Honeywell readies to support Inmarsat GX service for airlines

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Honeywell Aerospace, a long-time partner to Inmarsat, is feeling “really good” about last week’s announcement that a private equity-led consortium will pay $3.4 billion in cash in a bid to take the London-headquartered satellite operator private.

“We were contacted by Inmarsat and assured that all of the existing contracts we have in place are going to proceed as they were in the past, and we’re supportive of Inmarsat and where they’re headed. And we just see with everything that’s going on in aviation today, this has just become part of the natural course of things,” Honeywell Aerospace vice president and general manager, software and services John Peterson told RGN in a wide-ranging interview.

Several years ago, Inmarsat selected Honeywell to build the JetWave aero terminal units for Global Xpress. Honeywell reckons it has added a great deal of value to the GX program, with Peterson saying: “Honeywell has had one of the most successful launches ever in bringing a high-throughput data system to market.”

Peterson noted that Honeywell “brought thousands of aircraft on line in a short period of time”. For its part, Inmarsat recently said it has around 1,580 aircraft under contract for inflight broadband connectivity (inclusive of EAN-contracted aircraft), and there are another 450 aircraft either under option or committed to linefit GX for new aircraft purchases.

As part of its original GX arrangement with Inmarsat, Honeywell was granted rights to sell GX service as a value added reseller (VAR) to the business aviation community, and the firm has enjoyed strong momentum on this front. Its fast-growing GoDirect retail services business – which has been positioned in BizAv as being connectivity hardware agnostic (with even the likes of Viasat as a partner) – is moving from strength to strength.

“GoDirect has been among the most successful providers of satellite services in the business marketplace,” enthused Peterson. “We are very close to them [Inmarsat] in bringing out advancements with our new [L-band] Aspire 400, and we’re partnered up with them as well, working on future technologies with black box in the sky…”

Supporting GX IFC service in commercial

In November 2018, Inmarsat named Honeywell as a VAR to commercial airlines, allowing Honeywell to market GX directly to airlines around the globe through GoDirect, and compete with other GX VARs in the space: Thales, SITAONAIR, and Collins Aerospace, plus Inmarsat’s new strategic partner Panasonic Avionics.

Though Honeywell has only enjoyed VAR status in commercial aviation for a brief period of time, Peterson said, “It’s going great, it’s a process in the air transport space which takes a bit longer and is a bit more sophisticated than business aviation. Within just four months of becoming a VAR, [we’re] already engaged with talking to five different airlines, going through the RFI or RFP process with them, already putting together the right value proposition.” That value proposition extends far beyond paid passenger wifi sessions.

Noting that many of the use cases for IFC “die on the vine”, the Honeywell executive said IFC is “no longer a binary decision” made by airline marketing departments. Rather, it’s about what the overall business plan looks like.

“This is about monetizing data in multiple different facets,” said Peterson. It’s not only the potential revenue from the passenger “and the model we see all the time”, he added, but it’s about using the broadband pipe in an intelligent manner to drive operational benefits through better synchronization with flight crew data, more efficiently moving weather data on and off aircraft, supporting predictive “and prescriptive” maintenance, enabling block time reductions and reducing fuel.

Turning data packets into profits

On the predictive/prescriptive maintenance front, Honeywell sees itself as being uniquely positioned to offer a connected maintenance solution given that it is a manufacturer of avionics, APUs, black boxes and other aircraft content, and the fact that it has been putting the building blocks in place to support such an offering since the 2015 acquisition of aviation software company Aviaso.

The Aviaso software “gave us a strong analytics engine that ingests data – Amadeus, Sabre, Airbus databuses, ARINC 717 and 429 databuses, and get it into a nice structured table”, said Peterson.

In May, Honeywell will release an extension of GoDirect for Boeing 777 operators covering five ATA chapters addressing APUs, pneumatics, hydraulics, wheels and breaks “and 25 analytics across that”, and pull it all together in one spot with executive dashboards.

This will enable operators to have a consolidated view, and focus on the areas that make the best use of their time and assets, said Peterson, who explained further (the following text has been paraphrased):

We’ve talked a lot about connected maintenance, and now we bring all these things together, bring a structured data stack coming out in May, taking everything we do and putting it on this platform.

Now we’ve made that path of ‘oh, I have an alert on the aircraft, how do I know Joe will take care of it when the aircraft lands?’ and Honeywell has really taken that to a whole new level. When we receive that alert, we send an alert out to the people that have to act on it, but also have a predictive and prescriptive aspect of it, and it tells them what to do – go to this part of the aircraft, remove this part.

And so now what’s happened is we’ve put those two end points together because we’ve built this machine in the middle to seamlessly take care of it. We’ve listened to the customer and their frustration and we’re starting to put together and release the solution they’ve been looking for all of these years.

Asked by RGN if GoDirect for airlines will be inflight connectivity hardware agnostic (as it is in BizAv), Peterson said Honeywell is “just offering Inmarsat Ka JetWave services” in the airline marketplace because airlines’ behavior is a bit different, they’re not as flexible as business aircraft operators, and “they want to buy a specific business plan and they want one person to provide that business plan to them”.

He sees the GoDirect extension for 777 operators as a “Nose to Tail” offering insofar as it brings a whole different value proposition to GX customers, moving the conversation far beyond the passenger paid IFC session model to “turning data packets into profits”. The 777 application is “just the beginning”, with Honeywell eyeing the same for the 737, A320, A330 and A350.

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Nextgen GX antenna

Is Honeywell working in-house on a nextgen GX terminal, as others are doing or seeking to do?

“I always have to smile a little bit when people come out with a first gen [antenna] and call it next generation. It’s sort of a play on words there,” quipped Peterson in reference to the messaging around certain other new antennas.

But yes, he confirmed, Honeywell is working “very hard” to innovate on this front, but the company is not ready to talk about what it is doing or when it will be available to the marketplace. (Meanwhile, Honeywell is bringing out Iridium Certus and Inmarsat SB-S products.)

Honeywell and PAC?

Given that Panasonic is now a strategic partner to Inmarsat for GX, is Honeywell collaborating with PAC in any way?

“Panasonic becomes a customer that would buy the JetWave system just like Zodiac and just like Thales and just like Rockwell do today so they become another channel to the marketplace for us for our hardware and those are the areas we’re most interacting with them,” said Peterson.

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