For the first time, general aviation pilots will have short messaging service capability to mobile phones through Avidyne's MLX770 Iridium satellite-based two-way datalink transceiver.

The system, which will debut in the fourth quarter, interfaces through the 10in (255mm) Envision EX5000 or 8in EX500 multifunction displays.

Avidyne says the response from customers has been "overwhelming", adding a useful communication tool in the event of a delayed arrival, for example. The company has limited the length of outgoing messages to 32 characters, entered by a control knob, not a keyboard, to minimise potential pilot distraction.

For every 10h of flying, Avidyne expects the service to cost around $70-120, with each text costing $1-2.

SMS for commercial pilots has existed for years, with the widely used controller-pilot datalink communications enabling textual data communication with dispatchers and controllers to send and receive air traffic routeing requests.

The system also receives weather information outside the USA, and provides weather data without relying on XM and Sirius networks, which are limited to the USA. When launched, coverage will include the continental USA, southern Canada, western and central Europe.

African, Australian, Latin American, South American and south Asian service is expected by the end of the year.

Source: Flight International