When we evaluated the Iridium-based Airtext cabin router in the April 2018 Aviation Consumer, overall we found it to be a good performer with rugged hardware, reliable Bluetooth and a useful suite of smartphone apps.
But with a price that starts at around $10,000 the certified, permanently mounted Airtext is a stretch for the market’s lower end. At $4995, the new Airtext LT transportable caters to both lower budgets and those who fly multiple aircraft. Here’s an overview.
The LT version of the Airtext satcomm transceiver (it measures 5 by 3 by 1 inches) is a repackaged version of its big brother, which is 7.5 by 4.6 by 1.4 inches. That’s not a bad thing because like the bigger one, the LT has a rugged feel thanks to a metal chassis and durable antenna connections.
The Airtext LT doesn’t have a battery, something we think some buyers will want as an alternative to plugging it into ship’s power. It comes with a DC accessory plug, but with many making the switch to USB panel power a long time ago, a USB cable could better the interface. There is no USB connection at the transceiver. Instead, the DC power cable plugs in via a two-pin connector.
At press time, Airtext said it’s currently testing a USB power interface. As for the lack of battery, Airtext said with so many users carrying portable power banks, a built-in battery might not be missed on the device.
The system uses an external portable Iridium satellite antenna with a cable that terminates with an SMA connector that threads into a TNC for connecting to the transceiver. Some external Iridium antennas have cabling with TNC connectors, so the LT is equipped to connect with them.
The LT connects to smartphones and tablets that run the Airtext (and FBOLink) apps. The stubby Bluetooth antenna screws into the chassis via an SMA connection resulting in quick pairing with every device we tried.
Worth mentioning is that the Airtext and Airtext+ models can connect with up to 16 devices, but since the LT is targeted at smaller cabins, it’s limited to six devices. The LT doesn’t have voice capability like the Airtext+.
There is no mounting bracket with the Airtext LT, so it’s up to the user to get creative in securing it in the cabin. Some possible solutions include laying it on the floor or on a seat, but it might be a projectile in turbulence or in a crash. Doing a new panel upgrade? Consider having the shop fabricate a storage shelf or even modify a glove box to safely house portable gear. In our use, we tucked the LT half in the pocket of a small flight tote. It’s not the best solution, but it works. The LT comes with a carry/storage case. Data plans are $300 per year and include 1000 messages.
For buyers who aren’t ready for a full-up, permanently mounted Airtext or Airtext+ system (and can live without voice calls), we think the Airtext LT is a worthy choice, particularly for carrying on to different aircraft.
Moreover, as long as there is power available the system can be used in nearly any application where Iridium satellite connectivity is desired (Iridium has global coverage). Airtext already recognizes an opportunity in the marine market, where cellular connectivity is marginal if not impossible offshore. The LT transceiver has a four-pin connector input for a Bluetooth antenna extender (up to 32 of them when connected in series) so the device can work in yachts that have multiple rooms. “We see that some users fly the airplane to a yacht—or to a cabin in the woods for that matter—and need connectivity,” Airtext’s Davis Gray told us.
In the airplane, the LT has similar utility to the certified models, including interface with the Airtext app where you send and receive SMS messages on an iOS or Android device. There’s also FBOLink, a messaging program that provides flight crews direct real-time communications with FBO staff. The LT retains weather data capability, including textual display of ASOS, METAR and D-ATIS (digital ATIS) for receiving the digital ATIS at the 73 airports that have the capability.
For more on the Airtext line, visit www.airtext.aero and phone 678-208-3087 in Atlanta, Georgia.