Honeywell ‘Connected Aircraft’ World Tour Demonstrates the Power of High-Speed Data

On a flight aboard the avionics maker’s Boeing 757 test bed, we experience blazing fast Internet that could upend the airline market.

Honeywell test flight
Honeywell's “flight to nowhere” would test the so-called “Connected Aircraft” suite of technology apps enabled by a lightning fast Inmarsat GX satcom connection.Honeywell

The last time I had the chance to step aboard Honeywell’s Boeing 757 flying test bed it was to take to the skies over Arizona for trials of the HTF7000 turbofan engine that would power the Embraer Legacy 450 business jet. This time, as I climbed the air stairs on the executive tarmac at New York LaGuardia Airport, the engine pylon held no precious cargo. Instead, this “flight to nowhere” would test another Honeywell technology: the so-called “Connected Aircraft” suite of technology apps enabled by a lightning fast Inmarsat GX satcom connection.

As we climbed out of New York on the same departure path as Sully and Skiles took during their fateful Miracle on the Hudson flight, I connected to the onboard Wi-Fi signal and began surfing the Web at speeds unheard of in the skies. Honeywell advertises a max connection speed of 35 Mbps, as fast as many home users experience with a cable modem. With 30 users onboard tapping and typing away at mad, we were close to that.

The 757 cruised high above picturesque Upstate New York as I walked to the cockpit and began shooting a Facebook Live video for our audience that immediately garnered hundreds of likes. Honeywell operates the Boeing 757-200 as technology demonstrator. Based at Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport, it was the fifth 757 built and was part of Boeing’s 757 flight test program. Specially adapted with custom modifications, these include an engine mount on the port forward fuselage for testing Honeywell turbine engines, and associated engineering stations and telemetry equipment. It is thus the only 757 (sometimes) equipped with three engines.

The 757 is currently on a world tour that is billed as the “Power of Connected Tour.” (Hours before my flight in New York, the Today show was invited aboard.) The goal is to showcase Honeywell’s latest technology, applications and services for passenger aircraft. A special livery has been applied to the aircraft for the tour, including huge red “Connected Aircraft” titles along the fuselage.

The tour includes an inside look at how Honeywell is enabling the Connected Aircraft to improve flights for pilots, passengers and flight operators alike. Some of the featured technologies include:

  • Honeywell's GoDirect Flight Bag Pro, which pulls in vital flight data allowing the pilots to make strategic decisions;

  • GoDirect Flight Preview application, which gives pilots a highly accurate, three-dimensional preview of the runway and surrounding terrain before they take off;

  • GoDirect Weather, an information service that gives pilots real-time weather data on the flight path, allowing them to plan the safest, most efficient routes possible. A new connected radar function will provide crowdsourced weather information from other aircraft in the sky and share that information through an application, giving an accurate view of the weather around the world;

  • GoDirect Fuel Efficiency software collects, monitors and analyzes data to help operators optimize fuel efficiency across a fleet. As a result, pilots have access to the most fuel-efficient flight paths to reduce the amount of fuel they use;

  • Honeywell's GoDirect Connected Maintenance will help airlines be smarter, more efficient and predictive in the way they maintain their fleets. Airlines now no longer need to reactively fix mechanical systems like auxiliary power units or wheels and brakes. With Honeywell's GoDirect Connected Maintenance, airlines proactively troubleshoot mechanical issues to avoid aircraft downtime. They get the data they need to be more efficient to keep flights on time and passengers happy;

  • Honeywell's JetWave system enables passengers to connect to Inmarsat's GX Aviation service, offering seamless global broadband access that provides the same Internet speed and reliability they get at home or in the office; and

  • Honeywell's GoDirect Cabin Connectivity offers a suite of satellite communication services and solutions to deliver unparalleled connectivity and functionality. This includes access to more than a dozen GoDirect apps and services, as well as real-time TV, TV on demand, high-speed broadband Internet, video conferencing, email and Voice Over IP.