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Business Air News
Business Air News
The monthly news publication for aviation professionals.
Special focus - The Airborne Office: Demand rises for the perfect working platform in the sky
Air Alsie's Falcon 2000 reflects today's realities that a rising number of business jet operators and their clients want the same capabilities in their aircraft cabin as they enjoy in their office on the ground.

Air Alsie's Falcon 2000 reflects today's realities that a rising number of business jet operators and their clients want the same capabilities in their aircraft cabin as they enjoy in their office on the ground.

Jens Osterlund Jensen, Air Alsie's owner, says: "Market demand for bandwidth aboard is continuously increasing as customer's expectations for connection speed have grown. The upgrade from our old satellite communication system to Thrane & Thrane's Aero-SB+ has provided several benefits to us and to our customers. These include increased navigation safety in the cockpit and high-speed internet, email and voice in the cabin."

Scandinavian Avionics installed the upgrade to the Falcon 2000's system which offers five channels for simultaneous voice and data and speeds up to 432kbps. "This makes it suitable for an extensive range of applications for business executives, including voice, video and data," Jensen points out.

An analysis of airborne office requirements should include an assessment as to whether there is full WiFi connectivity in-cabin to enable the addition of wireless VoIP to the service. Jen Marts, product marketing manager for Thrane & Thrane's aeronautical business unit, explains: "This provides benefits in flexibility and cost to the operator, which can be passed on to the business traveller. The key to this functionality is the ability of passengers to utilise their own VoIP equipped mobile phone with the system for voice and data."

This allows the system's users to communicate more effectively through the use of their own address books and familiarity with their handsets.

Air Alsie is among a growing number of operators that have responded to client demand for an airborne office. Steffen Fries, ceo of Germany's DC Aviation, says: "On long-haul flights with the Gulfstream there are, simply due to space, more possibilities for proper meetings with 'conference table conditions.' Naturally, this includes access to fax machines and printers, as well as laptop outlets and satellite telephones, which are standard on each of our aircraft."

Gulfstream points out that its aircraft were among the first in the industry to have such capabilities. The company's technology includes Gulfstream Broad Band Multi-Link (BBML), a system that employs ARINC Direct's SKYLink satellite service. BBML is offered as an option on the G350, G450, G500 and G550, and as a retrofit installation on other large-cabin Gulfstream aircraft. "It can also be installed on other original equipment manufacturers' business jets through Gulfstream's General Dynamics Aviation Services facilities," it adds. "The BBML system is compact and lightweight. It comprises a dish antenna less than 12 inches in diameter mounted under the tail radome of an aircraft, an antenna control unit, a transceiver router and a Gulfstream-exclusive advanced cabin server. The satellite terminal, including antenna, weighs about 40 lbs."

ARINC says that its SkyLink network includes substantial coverage of Europe, North America, the Caribbean, Central America, parts of South America and the North Atlantic and Pacific flight tracks. The G650 will have BBML and a new Audio Video Distribution System created in conjunction with Innovative Advantage.

Dave Edwards, Gama's md, says: "Overall, our clients now expect high speed data capabilities as a standard, which all our jet fleet now have. Owners are investing in WiFi and high speed data links, and corporations using our fleet expect dedicated office areas and conference formations, privacy, phones and faxes. The next big thing will be inflight mobile services with full flight coverage, which will be approved and coming very soon, and Gama intends to stay ahead of the trend and introduce this resource as soon as possible for our clients."

Tim Barber says: "At JetBrokers Europe we think there is a long way to go before all the technology will be in an aircraft. It is definitely in demand from business executives but less so from owner-pilots. The office in the sky concept is increasingly in demand. At the top end it has always been desirable but this is now slowly moving into other sectors. Like all new technologies, the speed of development is very exciting in this arena and the increased functionality and inevitable greater choice/lower cost VPN, video conferences in addition to use of mobiles, fax and laptops makes it all a very interesting proposition."

Hardy Truelsen, president and sales director Scandinavian Avionics, points out: "The availability of always-on internet connection on land has inevitably impacted the expectation of the working executive when they fly. It has become critical for executives to stay on top of their affairs while they travel. Whether it's catching up with emails or making important calls to the office, such passengers demand access to high speed, high quality on-board communications."

Truelsen says that Scandinavian Avionics has experienced a significant increase in demand during the last few years. But he believes it is the availability of new affordable high speed technology that enables executives to manage business affairs from the sky effectively. "The development has made the airborne office an indispensable part of the future of technology for business jets."

Inmarsat says owner-operators should focus on bandwidth capability and always-on IP connection combined with the availability of compact, lightweight avionics.

James Hardie of ARINC Direct which provides global communications and flight planning services for business aviation, points out that it is critical for clients to understand the needs and applications of their airborne office in the context it will probably need to operate at 40,000 ft. "The focus on shortening the time spent travelling is an important part of the business jet value proposition, but increasingly the expectation of productive time in the air is a prime consideration for anyone planning to use a business jet."

'The availability of always-on internet connection on land has inevitably impacted the expectation of the working executive when they fly'

There is, Hardie points out, a great deal to consider when purchasing an aircraft. But: "Communications can be just as exacting with huge variations in capability based on service coverage and availability, equipment, aircraft capability, price of equipment, certification, manufacturer agreements, and retrofit options. You then also have a number of service providers offering all kinds of packages and deals, with and without hardware, with and without certain equipment.

"The key is to define the applications required by the passengers likely to use the aircraft throughout its life, before you start adding or removing optional equipment, just as you would for any other office in your company. Then you need to talk to someone who really understands the end to end solution, including costs, limitations and the future."

Hardie says that key questions that should be asked include: "What is the opportunity cost of a decision made at procurement if it has to be corrected by retrofit and what are the spin-off benefits of a decision for cockpit applications or greater utility of the aircraft?" The considerations may include length of flights: short trips may mean low speed connections are adequate, or it may mean a more diverse number of users with greater requirements. Long flights may increase the need for communications in flight but may also affect availability from coverage of options.

With regard to voice communications, the owner-operator needs to look at the acceptable quality and clarity of calls. "If you have to make lots of phone calls then the best possible line may be required, and this usually means a higher data capability." Hardie advises: "Address the issue of access to information - how much and how timely? email - how much, how often, size of messages, file inclusion? Connecting groups - any new media, social networks, online collaboration, streaming video conferences? All have different bandwidth requirements and thus may affect the options open to you. Having the right connections available is an emerging differentiator in the utility of the aircraft. There is no need to be disconnected in flight, though you may choose to be."

Hardie says the owner-operator should check that the communications network is integrated, worldwide and that it supports multiple airborne satellite communications systems such as Inmarsat, Iridium and Skylink. Individual and fleet aircraft management and operations needs, Hardie says, may have a range of requirements including easy access to data link communications, flight planning and filing, weather and NOTAMS, APIS, fuel purchasing, weight and balance, and performance calculations.

Ideally the working traveller will be able to switch from work to relaxation at the touch of a button. Rockwell Collins says its Venue Cabin Management System offers complete HD cabin management for business aircraft. Rockwell Collins points out that its Collins Pro Line 21 avionics with enhancements in communication, navigation and surveillance capabilities and Venue high definition cabin management system feature on the Hawker 450XP.

Inmarsat's Swift64 and Swift-Broadband systems are standard fit on Gulfstream and Dassault business jets as well as airliners such as the A320.

Products targeted at the airborne office growth market include the Iridium-based Forte AirMail which is said to offer an attractive entry cost for passengers wanting to send and receive email using their personal smartphones such as Blackberrys and iPhones. The Forte system can be provisioned with wireless handsets. "For corporate asset and vip security, Forte offers optional automated flight following. This secure and 100 per cent private tracking service improves flight department support activities and provides continual aircraft status worldwide."

But there is a strong demand for more comprehensive corporate office services such as multiple phone lines, PBX, high-speed Internet, and wireless laptop support. EMS Aviation eNfusion Broadband systems are targeted at this sector. "They are highly configurable to meet the requirements of the most demanding business jet passengers."

Banyan Air Service recently completed an avionics installation on a Challenger 604.

On 24 March this year Dassault Falcon delivered the first Falcon business jet, a Falcon 7X, equipped with Honeywell's new MCS 7120 Swift Broadband Communications Gateway. John Rosanvallon, president and ceo of Dassault Falcon, says: "The product provides a fully integrated wired and wireless cabin communication system and high speed global connectivity via the Inmarsat I4 Satellite Network. The aircraft is the first business jet in the industry capable of providing fully-managed end-to-end VoIP telephony services over the Swift Broadband network. Managed VoIP services deliver significantly higher quality audio performance because of dedicated bandwidth to each call."

Rob Tomenendal, director of business development for Gore Design says: "Almost every aircraft interior we install includes a designated office space and absolutely every aircraft is wired for some variation of inflight internet and telecom systems. Our customers come with very specific requests regarding these elements as many of them conduct a fair amount of business while in the sky."

EMS Aviation's Iain Ronis confirms: "Despite the economic climate, investing in new cabin electronics to enhance business productivity is critical in furthering the justification for corporate aircraft."

A growing number of private charter clients need to work while travelling. Tighter budgets put in place during the global recession may have lessened overall demand for private charter but they have increased the need for efficient airborne offices.

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