Inflight connectivity with the CEO of air-to-ground network provider SmartSky Networks. In the news, an update on B737 MAX 9 inspections, unleaded avgas testing, and an Air Force officer has been crowned Miss America. Also, more favorite aviation movies.
David Helfgott is the Chief Executive Officer of SmartSky Networks, a provider of air-to-ground inflight connectivity services. The company offers real-time, low latency, bidirectional data links that serve the business aviation, general aviation, and commercial aviation markets. The network takes advantage of patented spectrum reuse, advanced beamforming technologies, and 60 MHz of spectrum for enhanced connectivity.
Dave describes the pros and cons of ground and satellite-based inflight connectivity systems. He explains the practical differences between bandwidth, latency, and upload/download speed, and the reasons why some aircraft employ both ground and satellite networks.
We look at the differences in antenna size and weight for the different network solutions and how that impacts system selection for commercial and business aviation use. Dave describes the supporting SmartSky ground network and how the towers use beam forming to provide connectivity to specific aircraft. We touch on several other topics, including the data requirements of the three different domains of commercial aircraft (PAX, operational, cockpit), the unique needs of air cargo, and future industry trends.
As a 20+ year industry veteran, Dave has extensive experience in airborne communications, satellite broadband, mobile telecommunications, and commercial and government SATCOM networking services. He was previously President and CEO of phased-array antenna developer Phasor. Before that, he held several senior executive roles including President and CEO of Inmarsat Government, President of Tactical Wireless Communications for Cobham, President and CEO of Datapath, and President and CEO of SES Government. He holds a BA degree from the University of Virginia and an MBA from the Darden School of Business.
Following the loss of a mid-cabin door plug on a Boeing 737 MAX 9 airplane on January 5, 2024, the first round of 40 preliminary inspections was completed. The FAA is reviewing the results. The planes remain grounded until an inspection and maintenance process is approved by the FAA and then applied to all grounded planes.
- Updates on Grounding of Boeing 737 MAX 9 Aircraft
- FAA Safety Alerts for Operators (SAFOs)
- SAFO #24001 FAA Boeing 737-900ER Mid-Cabin Door Plug Inspection [PDF]
At a briefing to House of Representatives lawmakers, NTSB Chair Jennifer Homendy said that Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun called and said “they want to rectify errors” made in the past.
Phillips 66 has been evaluating an unleaded avgas alternative with Afton Chemicals under the Piston Engine Aviation Fuels Initiative. After a major test failure, Phillips 66 has “paused” their evaluation. The FAA confirmed that “PAFI evaluation of the Phillips 66/Afton Chemical 100M unleaded fuel has been paused due to issues encountered during durability testing.” Three other companies are developing unleaded avgas:
22-year-old Madison Marsh was crowned as the 2024 Miss America. She’s a second lieutenant in the US Air Force and a master’s student at the Harvard Kennedy School’s public policy program. Marsh became the first active-duty Air Force officer ever to win the contest. See One Lieutenant’s Journey from USAFA to Miss Colorado to Harvard from the Air Education and Training Command.
The Myth Of Old Boeing by Bill Sweetman.
17th Annual Triple Tree Fly-In September 23-29, 2024, Triple Tree Aerodrome, Woodruff, South Carolina.
A report by the Air Force Aircraft Accident Investigation Board [PDF] showed the incident occurred on March 15, 2023, while the jet was undergoing some maintenance work.
Hosts this Episode
Max Flight, Rob Mark, David Vanderhoof, and our Main(e) Man Micah.