-gain antennas, the size of the antenna is not prohibited by the size of the aircraft.
Connectivity in-flight will be an ever-growing need for aircraft around the globe into the future. Business aircraft are now seeing advances in technology that will allow them to have the same types of functionality that large airlines and charter operators have for a fraction of the cost of equipment and installation.
With more and more aircraft types having better, less expensive WiFi options, aircraft operators have the increasing ability to take advantage and start increasing productivity for their businesses and key personnel today.