Honeywell JetWave

This popular system uses Inmarsat GX constellation to bring Ka band service to military, airlines and business aircraft.

By Shannon Forrest
President, Turbine Mentor
ATP/CFII. Challenger 604/605,
Gulfstream IV, MU2B

Honeywell's JetWave system delivers up to 50Mbps of Ka band connectivity. Multiple applications can be running simultaneously, including video streaming and conferencing.

Honeywell was founded as a technology company that specialized in temperature regulation. Its roots go all the way back to 1886 when inventor Albert Butz created the "damper flapper," a rudimentary thermostat for home furnaces. Butz's patents were later purchased by the Minneapolis Heat Regulator Company which would eventually merge with a start up founded by Mark Honeywell, an engineer from Wabash IN.

The combined company became known as the Minneapolis-Honeywell Regulator Co (MHRC), which rapidly expanded into the field of industrial measurement and control. So if you type the corporate name Honeywell into an internet search engine, an advertisement for a wireless home thermostat will assuredly pop up.

To the general public that's an accurate depiction of what comes to mind when thinking about the company. However, career corporate pilots with industry tenure of more than 2 decades tend to have a different mental association. About 20 years ago Honeywell introduced the FMZ-2000, a Flight Management System (FMS) that is still in service in over 3000 aircraft to date–albeit with enhancements and software upgrades. And today, the Primus Epic for Dassault EASy II is one of the most advanced avionics packages on the market.

Honeywell gets into the aviation business

How the conglomeration got into aviation involved both ingenuity and acquisition. In May of 1941, Willis Gille, an electrical engineer employed by the MHRC, reapplied the fundamental science behind temperature control to the physics of flight. Specifically, Gille developed a 3-axis autopilot that was used on nearly every US Army Air Force bomber in WWII, post 1941.

Although gyroscopic-based autopilots had been around for some time, the MHRC autopilot (dubbed the C-1) was unique in that it mastered the art of using electrical servos to alter the flightpath. The C-1 could be coupled to the infamous Norden M-9 bombsight, allowing a bombardier to maintain precise control of the aircraft during a bombing run.

From then on, MHRC was considered a leading defense contractor. In 1963, the name of the company was shortened to Honeywell and in a few years that moniker would be affixed to instruments installed in the Apollo 11 lunar landing module. Incidentally, Honeywell also produced the mainframe computer that ran simulations of the approach to the moon using data loaded from punch cards.

Over time Honeywell continued to expand its aviation portfolio and purchased Sperry Aerospace in 1986. AlliedSignal, which acquired Bendix in 1983, bought Honeywell in 1999 but retained the founder's namesake to maintain the brand recognition. The end result was an aerospace giant that continues to innovate.

Focus on connectivity

Right now the focus is on connectivity. To develop and refine wireless technology and other products, Honeywell uses a specially modified Boeing 757–the only one of its kind that has mounts for 3 engines. In the summer of 2017 the aircraft completed an around-the-world "power of connected" tour that included an appearance on NBC's TODAY show. The purpose of the journey was to promote Honeywell's airborne Wi-Fi, which includes the proprietary JetWave communications system.

According to Honeywell, data transfer rate is "lightening fast." And there's no better way to prove it than to equip an old airframe from defunct Eastern Airlines with the JetWave communications system, and then load it up with journalists engaging in simultaneous streaming of bandwidth-hungry live video. It worked flawlessly.

Making the JetWave

Honeywell GoDirect app can be used to troubleshoot connectivity issues. Users can often solve problems without the intervention of a technician.

Technically, the JetWave label denotes the hardware, as Honeywell uses the Inmarsat Global Xpress (GX) constellation to provide Ka band satellite communications.

Honeywell markets the product under 3 distinct tracks based on specificity of mission (military, airlines or business aircraft), although the equipment is remarkably similar across the board. The company has been a supplier to the US military for some time. Most recently the Royal Australian Air Force began a 6-month trial of the JetWave system utilizing a C130-J Hercules.

The solution for corporate and private flight departments is the JetWave hardware in concert with Inmarsat's Jet ConneX service. There are 2 JetWave models available, with the determinate being how much real estate is available on the fuselage for the antenna. The MCS-8200 consists of a more linear design with a 37-inch sweep volume and a height of 9 inches. A weight of 82.6 lbs makes it best suited for the transport category size of aircraft (eg, the Boeing Business Jet).

However, the vast majority of corporate jet owners will gravitate towards the MCS-8000 which uses a more traditional looking parabolic style antenna. It weighs only 10 lbs and measures 13x12x13.7 inches, so it's geared towards light to mid-sized operators who want Ka band service but need it in a compact package.


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