Avionics Report

August 2007 Issue

Airborne Phones: Iridium Gets the Call

AirCell’s ground-based system has faded. For now, Sky Connect and Blue Sky offer practical if expensive satellite-based options.

Five years ago, the hot buzzword in the popular press was "connectivity," but now that Starbucks and even Wal-Mart have Wi-Fi hotspots, we’ve moved on—wireless and cellphone access is now assumed. Unless you happen to be in the cabin of a light aircraft. At several junctures during the past decade, the inflight phone market looked like it would take off, making phone and wireless service affordable for the piston crowd. But the market remains iffy at the low end, the best bet being a satellite-based Iridium system piped into the aircraft audio system. Thanks to broadband Wi-Fi, more choices are on the way, but for now, here’s an overview of how to make a call from a light aircraft.

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