by Brendan Sobie
Panasonic Avionics has entered the business aviation sector by offering its new Global Communications Suite (GCS) on over a dozen types of VIP aircraft.
The company is now offering GCS, which provides a combination of in-flight broadband, mobile telephone and live television solutions, on business aircraft. Panasonic vice-president global communication services David Bruner says it has already secured contracts from three business aircraft customers covering 14 VIP aircraft types.
The first installation is planned for next month on a Boeing BBJ with most of the other aircraft 13 types to follow over the next 18-24 months.
All 14 types of business aircraft due to be outfitted with Panasonic GCS are VIP derivatives of commercial aircraft including the Airbus A320, Boeing 747 and Boeing 777. Bruner says business aviation is essentially piggybacking on certification work Panasonic already was planning to pursue for its airline customers. Lufthansa earlier this month was announced as the launch customer for GCS and Bruner says several additional airline customer announcements are planned.
Bruner says Panasonic also plans to eventually offer GCS on purpose-built business jets.
He says Panasonic will have to go down in bandwidth to accommodate smaller aircraft, but "best in class" services can still be provided. Panasonic is now talking to Bombardier, Gulfstream and Dassault Falcon about offering GCS on their higher-end business jets. Bruner says there are no technical challenges as the antennas can be easily modified to fit on large business jets but the manufacturers will need to decide whether to locate the antenna on the fuselage or tail. Bruner expects GCS will be available as a retrofit on some large business jets from next year and eventually the suite will also be offered on new aircraft.
Until now Panasonic has not made any moves into business aviation. Bruner says there is some demand for Panasonic to offer in-flight entertainment to business jet operators but for now there are no such plans.