Seven Enticing Cabin Upgrades

These futuristic new and soon-to-be-available products will enhance your ride.

The passenger experience aboard business jets continues to improve dramatically as the industry responds to new technologies, fierce competition, and ever-more-demanding customer expectations. This roundup showcases seven of the most noteworthy recent innovations for the cabin.

Cool and Unusual

The private jet as chill space takes on new meaning as Collins Aerospace prepares to bring its SpaceChiller personal refrigeration unit to business aviation. The modular and lightweight thermoelectric cooling system is well-suited for small aircraft cabins, according to Collins, with units weighing only about one pound and measuring five inches square and 1.5 inches deep. Possible near-term onboard applications include in-seat minibars and chilled-snacks bars.

Derived from heat-exchange technology that Collins developed for advanced avionics cooling systems aboard military aircraft, SpaceChiller uses much less power than conventional cooling devices and can quickly bring food to safe temperatures or be set for chilling of items ranging from ice cream to Champagne. Moreover, the units can be adapted to provide heating as well as cooling, giving passengers “infinite flexibility in terms of dialing in and controlling a thermal environment,” the North Carolina–headquartered company says.

A Jet That Listens to You

The voice-controlled aircraft cabin has arrived via Bombardier’s Challenger 3500, an updated version of its bestselling super-midsize 300/350 twinjet family that is set to enter service by year’s end. With its new nice (Network Integrated Cabin Equipment) 4K cabin-management system from Lufthansa Technik (LHT), voice-activation controls lighting, sound, temperature, and the entertainment selections for viewing on the Challenger’s 24-inch, 4K display monitors. Artificial intelligence manages the self-contained system—it requires no internet connectivity, unlike home and office cloud-based voice-recognition systems. It’s operated through a CMS app on passengers’ personal devices. Adding a sonic feature borrowed from the Canadian airframer’s flagship Global 7500, the audio system can also enable a “sweet spot” sound experience, optimized for your seating location.

Wireless charging pads folded into side ledges and Nuage seats with their floating base and deep recline position—previously available only on Bombardier’s Globals—are also part of the 3500’s standard interior. 

LHT reports that the 4K’s voice-control product could be easily adapted to work with other manufacturers’ cabin control systems, for airframer or aftermarket installations. Meanwhile, development continues on a library of commands that the multilingual nice voice-control system understands.

The Beam Team Connects

SmartSky Networks’ long-awaited air-to-ground broadband Wi-Fi service went live in June, offering full coverage over the continental U.S. SmartSky’s patented beamforming technology connects each aircraft to the network through a dedicated beam, rather than sharing a connection with other aircraft, lowering latency, and accelerating bidirectional throughput speeds. The Morrisville, North Carolina telecom developer terms it “a 10x experience compared to legacy air-to-ground technology.” The network’s complementary Skytelligence data platform enhances the capabilities of existing applications and improves access to connectivity data that can be used in real-time by flight crews and maintenance personnel.

The base radio and antenna are lightweight and compact, and STCs for installation on some of the most popular midsize and larger business aircraft models are in hand, with more in development, according to the company. Monthly service plans range from $2,995 for five gigabytes to $9,995 for unlimited data; hardware and installation costs have not been released.

SmartSky’s upcoming LiTE system will extend connectivity, at lesser speed and bandwidth, to light jets and turboprops. Charter and fractional operator flyExclusive has signed on as SmartSky’s fleet launch customer; HondaJet fractional operator JetIt will debut the LiTE offering.

Walking on a Cloud

Kalogridis International’s Origins Collection of luxury handmade carpets for aircraft interiors can transport you to new worlds before you leave the ground. With evocative names such as Kathmandu, Cenote, Gilf Kebir, and Lumanai, the collection offers designs and color palettes inspired by the spirit of civilizations long gone, mythical domains, and a time of harmony in the world. The organic beauty of the Orient, the wonders of ancient Egypt, and the mysterious imagery and astral influences of Neolithic art all find expression in Origins.

The textures, movement, and layering provide multiple options to customize the designs to your taste through a choice of colors, textures, materials, and tufting, and “can be fully personalized to any interior and to the unique individual taste of each owner,” Dallas-based Kalogridis says. Additionally, Origins’ Undyed portfolio offers environmentally friendly options that use only naturally colored heather wools, and the entire collection coordinates with a custom selection of Kalogridis’s Deconel surface coverings for side panels, bulkheads, and other interior surfaces.

Sending Data Economy Class

If you don’t stream content or use other high-bandwidth applications in the air, you can save money with Send Solutions’ Airtext, which offers voice, email, and texting anywhere in the world without a costly Wi-Fi installation or full-time satellite connectivity; the vast majority of work communications are handled via such low-data applications, anyway, the Georgia-based airborne messaging specialist notes.

The Airtext system uses on-demand “burst messaging” on Iridium’s Next constellation to deliver data anywhere in the world, on the ground or in the air. You can connect to the Airtext satcom transceiver with Bluetooth via iOS or Android devices. When you’re offline, sensors detect incoming and outgoing data as it becomes available, eliminating the need for continuous connectivity, further reducing costs. 

Send Solutions has approvals for the installation of the compact, lightweight (just over a pound) units on more than 50 aircraft types. The Airtext+ system, which provides email, voice calls, and text, costs $17,500. AirtextLT+, without voice calling, costs $6,995. Data plans are $400 per year and include the first 2,500 text messages; voice calls are $1.25 per minute.

The Chameleon Within

Could costly refurbishments of VIP airliners be replaced by a simple reprogramming of an interior projection system? That’s the idea Lufthansa Technic and Diehl Aerospace showcase in the Explorer cabin concept for the ACJ350, presented this year. The widebody jet’s large, multifunctional lounge area integrates Diehl’s small, lightweight, passively cooled projectors into the sidewall and ceiling elements, enabling customized animation displays to cover almost the complete interior, from the window belt up. The software developed for the Explorer cabin includes several thousand visual projection options that can dramatically alter the cabin atmosphere: virtual daytime and nighttime skies, underwater scenes, a flying discotheque, and imaginary, fanciful worlds. The system can also mimic the static look of conventional VIP cabins in any design motif, from traditional to avant-garde.

Though the Explorer concept was developed for a widebody aircraft, the interior projection technology is adaptable to any executive airliner, from narrowbody up, and Lufthansa Technic sees a growing market for the quick-change artistry. It’s especially suited “for younger people who don’t want to spend the time or money for a custom cabin, or people who want to resell the aircraft,” says a company spokesperson. “You only have to change the content of the projection system, and then you have a totally different cabin.”

Lowering Connectivity Standards

With low earth orbit (LEO) satellite networks promising higher connectivity speeds and smaller, less-costly connectivity solutions, Gogo Business Aviation has created an on-ramp: business aviation’s first electronically steerable antenna for LEO network connectivity. Designed to operate on OneWeb’s forthcoming constellation, the connectivity will enable data-heavy activities including multiple simultaneous live video conferences, access to cloud solutions such as Office365, and streaming television.

The antenna, introduced in May at the European Business Aviation Association Exposition in Geneva, will be paired with a Gogo Avance LRU for connectivity. The housing for the antenna assembly, designed in conjunction with Hughes Network systems, is small enough for any business aircraft from a turboprop up, Colorado-based Gogo says, and the system has been designed to simplify installation. Performance will be comparable to terrestrial broadband, with a latency of less than 100 ms—up to 10 times faster than geostationary earth orbit (GEO) satellite network connectivity. The OneWeb network is expected to become operational later this year, and service should be available shortly after that.