Cabin Tech 2015

The latest products for your aircraft can mean faster Internet connections…and clean dinnerware.

We’ll get to the World Wide Web in a minute, but first a word about a worldwide wash: an onboard dishwasher developed by HS2 Engineering and Lufthansa Technik. The Dishwashair, as the manufacturers call it, can clean a load of dishes in just six minutes using three liters of water. That’s right, cabin crews, no more dishpan hands!
The dishwasher fits standard galleys and connects to the aircraft’s freshwater, waste-water and vacuum systems. With long-haul business jets now capable of 14-hour flights, the dishwasher may take up less room than you’d need to carry enough clean plates, silverware and glasses for two to three meals for everyone onboard.
Speaking of food, how do you keep it cold before cooking? Zodiac Aerospace’s Cool Trolley may be just the ticket. The thermodynamic trolley uses dry ice to keep contents at 0 to 5 degrees Celsius (32 to 41 degrees Fahrenheit) for up to 10 hours.   
Once everyone has been fed and quaffed, it’s time to surf the Net. Regular readers of these pages know that for the last few years we’ve been talking about the quantum speed increases coming with Ka-band satellites. Well, those increases are here. Now all you need are the new hardware and package plans to take advantage of them.
Let’s start with the antennas. Honeywell, satellite-provider Inmarsat and flat-panel-antenna specialist Kymeta are collaborating on a high-speed Ka-band wireless antenna suitable for business jets. Flat-panel antennas are relatively light and minimize drag, both good things. Conventional Internet antennas on aircraft resemble main battle-tank turrets. Bad for mileage, worse for aesthetics. It’s like bolting a cowcatcher to the front of a Ferrari.
Kymeta will deliver its flat “mTenna” to Honeywell, which will integrate it into its line of JetWave hardware used to receive Ka signals from Inmarsat, a service known as GX (Global Xpress) because, theoretically, with Ka you get worldwide coverage. So don’t worry: that streaming rerun of Roseanne won’t drop off as you approach Reykjavík.
In March, Honeywell tested its JetWave MCS 8200 hardware aboard an aircraft receiving GX, demonstrating how the network can support multiple file transfers and video streaming. The system should be certified any day now and ready for installations in Airbus, Boeing and Bombardier Global business jets. The first GX satellite is already operational in the Indian Ocean region for government, maritime and enterprise customers. A second satellite, launched this past February, provides coverage over the Americas and Atlantic Ocean. A third, scheduled for launch before you read this, will provide coverage over the Pacific.
GX is just the beginning. Honeywell also is preparing for the new OneWeb satellite constellation and is building onboard equipment to support the service. Under its deal with OneWeb, Honeywell will provide airtime services that could include aircraft health monitoring, navigation and weather. OneWeb will feature more than 600 satellites capable of providing Internet access worldwide at ultra-fast speeds.
There have been developments on the traditional, albeit slower, Ku-band as well. Gogo Biz is offering new deals for SwiftBroadband, including pay-as-you-go monthly data plans with no overage charges, fixed fees or minimum-usage requirements. The plans include data compression and acceleration services at no extra charge. Customers will receive single monthly invoices for all SwiftBroadband, Iridium and Gogo Biz airtime services and have online access to billing information and usage monitoring. Gogo also provides multi-aircraft discounts and annual plans for heavy data users. The offering includes services such as Gogo Text & Talk, which allows you to call and text with your smartphone and mobile number.
Gogo’s ATG-4 air-to-ground connectivity—already available on more than 650 commercial aircraft—is coming to business jets via an equipment package called ATG8000 that began shipping earlier this year. It provides faster connections and more capacity than Gogo’s other equipment, and the company believes it especially suits large business aircraft in corporate shuttle configuration.
Wireless inflight-entertainment systems are being developed for turboprops, too. Last year, Emteq’s eConnect, featuring an audio/video on-demand media server, became standard equipment on new Pilatus PC-12 NGs, allowing passengers to use their Wi-Fi-enabled devices to stream movies, music, satellite radio and an interactive 2D moving map. Now the system is available for retrofit onto legacy aircraft as well.
Hackers beware. Satcom Direct is adding security-threat monitoring to its SkyShield service, providing five levels of data filtering, with around-the-clock notifications of threats to customers’ devices aboard the aircraft. The service allows passengers to block unneeded network traffic and stop certain processes and applications using large amounts of data. SkyShield notifies customers of adverse events via an online portal, and sends alerts to the cockpit via datalink regardless of the type of satcom system in use.
Satcom Direct has also enhanced its Direct Router to make data transfer up to four times faster over the SwiftBroadband network. The improved router, developed in partnership with Paris-based Eclipse, will be able to bond and aggregate multiple Inmarsat SwiftBroadband streaming connections, allowing for system throughput of up to 1.6 mbps. The router will also support Inmarsat’s new High Data Rate streaming services, which will enable applications such as video conferencing and video streaming.
Late last year, Satcom Direct also launched an airborne global voice and text solution for smartphones called GlobalVT. It’s available via monthly subscription and allows you to use your mobile phone as you would on the ground for calls and texts during all phases of flight across multiple satellite networks worldwide. The GlobalVT mobile app manages the messaging and calls, and Earth-bound recipients view incoming calls and texts as originating from your personal number
Here’s another way to get better coverage in the Western Hemisphere: ViaSat and Eutelsat are linking their high-capacity Ka-band satellite networks and have agreed to let their customers use both. The service area will span North America, Europe and the Mediterranean. Customers will be able to tap an array of fixed and mobile services, including inflight connectivity. The agreement embraces future technology—including the ViaSat-2 satellite, scheduled for a 2016 launch—that will provide expanded coverage in North America, Central America, the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean.
Meanwhile, you can use your Android tablet or smartphone to pinpoint your location in the air. Rockwell Collins is making its Airshow 3D moving map and Venue CabinRemote apps available from the Google Play Store. The apps couple with onboard Airshow and Venue systems to deliver touch-enabled map interaction, including pinch, swipe and zoom; topographical, high-resolution LandSat imagery maps; interactive panoramic and pilot head-up display views; two-way communication with an onboard wireless access point; and seat-specific controls in addition to cabin control. The Airshow 3D moving map and Venue CabinRemote are also available via Apple’s App Store.
All this new technology and faster connectivity can be breathtaking but loss of cabin pressure can literally take your breath away, and you really don’t want that to happen. So California-based Aviation Technology has designed AltAlert, a $400 battery-powered cabin-pressure monitor that anyone on board can use to detect pressurization failure before hypoxia sets in. The device, which clips to a shirt pocket or mounts with suction cups onto a window, provides automatic aural and LED warnings when cabin pressure drops below certain values.


Mark Huber is a private pilot who writes BJT's aircraft reviews.


 

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