JetBlue to start wi-fi retrofits on E190s later this year

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JetBlue Airways plans to start modifying its Embraer 190 regional jets with high-speed Ka-band satellite wi-fi in the fourth quarter of this year, says Dave Ramage, senior advisor at JetBlue and its former vice-president technical operations.

The low-cost carrier plans to finish retrofitting equipment for the wi-fi service on its E190s by mid-2015, he says. The carrier operates 60 of the aircraft type today, Flightglobal’s Ascend Online database shows.

The carrier is also looking at linefit options for new E190s, says Boris Rogoff, the airline's director, heavy maintenance and modifications.

The carrier expects Embraer to release a service bulletin in the third quarter for the retrofit, says Rogoff, after which the modifications would start. The system would become active “shortly thereafter” via a supplemental type certificate (STC) from LiveTV that covers the software and operation of the system, he says.

JetBlue launched the wi-fi system on its Airbus A320 fleet in December 2013, which is designed to provide speeds of up to 12Mbps per individual passenger. The carrier said during a January earnings call that it would complete these retrofits at a rate of up to 15 aircraft per month with plans to outfit 130 of the aircraft type by the end of 2014.

Ramage, who has overseen maintenance operations at JetBlue for more than a decade, will retire in July. Until then he is advising the carrier's new head of technical operations, David Campbell.