By Iris Savage I © Satcom Direct

«It’s a significant milestone,» says Michael Skou Christensen, Chief Commercial Officer at Satcom Direct. «It’s been a year since the Plane Simple® Ku-band tail-mount terminal entered into service, and the rollout has been phenomenally successful.» 

Powered by the Intelsat FlexExec multi-layered satellite constellation, the first variant in a planned series remains the only purpose-built antenna created for the distinctive needs of the business aviation sector. To date, the network, also exclusively supporting business aviation, has transmitted over 10,000 hours of connectivity. The FAA, EASA, TCCA and ANAC Brazil have already granted 47 Supplemental Type Certificate approvals for Dassault, Bombardier, and Gulfstream airframes. More, for executive airliners and other OEMs are in the offing. The first installation for a special mission aircraft was also completed with Fototerra, a Brazil-based operator specializing in airborne geographic data capture, equipping its Embraer EMB-110 with the enhanced terminal.

The industry adoption rate demonstrates that the advanced technology, designed to future-proof customer investment, delivers the service it promised. Leading operators installing the innovative tech include Planet 9 Private Air, Flightpath Charter Airways, and Bar Aviation.  Robert Brunnenmeir, President of Flightpath, comments, «We’ve used the PSKU system for many flights covering North America, Europe, and the Middle East. The system works well in all scenarios,» adding that he will be incorporating this system in future aircraft. «In my own words, Plane Simple is the market-leading Ku technology out there,» says Henrik Thorsell, Director of Maintenance at Planet 9, adding, «The support we get on a day-to-day basis means I know there will be someone to help me whenever I have an issue.»

Customer support and education are a given for SD customers. «While many suppliers are reducing their human support and turning to automated options, SD stands alone in upping investment in human, follow-the-sun service,» says Christensen. «Our clients lead governments, influence global economics and support billions of jobs worldwide. When they have a question, they can’t wait, and we respond immediately.» 

A comprehensive suite of education programs and tailored entry-into-service workshops facilitate system optimization. The industry appreciates the approach. SD ranked as the leader in overall customer service provision in the prestigious AIN Flight Deck Avionics and Cabin Electronics product support survey for the eighth time this year.  

«The fact that industry peers vote for this survey makes the result even sweeter,» states Christensen. Charlie Arter, Chief Pilot of Uganda-based operator BAR Aviation, confirms SD delivers a winning formula, «It’s incredibly reassuring to know that we have this level of support and engagement all hours of the day. It gives our crew and operations team real peace of mind.» 

MRO partners working with SD echo these thoughts, confirming the lightweight, modular approach makes for seamless installation, which takes just 50% of the time of other antennas. 

Jean Francois Martin, Director of Avionics at SkyService, the Canada-headquartered MRO which generated the TCCA approval for the Plane Simple Ku-band STCs for Bombardier Global and Challenger airframes, says: «There were no special requirements. Basic avionics tooling was all we required, and when we undertake an install, Satcom Direct comes onsite if needed. They do the activation and calibration in person and have even trained our own people or customer crew on various points while here.» Thorsell reiterates that the simplified installation is attractive for operators, «Once the wiring is there, it was plug-and-play, and that’s what everyone strives for. The fact that only two units are installed on the aircraft makes a big difference.»

The Plane Simple Ka-band variant is entering final validation and is optimized to connect with Viasat’s existing and future constellations. Customers will benefit from high-speed data transfer for teleconferencing, HD video streaming and multiple digital applications for high volumes of users travelling on mid to large-size jets. And for the first time ever, the high speeds provided by Jet ConneX services will be available in a power-by-the-hour option through a suite of new plans made exclusively available for customers equipping the SD terminal.  

SD’s decision to position the business as a single resource for customers seeking reliable connectivity globally supports its future-proofing pledge.  «Our mission is to develop products and services that improve ownership, streamline operations, and enhance safety now and in the future. We’re investing holistically for the future needs of our customers today.  Nobody else is doing this in such a comprehensive manner as we define what’s next in connectivity,» concludes Christensen.