For the folks paying ultra-close attention to Aircell's goings on (you know who you are), check out the US FAA's "notice of proposed special conditions" concerning the Colorado-based firm's 15 March 2007 application for a type design change to an existing STC to install additional equipment on Dassault Falcon 2000 series airplanes.
"These airplanes, as modified by Aircell, will have a novel or unusual design feature associated with the Aircell airborne satcom equipment (ASE) which use lithium battery technology," says the FAA's notice.
It explains: "The applicable airworthiness regulations do not contain adequate or appropriate safety standards for this design feature. These proposed special conditions contain the additional safety standards that the administrator considers necessary to establish a level of safety equivalent to that established by the existing airworthiness standards."
Wow that's a mouthful. But it gently reminds us that Aircell has its fingers - or rather great heaping appendages - in the business aviation world, which in addition to the airline industry stands to benefit from the company's air-to-ground (ATG) broadband system.
Last month Aircell announced that "a US-based Fortune 100 company" will be the first to install Aircell broadband services in the business aviation market. The installation will take place before the end of 2008 at Savannah Air Center in Georgia aboard the customer's Bombardier Global-series aircraft.
Aircell is offering two business aviation equipment options for broadband service over the Aircell Network:
- For Heavy Aircraft: Available now, this equipment package is based on the Aircell system now flying aboard American Airlines and Virgin America.
- For All Aircraft: Available beginning in the second quarter of 2009, this system is available exclusively as a modular add-on to the Aircell Axxess cabin system. Developed specifically for business aircraft, the single broadband LRU is very lightweight and measures just 3MCU in size.
So what's the difference between Aircell Axxess and the Aircell broadband service?
"They're apples and oranges - they're two separate systems that contribute different elements of a comprehensive airborne communications system," says Aircell in a March 2007 technology primer for the business aviation sector.
Aircell Axxess is a cabin system - including the aircraft's wireless hotspot, wired and wireless handsets, PBX switching, and other in-cabin functions. In addition, the Aircell Axxess system comes standard with two built-in channels of Iridium satcom that provide right-out-of-the-box functionality.
The AirCell broadband service, on the other hand, is a high-speed link that connects the AirCell Axxess cabin system to the ground by installing optional equipment aboard the aircraft.
"One of AirCell's core design philosophies was to regard the cabin system (including handsets,wireless hotspot, in-cabin wiring, etc) as separate from the links (such as Iridium, Inmarsat, AirCell broadband, etc) that connect the cabin to the ground. 'Network neutral' means that an AirCell Axxess operator can select and install the links that best suit their needs, and change anytime, without starting over," notes Aircell.
On an aside, I received a survey in my email inbox today from Los Angeles-based research company LRW concerning my recent usage of Gogo (apparently I agreed to participate when I created my Gogo account on the Virgin America beta flight over San Francisco).
The questions are all pretty standard - how did I like the speed, ease of access, etc. No doubt it will give Aircell a fairly decent barometer of what to expect in the way of repeat customers. I believe I have made my two thumbs up very clear.
And so has the CDMA Development Group (CDG), which has bestowed a Network Technology Innovation award on Aircell and partner ZTE for their work to adapt 3G CDMA systems "for the unique challenges of providing Inflight Internet service - including challenges of distance and speed differential between transceiver and receiver".
Over and out.