Delivering on their vision for how connectivity and data can transform aviation, SmartSky’s network is live, entry-into-service customers are flying, more are coming on board and SmartSky is changing the inflight connectivity experience.
Has it been a longer road for SmartSky than expected? Many would argue, yes. Has it been worth the persistent innovation? When you hear comments from passengers on a SmartSky equipped business jet say, “I have had better connectivity on this plane in the past 45 minutes than my entire time in Vegas,” you know they are getting it right.
SmartSky officially launched commercial operations at NBAA-BACE 2021 by opening up for customer hardware orders and scheduling installations. With the majority of CONUS flight hours covered, more than a dozen demonstration flights were conducted during the conference. The flights included partners, prospects and media and resulted in comments like the one above and reviews from media like this one from Mary Kirby of Runway Girl Network saying:
“SmartSky talks a lot about the low-latency nature of its system. But that message hit home during the flight. At one point, five of us simultaneously FaceTimed family members from the aircraft. And two passengers FaceTimed each other, talking back and forth over their smartphones whilst seated within one row of each other.
When I connected with my daughter, and later my mother, the clarity of the picture was pretty striking.”
That clarity along with responsive, two-way communications is a result of SmartSky’s balanced network that transfers data in real-time both to and from the aircraft with latencies consistently akin to those you experience on the ground. No other inflight connectivity network offers that combination of functionality and performance. While Facetime is a great way to stay connected with family and friends, the benefits of SmartSky’s network extend powerfully to the transfer of large files, use of cloud applications and real-time aircraft telematics that deliver true enterprise-in-the-sky capabilities.
Also announced during NBAA-BACE 2021 was SmartSky becoming the first air-to-ground network to connect with Honeywell Forge, enabling business aviation operators to access advanced software services and performance insights that improve the flying experience, drive efficient operations and take full advantage of SmartSky’s unmatched network performance. Forge’s advanced capabilities allow operators to tailor connectivity functionality to meet the needs of the entire aircraft from cabin to cockpit and ground operations.
November ended with SmartSky announcing the availability of its network to regional airlines. With supplemental type certificates covering the Embraer Regional Jets (and many more STCs for business jets), the company also announced a deal with IdeaNova to offer its Inplay and Intouch services, signaling a new level of choice and interoperability. Inplay, a secure entertainment streaming platform and Intouch, a secure multi-camera video conferencing platform, both use scalable coding and encryption, and have been tailored for use in aircraft cabins. Juraj Siska, CEO of IdeaNova Technologies stated, “Our collaboration with SmartSky allows us to offer premium services through their next-generation network. The dependable throughput to and from the aircraft, coupled with our encrypted and bandwidth-optimized applications, provides a new level of connectedness and entertainment not yet experienced in aviation.” As customers select SmartSky, they can choose enhanced services from a growing list of options from SmartSky’s partners rather than being locked into a limited set of offerings from a single supplier.
Entering 2022, SmartSky joined forces with GE Aviation and Mosaic ATM to support the development of cloud-based flight management systems (FMS) and air traffic management (ATM) capabilities for the advanced air mobility (AAM) sector. With backing from a NASA innovation award, the partners are delving into how the combined technologies can effectively connect airborne and cloud-based FMS to ensure that large numbers of eVTOL aircraft can be safely accommodated in public airspace. The effort further illustrates SmartSky’s versatility as a key enabler for aviation’s digital transformation through its patented network and innovative services layer, Skytelligence®.
Horizontal integration means choice and is a key theme for SmartSky -- including how its products are distributed. This approach along with hardware availability bring significant advantages in the marketplace. Supply-chain delays have not impacted the availability of the Flagship system’s radio and antennas. This means SmartSky’s dealer partners and MROs can order hardware and begin installations on schedule for their customers. SmartSky is adding more sales and installation partners every month, and the lineup includes OEMs and MROs, giving customers the ability to choose their preferred provider for their connectivity upgrade.
In March, SmartSky signed its first fleet customer. The fourth largest charter jet provider in the U.S., flyExclusive, announced it would upgrade its growing fleet and replace the existing ATG connectivity on many of its aircraft. Tommy Sowers, flyExclusive’s President commented on the selection, noting that "after a thorough evaluation of alternatives, SmartSky was the right choice.”
The flyExclusive announcement was quickly followed by more growth with fractional private aviation operator Jet It signing on as the first customer for SmartSky’s upcoming LiTE system. The LiTE configuration extends SmartSky's patented air-to-ground (ATG) network technology to smaller aircraft where connectivity options with sustained, multi-gigabyte per hour performance have previously not been available. Jet It CEO and founder Glenn Gonzales says: “At Jet It, we focus on providing our members an ownership experience without compromise and selecting SmartSky for our fleet-wide fast connectivity solution is no exception. Its advanced technology and hardware, combined with a choice of configurations, are a great fit for both our HondaJet and Gulfstream aircraft where we will be able to support both passenger and operational connectivity needs.”
What are the key takeaways for those watching SmartSky over the past six months? After years of innovative development, SmartSky is here and redefining the inflight connectivity experience beyond simply the back of the aircraft to quickly become a key enabler for aviation’s digital transformation. By supporting the cabin, cockpit, ground operations and entire aviation ecosystem through its patented network, innovative hardware and transformational services layer SmartSky is changing the aviation industry and it’s time to get on board.