- 27 Jun 2022
- Brian Wilson
- Jet Connectivity
When it comes to in-flight entertainment, are your passengers really happy? Brian Wilson explores different areas where it’s possible to enhance the cabin entertainment experience without breaking the budget...Back to Articles
For most flight departments the business jet is viewed as an extension of the home office, where key personnel can board the aircraft and still be productive. However, everyone deserves some downtime, and a properly designed entertainment system can deliver a refreshing change.
Major In-Flight Entertainment upgrades usually require a lot of planning. Aircraft downtime can be extensive, and costs can stretch any estimated budget. But in the following article, we’ll discuss five options that can be done during a minor inspection, or when the owner is away on holiday.
For those travelling lots, a perceived ‘standard’ can become the expectation – for example, we become accustomed to the hotel chain we use having smart TVs in the room, enabling us to watch Netflix or stream from our device to the monitor. There may well also be wireless charging devices, or an array of charging stations to help keep Personal Electronic Devices (PEDs) energized.
Whether subconsciously, or consciously, we come to expect the same functionality when we fly aboard the airlines or on personal jets. While we can always leave the hotel room to find entertainment where it’s lacking, we’re stuck aboard the aircraft for the duration of the flight. So, paying attention to the entertainment options is essential.
Wi-Fi has become standard equipment on all private jets. Many charter and fractional operators require the crew to check the functionality of the Wi-Fi before boarding the passengers. Connectivity has a simple formula:
• Bandwidth, plus Data Speed, plus Perceived Expectations, equal Passenger Satisfaction.
The challenge lies not with white- boarding the formula above, but with equipage size and weight, versus aircraft model.
Many people focus on the data speed and bandwidth of the external terrestrial system, but the onboard router can create the choke point just as easily.
I bring this to your attention because not all connectivity systems come with a router. There are many systems that refer you to a third-party router, so be careful to ensure the router has been approved for your system, and that no features or diagnostic information is lost.
Placement of the router and the Wi-Fi antennas are critical, especially when you’re streaming data. Both the passengers in the cabin and the cockpit crew need sufficient coverage. Note that privacy doors between the cabin and the forward galley, coupled with a crew door, will reduce the strength of the Wi-Fi signal.
Another limitation of all routers is how many I.P addresses they generate. This can lead to passengers or crew squawking the Wi-Fi system when actually it was performing as it’s designed to do.
Some routers are designed with as few as five simultaneous connections. Any PED (including smart watches, tablets, laptops and phones) that had previously been on board the aircraft and connected to the router will automatically reconnect. It’s easy to see how one passenger could have four connections – so the number of connections the router allows simultaneously is vital to know.
2) Smart Cabin
Perhaps your cabin space would benefit from you replacing existing displays with smart monitors. By adding a few auxiliary panels that include HDMI and Bluetooth, passengers can connect their Apple TV devices or Roku sticks to the smart monitor and watch content stored on their PEDs.
Music fans will also be able to listen to XM Radio, or use the Bluetooth connection to hear personalized song lists, while gaming aficionados can use the HDMI ports to play their favorite selections.
3) Moving Maps
For those preferring to track the progress of the flight, there are some truly sophisticated moving map options available today.
What started over thirty years ago with simplistic seven-inch screens displaying time to destination, airspeed, and outside air temperature, has blossomed into a fully-embedded 3D map with points of interest and even historical information on cities, continents, and geographic regions. The definition and clarity is similar to using Google Earth on a computer.
Not long ago, I was on a flight from Doha, Qatar to Sao Paulo, Brazil, crossing Africa on a cloudless day. Peering from my window to the ground below and correlating the topography with the onboard moving map was an experience I will remember for a lifetime. Interrogating the historical data on each city as I flew across this beautiful continent was my defining moment in entertainment.
I found myself wondering recently why the audio system in my son’s new car sounds so much better than any private jet I have flown on. The reason is because aircraft OEMs are more focused on the aesthetics in the cabin than they are about creating a nightclub audio experience.
However, new audio technology can immerse every listener with a dynamic media zone for both music and movie content. Imagine sitting aboard the aircraft with new 6.2 digital audio surround sound installed.
The system consists of three forward and three aft speakers supported by two bass subwoofers. The cadence from the forward left and right speakers, coupled with the forward center speaker and aft speakers create a realistic 3D cinema experience. Interface options include:
Regardless of the genre, a beautiful, choreographed audio system is possible on today’s private jets.
5) Lighting and Charging
Finally, setting the right mood for your passengers when they board the aircraft is important – specifically with the installation of a new LED downwash and upwash lighting system. Today it’s possible to choose from an array of natural colors that can either be pre-set to meet the profile of your passengers, or controlled from an App on their PEDs.
For added ambience, it’s even possible to light up the cup-holder at the VIP seat with an appropriate color.
And new lighting can be complimented with wireless chargers at the seats and divans, ensuring that when passengers sit down, they can relax without needing to play around with cables and outlets.
It’s important to ensure you have an adequate number of outlets and USB ports for larger devices, such as tablets and laptops. The outlets will need embedded LEDs making them easy to locate.
Piecing it All Together
Having outlined five ways to enhance the passenger entertainment experience in your cabin, it’s worth remembering that anytime you can combine features and functionality into a single box or system, you will be able to reduce downtime and costs.
As an example, while there are many great standalone products that provide some of the features listed above, Gogo Business Aviation provides a single LRU that provides all the listed functionality in its Gogo Avance platform, which has three different options to meet your needs, from Light Jets all the way up to Ultra-Long-Range Jets.
Regardless of the product specifics, though, the point stands: Be strategic in the items you select, targeting the aspects of the cabin entertainment that are really letting the passengers down.
Once you’ve identified what you need, a clever combination of product and timing should ensure passengers are entertained in-flight for many years to come, for an outlay you’ll be happy with.