September 09, 2013
Credit: Air Team Images
Installation of JetBlue Airways’ long-awaited Wi-Fi service is set to begin in the coming weeks following the FAA’s approval of the system for Airbus A320s.
The airline has selected Aviation Technical Services (ATS) to retrofit up to 130 Airbus A320s with the Internet system, which JetBlue calls Fly-Fi. The first aircraft is set to be modified in November or “possibly sooner,” ATS CEO Matt Yerbic tells Aviation Week.
JetBlue says the fleet will be completed by 2015, with some work being handled by its LiveTV subsidiary in Orlando, Fla.
Fly-Fi would be the first Ka-band wireless system offered by a U.S. carrier. Ka-band’s promise is faster connections to more passengers simultaneously than Ku-band systems used by most carriers.
ViaSat is providing satellite broadband terminals for the aircraft and two-way transmission services using its ViaSat-1 satellite. Under a partnership with ViaSat, LiveTV is managing the FAA certification and equipment integration into the aircraft, and will provide Wi-Fi-enabled services in the cabin.
JetBlue outfitted one of its aircraft—N804JB—with the system and flight-tested it in June. Last week, the FAA awarded LiveTV a supplemental type certificate (STC) for installation of the system on A320s, clearing the way for JetBlue to finalize its specific work packages and move forward with outfitting its Airbus fleet.
LiveTV also is seeking an FAA STC for the Boeing 737-900 using a United Airlines aircraft, and European Aviation Safety Agency certification on an Aer Lingus A320 as part of deals with those airlines.
JetBlue’s introduction of Ka-band has been a longer-than-anticipated journey. The carrier finalized its deal with ViaSat in 2010 and planned to have the service in place in 2012. Last year, JetBlue moved the launch date to 2013, and its website still notes that the carrier “is on track to deliver” the service “in summer 2013.” Until last week, however, the year’s most noteworthy JeBlue Wi-Fi-related development was March’s unveiling of the Fly-Fi brand name.
JetBlue is a new customer for ATS, but the work is familiar. ATS CEO Yerbic says his Everett, Wash.-based company “has sort of made a living” recently helping airlines get equipped with wireless Internet systems.