Continental Airlines pilots gets their voice back


What’s the one thing that Continental Airlines pilots would absolutely love to have on board their aircraft?

Airborne telephony service, the likes of which was previously offered by now-defunct Verizon Airfone!

That’s the revelation that Continental engineering project manager Brian Roland made at the recent World Airline Entertainment Association (WAEA) conference and exhibition in Palm Springs.

Airfone in 2006 ended its service on board commercial airline flights. The air-to-ground (ATG) service was featured on over 1,000 aircraft flying in the Americas for Continental, Delta Air Lines, United Airlines and US Airways.

“Flight ops want the old voice communications back,” said Roland.

As such, in 2007, the carrier inked a deal with Avionica to outfit nine Boeing 737-800 passenger aircraft with the firm’s satLINK Iridium system, including antenna, wiring, structural elements and a control panel. The initial installations provide an Iridium phone handset in the cockpit.

In an update this year, IridiumEverywhere.com reported:

Continental Iridium.JPG

Continental must be pretty pleased. The carrier is “putting Iridium on a few of our fleets”, revealed Roland at WAEA.

Roland also revealed that Continental “sees a future need to have streaming maintenance data off the aircraft”.

But would Continental’s Iridium arrangement position the carrier to take advantage of LiveTV’s new Iridium-based Kiteline World global in-flight connectivity product?

Not exactly.

Regular Iridium is 2.4 Kbps and $1.50 per minute, which is used for cockpit voice. Iridium Aero Openport operates at 128 Kbps and is supporting Kiteline World.

Continental is, however, in the process of equipping its Boeing domestic fleet with LiveTV’s latest generation live television product. And the carrier is set to experiment with LiveTV’s ATG-based domestic Kiteline email service on roughly 30 aircraft in the first quarter.

The service will be free.

Who else loves this carrier?

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One Response to Continental Airlines pilots gets their voice back

  1. NextRow November 6, 2009 at 3:26 am #

    Mary,
    It seems that it would make a whole lot of sense to have a capability that is not tied to any onboard system. Could this would be a direct response to the AF447 crash where maybe pilots feel that comm links would be less cryptic with a satellite handheld onboard instead of a ‘series of fault report’ automatic messages. By the way, I have yet to see any solid conclusion as to what really happened on that flight. Is Airbus saying anything?