Flying USAir’s Newest Plane With Streaming Wifi

It was a rainy, dreary day in Charlotte, North Carolina, and only a few people seemed excited about the flight on the freshly painted airplane parked at gate E-11. Almost every day the combined “New American Airlines” rolls out a brand new airplane – 19 of which are CRJ-900 aircraft flown by US Airways and wholly owned subsidiary PSA Airlines.

US Airways CRJ 900

Onboard, I was instantly hit by the new airplane smell; crisp, clean leatherette seats and brand new interior design.  The CRJ-900 had larger than expected overhead bins. In first class one side has very small bins that might fight a small backpack or computer bag while the other side has a larger bin that can fit a carry-on roller suitcase.  First class also had an additional row of seats, for a total of 4 rows in a 1-2 configuration.  Coach had the standard 2-2 configuration with larger bins on both sides.

US Airways CRJ-900 new interior

US Airways CRJ-900 New Luggage Bins

One thing I noticed was that there were no wifi signs on the plane.  I asked the captain and he said that there was wifi onboard.  I also asked how new the plane was – there was no doubt from the appearance and smell that it was quite new. The pilot checked for me and said it was day 1 – the first day this plane was being flown (which passengers) and had already flown twice that day.

During the very short flight I logged into the GoGo wifi and discovered that I was able to stream live from CNN and HBO even though the GoGo landing page said that streaming was not yet available.  Is this a sign of things to come? Will US Air Streaming Wifi be the next big thing? Here’s what GoGo’s website says about the new technology:

In 2006, we were awarded the FCC’s exclusive Air-To-Ground (ATG) 3Mhz broadband frequency license, which allowed us to build an uninterrupted network across the continental U.S. We completed our network in 2008, and revolutionized commercial air travel when we unveiled our Gogo Internet service on commercial flights.

In addition to Gogo’s existing ATG technology, the company will enhance current technologies via a next-generation version of ATG called “ATG-4” as well as Ka-band satellite technology when it becomes available. To date, Gogo has equipped more than 2,000 commercial aircraft and more than 6,500 business jets with our exclusive online services. Our technology options give us the unique flexibility to offer attractive solutions for every airline, aircraft, and mission. Below is a list of our current and future technologies and how they fit into our technology roadmap:

  • Air-to-Ground (ATG): With a proven track record of performance, reliability, and scalability, Gogo’s ATG-based service will continue to provide a rich user experience for connected travelers by featuring 3G wireless utilizing EV-DO Rev. A.
  • ATG-4: Gogo’s ATG-4 service will significantly enhance the existing ATG network and improve per aircraft capacity by approximately four times current performance through the addition of Directional Antenna, Dual Modem, and EV-DO Rev. B technologies. ATG-4 is scheduled for commercial delivery in 2012. This new platform is backwards compatible and allows for upgrades to existing ATG systems through low cost retrofits.
  • Ka-band satellite/Global Coverage: Gogo was named a service provider for Inmarsat’s Global Xpress™ satellite service in November, 2011. Inmarsat has also selected Gogo’s business aviation subsidiary, Aircell, as a distribution partner for the business and government aviation markets.
  • Working with Inmarsat, Gogo will begin in-flight testing of the Global Xpress aeronautical services after the launch of the first Inmarsat-5 satellite, which is scheduled for mid-2013. Gogo plans to offer Ka-satellite service in the 1st quarter of 2015. Inmarsat’s Global Xpress service will allow Gogo to utilize the first global Ka-band solution, which is expected to bring significantly improved performance to the global aero market in terms of coverage, capacity and cost.
  • Ground to Orbit (GTO): GTO is a proprietary hybrid technology that combines the best aspects of existing satellite technologies with Gogo’s Air to Ground network. This technology uses satellite for recieve only and Gogo’s Air to Ground network for the return link to the ground. Gogo GTO offers peak speeds of 60 Mbps or more to aircraft flying throughout North America and will be avaliable in 2014.
  • 2Ku: Gogo’s newest technology will utilize the same low-profile antennas as GTO, however, instead of utilizing Gogo’s Air to Ground solution for the return link to the ground, 2Ku will have two low-profile, high efficiency Ku-band satellite antennas. The new technology will deliver peak speeds to the aircraft of more than 70 Mbps. The new service will be available in mid-2015.

Business Aviation Technologies: For the business aviation market, Aircell, a Gogo company, currently offers three different in-flight technologies, including Iridium Satellite, Inmarsat SwiftBroadband (satellite), and Gogo Biz™ (ATG). We will soon announce our plans for ATG-4 and Ka-band satellite for our business aviation customers.

Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be anyway (for the flying public) to identify a plane that has the new GTO vs the traditional ATG technology.

After we took off for the very short flight we were all treated to a spectacular view – of a rainbow. As American’s Twitter team said, it looks like we were #overtherainbow and indeed, we were!


Have you flown on a new airplane or tried to stream on GoGo?

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