As Summer hits its stride, we wanted to take a moment to give an update on a topic of great interest to our online audience: WiFi onboard!
Earlier this spring we announced some details on our upcoming service we’re calling Fly-Fi and we’re well on our way to bringing this innovative solution to our customers. Bringing faster internet connections than the other guys isn’t without it’s challenges though. If we want to have a better connection, we can’t just use the same technology, so we turned our eyes to the sky… about 22,000 miles up!
As the first U.S. airline to use Ka Band satellite technology to deliver high speed internet to our aircraft, it also falls to us to prove that the technology and equipment used to deliver it is safe, and have the FAA certify that the equipment is ready to be installed in additional aircraft. With safety as our number one value, we don’t take this responsibility lightly.
In June, we took one of our planes out of service and gave it an experimental designation so we could install the necessary equipment. Aside from the electrical work to be done throughout the cabin, there’s the small matter of outfitting the external equipment as well. It’s no small feat to install rotating, pivoting blades that constantly track the orbiting ViaSat-1!
After several ‘proving flights’ to test the air-worthiness of the added equipment and new radome (the bubble on top of our planes containing antennae), we were able take another flight to test the Fly-Fi system and any impact the signals may have on other aircraft systems or equipment. The tests were VERY thorough, we even tested the lavatory lights!
The most exciting tests were of the system itself though, and the team reporting back was thrilled with the results and download speeds they were seeing. Needless to say, our excitement is high and we itching to start rolling it out, but there are a couple final steps to go.
With testing done, the experimental aircraft must now sit and wait for the FAA to review the documentation and data collected to issue a Supplemental Type Certificate that will allow us to return the plane to service, and begin the process of installing Fly-Fi on our fleet. We expect that process to take a bit of time, but once complete, we get to take to the air once again for final preparations. Once the plane is completely vetted, it’ll return to service, and we’ll be able to begin rolling out Fly-Fi to the rest of the fleet.