The private jet industry is not always seen as the most innovative when it comes to new technologies. While other travel sectors have embraced the internet’s ability to give customers increased transparency and control while driving significant operational efficiencies, a traditional private jet company is often perceived as an organisation with one wing in the past. Many assume that a private jet service and online technologies are incompatible, perhaps due to the industry’s very traditional, premium values.

There’s certainly a nugget of truth there: In many ways the industry does still operate in old-fashioned ways (and there are certainly significant inefficiencies in operational terms which could be improved) but there are also many exciting developments taking place across the industry, which demonstrate that the private jet sector is not the technological tortoise that many believe it to be. Here PrivateFly.com presents a round-up of some recent tech developments, in and out of the cockpit.

High speed internet connectivity on Bombardier jets

Bombardier's Global 5000

Bombardier's Global 5000 business jets will soon be fitted with high-speed internet.

Manufacturer Bombardier Aerospace has recently announced that it is to provide new increased high-speed internet access for passengers as an option for its Global 5000 and Global 6000 business jets. The system, provided by EMS Aviation, provides a virtual office in the sky with resilient in-flight data links and multi-regional service coverage. This will be dramatic step forward from what is available in today’s private jets: Most don’t offer internet access of any kind and those that do offer just a basic data link service – allowing passengers to send text-based emails only. With the current system, speed, bandwidth and coverage are limited – and the service usually comes at a high price. So this will be a major enhancement to the onboard experience for passengers, particularly those travelling on business – unless of course they are looking to escape from their emails for a while!

Smartphone app for best fuel prices at FBOs

More and more businesses in the industry are embracing the immediacy of apps for smartphones and tablets. Last month we announced the launch of PrivateFly’s Android app, which – following our iPhone and iPad app launch last year – gives instant price estimates for global private jet hire to users of the increasingly popular Android platform. Within the industry, B2B service providers are also developing some interesting and groundbreaking apps for pilots and operations staff.

Globalair.com has recently released an application for iPhone and iPad which allows pilots to locate and compare which private jet terminal (FBO) to use at any given airport, according to the most competitive fuel prices. The app puts pertinent FBO location and fuel pricing information at pilots’ fingertips and provides real-time, accurate information based on a search by airport/city and type of fuel required. Globalair claims that pilots will be able to make significant cost savings on a trip to trip basis.

iPad app for weather and flight planning & scheduling

Leon Software now offers its aircraft operators an iPad interface that pilots can use to view essential weather and flight planning notices (NOTAMs). Civil aviation regulations require pilots to check this information prior to every flight. The interface should have a positive impact on flight efficiency: Even today, many airline and private jet flights are delayed because the Captain is waiting for the flight dispatcher to appear with this paperwork.

iPad app for flight paperwork

Another new app allows company-controlled manuals and flight crew documents to be sent to iPads as part of an electronic record-keeping effort, reducing the considerable time associated with the updating of traditional paper manuals. International Business Aviation Solutions Group (IBASG) has produced the system, called JetSync, which connects the app user with a secure, web-based administration portal, from which documents can be uploaded as required. With more and more manuals now required on aircraft, this offers exciting time-saving efficiencies, as well as streamlining the cockpit Similarly, large airlines are making considerable cost (and paper) savings by providing pilots with Electronic Flight Bags – providing the documentation they need on every flight (such as airport landing data for every airport in the world) in electronic form.

New plug-in avionics suite talks to mobile devices

Aspen Avionics Connected Panel technology for the cockpit

Aspen Avionics are introducing Connected Panel technology to the cockpit

Another leap forward in cockpit efficiency was unveiled recently by avionics manufacturer Aspen Avionics. Its Connected Panel technology, which will be available by the end of the year, allows certified avionics in an aircraft’s panel to receive data from personal handheld devices on the iPhone and Android platforms. This will streamline flight-related activities by providing two-way wireless communications between panel avionics and personal smart devices.

The Connected Panel hardware is enclosed in a small box behind the aircraft panel and includes wireless, Bluetooth and USB connectivity options, along with flash memory storage. It also allows for other technology to be plugged in later – which has exciting potential for partnerships with other apps targeted at pilots. According to Aspen, 90 per cent of US pilots now have an iPad in their cockpit. It seems the days of switching mobiles off when boarding an aircraft will soon be over – the pilots will certainly be keeping their devices on!

Remote security checks by video link

Recently Signature Flight Support at London Luton airport has invested in new technology for security screening. This is a video link system which allows security staff to remotely check and clear passengers and their baggage at the point of departure, using the latest technology to perform high-quality visual ID, security and passport checks.

Signature has been testing this for some time now and it appears to be quick and seamless – it’s not offputting to passengers, while providing a more economical and flexible staffing solution.

It will be interesting to see if other private jet FBOs follow suit – and indeed other main airport terminals could also consider using this technology, particularly as a back-up system when experiencing peak demand or for smaller airports where the staffing balance is more difficult to achieve.