“When you get into the larger aircraft it becomes like a hotel, with dozens of staff supporting the plane based in a galley area down below. You have very comprehensive cooking facilities, and on larger aircraft we have looked at theatres, with spiral staircases and a Steinway grand piano. The limitations for what you can put inside a plane are pretty much the limits of physics, and even money cannot always overcome that. Even so, people are still always trying to push [the limits]. ”
As the new century's first decade winds down, we are "connected" in flight as never before. At 41,000 feet, we can exchange e-mails and text messages, watch satellite TV and instantly access all the resources on the Internet. But electronics are only part of the world of cabin comfort, which today means everything from seats that can be transformed into flat beds to luxurious shower-equipped bathrooms. So kick back and make a list of the new goodies you most want for your aircraft. To get you started, here are some of the hottest recently introduced products we've discovered.
In-flight Internet at DSL Speeds
Aircell's in-flight Internet service debuted on airliners last summer and the company says it will be available this spring for business aircraft. Aircell Broadband will allow you to use your laptop and smartphone at full broadband speeds, just as you do on the ground, according to the Broomfield, Colo. company.
You'll be able to choose from two pricing plans, both of which will provide an always-available link to the network. Monthly service for those who seek only e-mail access and "light" Internet access will run $895. Faster access-at speeds averaging around 2 mbps-will cost $1,995 a month.
Advanced Satellite Broadband Service Debuts
If you spend much time flying over oceans, you know how quickly you can lose the high-speed Internet connectivity that you enjoy on the ground. Enter two leaders in satellite communications, ViaSat and Satcom Direct, which have teamed to offer "Yonder" Ku-band satellite broadband service for business jets. The service allows you to send and receive cellphone calls, e-mails and more-even when you're thousands of miles from land.
Using a lightweight, 12-inch antenna, Yonder provides download speeds in flight of up to 10 mbps. The service-with Satcom Direct of Melbourne, Fla. as the product reseller-is available over North America, the Caribbean, the North Atlantic, Europe, the North Pacific and the Arabian Gulf region. Expansion into other areas is expected in early 2010.
Satcom Direct now also offers satellite data service to Gulfstream aircraft operators flying with Broad Band Multi Link (BBML) equipment. The ViaSat BBML gear is currently flying in about 80 Gulfstreams.
The Gulfstream service, which provides download speeds of up to 3.5 mbps, was previously available only through Arinc Direct. ViaSat, based in Carlsbad, Calif., also provides the satellite link for Rockwell Collins eXchange air/ground broadband service.
Ovation Deserves Some Applause
Honeywell describes its completely redesigned Ovation Select cabin-management system as a way to integrate entertainment and connectivity technology seamlessly through an intuitive passenger interface. That interface simplifies in-flight connectivity, whether you're using a BlackBerry, laptop, MP3 player or video-capable iPod; watching a Blu-ray DVD; or listening to satellite radio. Passengers have total control of the cabin environment via icon-based, touch-screen devices.
Attention, Movie Lovers
If you're an entertainment-hungry traveler for whom a couple of DVD players aren't enough, a media server from Mid Continent Controls could be exactly what you need to help while away the time during long flights. It can hold hundreds of hours of movies, music, personal videos and images, all accessible with a wireless remote.
While the system has the capacity to handle the entertainment demands of all the passengers on a large business jet, it is also small enough to be installed on a light business aircraft, according to the Derby, Kan. manufacturer.
An In-flight Fix for E-mail Addicts
Want to send an e-mail from Singapore while the guy sitting next to you surfs the Web? That's no problem with International Communications Group's NxtMail Over Iridium, a service now available to users of Wi-Fi-enabled BlackBerrys and iPhones. The product provides global e-mail service and mobile Web browsing for up to 10 passengers simultaneously. It supports BlackBerry Internet Service and BlackBerry Enterprise Server, as well as Yahoo Mail, Hotmail and Gmail.
The 3.2-pound Iridium satcom service that allows the Internet access costs $17,000. Aircraft not already equipped with ICG service will require a NxtLink Iridium-based radio at prices ranging from $11,500 for a single-channel unit to $45,000 for a five-channel transceiver. User cost is a maximum of $90 an hour for the "always-on" mode, according to the Newport News, Va. company.
When Flight Time Is Nap Time
If you want to stretch out for a long snooze but your aircraft lacks a bed, you may want to consider the quickly inflatable JetBed, from the company of the same name. The Downers Grove, Ill. manufacturer claims that the product-which attaches to two facing club seats with Velcro straps-is "as comfortable as being in a real bed."
The 15-pound JetBed comes with a rechargeable cordless pump and a carrying case. Prices start at $3,995.
Who Needs a Window Seat?
Lufthansa Technik's latest Niceview product moves moving-map technology to a whole new level. The Hamburg, Germany aircraft completion, refurbishment and maintenance giant calls Niceview the first moving map to display worldwide flights and photo-realistic 3D topographical maps and oceanography in real-time with high-resolution satellite imagery. It offers informational overlay displays to illustrate current aircraft positions or provide news and it allows passengers to select the same view as that of the pilot, even during takeoff and landing. It also permits everyone on board the equivalent of a clear view from a window seat.
An optional feature allows users to load movies, language translations, safety briefings, airport information and more into the Niceview server via USB devices or via wireless or wired Ethernet connections.
A Shower in the Sky
Typically, you find showers only in so-called bizliners, that is, VIP jets derived or converted from airliners. Now, though, Canadian manufacturer Bombardier has designed and received certification for a shower for its large-cabin but still relatively small Global Express XRS aircraft.
The shower-a standard option that adds just under $1 million to the jet's price-allows for a stand-up height of 6 feet 2 inches. Its control console combines the warmth of wood with design details imported from showers found in high-end homes. There are multiple user options, such as a "rain" shower and a body spray that allows you to adjust the direction of the water stream. A heated towel compartment is built into the interior shower wall.
Finding Comfort in Safety
Few things can spoil cabin comfort like a medical emergency, so you might feel better taking off with Tempus IC on board. An upgrade of the Tempus 2000 in-flight emergency medical kit, the product measures vital signs just as an emergency room would do. Then it transmits them-along with photos and real-time video-to ground-based medical experts.
Tempus IC is compatible with new high-bandwidth in-flight communications systems, but even its video streaming function will work with lower bandwidths, thanks to the latest compression technology. Communications options for the equipment include Bluetooth, GPS, Wi-Fi and wired Ethernet and legacy satellite phone systems. Tempus IC, from RDT Ltd. of Hampshire, UK, sells for $65,355. album.
3D Takes Off, without the Special Glasses
Want to turn some heads? Install one of Magnetic Media's Enabl3D stereoscopic monitors on your jet. The monitors, which employ technology developed in partnership with Toshiba, make images appear to pop right off the screen-no special glasses required. Magnetic Media (www.magnetic3D.com) can custom-produce content or modify your two-dimensional material. The monitors are available in 32-, 42-, 47- and 57-inch versions at prices ranging from $3,995 to $15,995.
A Step Toward Quieter Cabins
A new thermal/acoustic barrier package promises to reduce cabin noise by up to 30 percent. On one Challenger 601, moreover, the product weighed 500 pounds less than the factory-installed thermal/acoustic package. The Silentium Air SPA 360 is produced by Aviation International Management Services (AIMS) of Montreal, which is supplying the kits to exclusive marketing agent Zenith Jet, also of Montreal.
AIMS vice president of program management Abdul Hajibrahim said the Silentium Air SPA 360, which employs proprietary technology, has been installed and tested in more than 30 business aircraft.
For a 600 series Challenger, the product costs around $200,000, plus installation. Any authorized maintenance, repair and overhaul center can perform the installation, which requires as little as seven working days.