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The Duncan Download Blog: Business Aviation Advice & Observations

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Installing Wi-Fi on your aircraft? Five things to consider

  
  
  
  

Look for the aviation certification of the Wi-Fi equipment

Carefully examine the proposal of the installing company and question the technical data by which the Wi-Fi connection is being installed. Aviation grade Wi-Fi equipment often has FAA or EASA certifications or Supplemental Type Certificates (STC) that accompany them. STCs certify that the equipment to be installed has been tested in that particular model and found to be safe.

Examine what equipment they are proposing for install

Do not permit a commercial Wi-Fi system to be installed. Use ONLY aviation approved parts. Commercial Wi-Fi systems are likely to transmit the aircraft signal too far, creating security risks. These units have also not been tested for interference with other aircraft systems. Commercial Wi-Fi systems should also be avoided since high speed data (HSD) equipment manufacturers will provide limited technical support for these less expensive interfaces.

Choose a company who is a dealer for both the Wi-Fi and HSD equipment

Many avionics installers have dealership agreements with the manufacturers of HSD equipment that connect to Wi-Fi systems. If your Wi-Fi system fails and extensive troubleshooting becomes necessary, dealers who sell and service many units will receive the highest level of support from the manufacturers, compared to the one unit that a smaller shop might sell. Avionics installers who are dealers for both HSD equipment and Wi-Fi equipment are the most capable of resolving any conflicts of equipment that may occur and therefore should receive preference.

Make sure the company installing the equipment has the expertise to accommodate the highest level of security required

It is essential that you are able to provide your passengers with the highest level of computer security they require. Ask about what security measures the avionics installer is familiar with and have installed in the past. If they do not seem studied on the topic, do not use them. Information security is very critical. Your company’s computer specialists may have to work with the avionics installer to ensure everything is set up properly.

What methods should be used to test the Wi-Fi installations? After a Wi-Fi system is installed, it should be tested in the same way that your customers will use it. Standard connectivity and speed tests will tell you if the equipment is performing basic functions. From there it will be up to you and your IT department to further define the details of system configuration. Your installer should be your partner in this effort.

If smart phone connectivity is the most important to you, then make sure you plan for testing using the same model, set up the same way by your IT department. If your company has VPN client software, make sure to take a company laptop. The installer should support any testing you may seek, the same as they would any other service.

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