Avionics Digital Edition

A Flexible Connected Aircraft?

From the editor's desk.

Two years ago, I visited Honeywell Aerospace’s Phoenix, Arizona, headquarters where the company was on the verge of rolling out its new Global Xpress (GX) aviation hardware JetWave.

During the visit, I and other journalists attended a panel discussion featuring Boeing, Inmarsat and Honeywell. Among the panelists was Stephen Call, then Boeing’s manager for cabin and network systems who now works as director of strategic relationships at Inmarsat. On the panel, Call said something that still resonates today and connects to a topic we cover in this issue.

“Airlines are telling us that, through the life of a plane, they will have to take this consumer electronics technology ... and change it five to seven times throughout the life of the plane,” Call said. “One of the challenges that they have given us is how can we build an airplane that will better enable them to make the changes for a 20- to 25-year-old airframe to deal with the consumer electronics that have a lifespan of three to seven years?”

As you’ll see within these pages, this is a position that both the world’s largest commercial aircraft manufacturers still hold today. As an example, American Airlines’ order for 47 new Boeing 787s will not begin deliveries until 2020. If American were to make a decision on featuring today’s latest and greatest connectivity option now, that technology might be yesterday’s news come delivery in 2020.

There’s a two-year gap between 2018 and 2020. Consider the number of solutions that have been introduced since 2016. During that time, Gogo deployed its second-generation biz av ATG network and introduced 2Ku. SmartSky deployed its own 4G LTE network. In space, Inmarsat deployed GX Aviation, ViaSat was preparing for ViaSat-2, and Iridium was in the process of launching Iridium NEXT. Not to mention UAE-based operator Yahsat’s first successful trial of a 50-mbps in-flight internet connection in October 2017.

Check out our article on Airbus and Boeing to learn more about this push for a flexible connected aircraft architecture.

Elsewhere, we provide an overview of American’s focus on enabling in-flight streaming, and our new editor, Nick Zazulia gives the latest on emerging trends in aircraft seating technologies.