Inflight wifi upstart SmartSky realized another major milestone today, announcing FAA certification for its 4G LTE product on the Embraer ERJ135/140/145 series for commercial airlines and the Legacy 600/650 types in business aviation markets. The Supplemental Type Certificate (STC) was issued to StandardAero, a maintenance provider and SmartSky installation and distribution partner. In addition to these Embraer family aircraft StandardAero is working on STCs for the Embraer Legacy 450 & 500 families, as well as the Dassault Falcon 7X, 8X and 50EX models.
The STC with StandardAero gives SmartSky a boost in fitting out its first commercial airline partner with the necessary hardware on board. Earlier this year the company announced a deal with JetSuiteX to fit the E135 fleet. That work can now proceed given the regulatory approval. The companies expect the service to be live for passengers on JetSuiteX by the end of the year.
Getting the network online – even just in a couple specific regions – remains the goal for SmartSky at this point. Previously announced delays now have the company targeting three corridors for such service. Initial efforts focused on the east coast, serving markets between New York City and Miami. That will be followed by an extension west to Chicago from New York. The West Coast expansion to support JetSuiteX will follow that.
Read More: JetSuiteX going online with SmartSky wifi
As CCO Nancy Walker noted around the JetSuiteX deal, “We’ve been trying to lay down coverage in contiguous corridors. The JetSuiteX flight patterns are on corridors and in a relatively compact, contained area.” The rest of the national footprint filling in through the end of the year. Walker also was clear that, given the nature of the partnership with JetSuiteX, that set of towers would be a top priority for the company if things need to shift further.
SmartSky announced a $104mm round of funding in early February to help complete the network build out. At the type CEO Haynes Griffen stated that the money would not be used to develop STCs nor to fund installations on aircraft. He cited “confidence in the demand for our network” from aircraft manufacturers and MROs like StandardAero as driving their willingness to invest in the SmartSky product through pursuing the STCs themselves.
Getting the JetSuiteX planes online is great for those passengers and for the SmartSky network. It also presents an opportunity for the company to prove its value for larger fleets of smaller regional aircraft. US airlines fly some 500 of the 50-seat aircraft around the country and none of them are online today. Seeing proof of a fast, affordable solution that can fly on the smaller fuselage could help the airlines reach full connectivity and deliver a better inflight passenger experience across the board.
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