Inmarsat Ka-band GX service launch is ‘imminent’

Honeywell's JetWave MCS-8200 fuselage-mounted Ka-band antenna for Inmarsat GX
Honeywell’s JetWave MCS-8200 fuselage-mounted Ka-band antenna for Inmarsat GX

The commercial service introduction of Inmarsat’s ultra-fast Ka-band Global Xpress (GX) inflight connectivity service is imminent, according to Frederick Van Essen, Inmarsat’s VP Aviation Strategy.

Speaking at a media event at Honeywell Aerospace in Phoenix, Arizona, Van Essen said: “We’ve always said we would launch in 2016 and we will. All the pieces of the puzzle are in place and they all have to work together, which is where we are now. The launch is imminent.”

As for news on more GX customer announcements, he said it was a case of wait and see. Industry insiders say they are in the pipeline, but potential customers appear to be waiting for the service’s official launch.

Ka-band

“Get Connected’s” Steve Nichols was in Phoenix to get an update on Honeywell’s latest technology. Honeywell is the power behind the Ka-band in-flight JetWave hardware for GX, including the fuselage-mounted MCS-8000 flat panel antenna and the tail-mounted MCS-8200 parabolic dish..

Carl Esposito, Honeywell’s vice president strategy, marketing and product management, says it is working on STCs for 20 different aircraft types. “There isn’t a product in our portfolio that doesn’t or couldn’t have a connectivity component,” he said.

“GX opens up a whole new avenue for ideas. For example, we are working on ‘crowd sourcing’ the weather radar data from our RDR-4000 system.

“This could allow you to ‘see’ what the pilot in an aircraft 200 miles ahead of you is detecting, before you get to the same point,” Esposito said. “We are also working with manufacturers like Rolls-Royce and Gulfstream to see what real-time engine or other technical data could be transmitted back to the ground.

“This could be used for future fault detection or help prepare ground crews before an aircraft lands.”

There are other applications that could lend themselves to remote updates. Michael Edmonds Honeywell’s VP, Services and Connectivity, said that it was looking closely at future applications.

“For example, flight management systems (FMS) need updates every 28 days and that is quite a painful process. At some time in the future it could be just like when you update your iPhone or home computer, an automatic process that is enabled by connectivity.”

Honeywell's B757 test aircraft at Le Bourget. Image: Honeywell.
Honeywell’s Boeing 757 test aircraft.

Honeywell said it is finishing up GX testing aboard its Boeing 757 test aircraft. This has flown extensively both in the US and Europe to make sure that all the systems work, including handing over from one satellite to another.

Journalists at the event were taken on an hour-long flight to see how some of Honeywell’s safety features work, including its Enhanced Ground Proximity Warning System (EGPWS) and SmartRunway. But the GX system was left switched off, so we will have to wait a little longer for a hands-on test of the Ka-band system.

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