As we get ready for the launch of our 2Ku satellite Internet system, Gogo engineers are busy putting the final touches to the service, and flying around the country to test performance and reliability. I’ve been lucky enough to ride along for most of these test flights, and in this article you’ll learn a little about the experience of flying on our lab.
The Gogo plane is named “Jimmy Ray”, after one of the founders of our company, and the person responsible for designing our first air to ground network back in 1992. The plane itself is a Boeing 737-500, and its tail number is N321GG. Thanks to Flightaware, you are always able to track the plane, and see where our engineers are flying for real-world tests around the country.
Flying the jet is an amazing experience. The cabin has 16 large leather first class seats and 42 seats in coach. Since we usually only fly with a handful of people, seats in first class are readily available. The rest of the plane is setup like any other commercial jet – we have three bathrooms, galley space in the front and back, and plenty of overhead space for our bags. Of course, the highlight of the plane is our 2Ku satellite Internet system which was installed earlier this year.
Taking a flight on N321GG is of course nothing like the experience of flying commercial – there is no check-in queue, no security checkpoint and no boarding by group number. We usually board from door 1R, which is the front door on the right. Once on the plane, any open seat is a seat you can fly in. Other advantages include having the plane wait for you if you are running late, very little other air traffic at the airport to line up behind, and never a rush for overhead baggage space.
In addition to our 2Ku Internet system, the plane has two other amenities not found on most airlines – 110V outlets and Ethernet cables. With these, we’re able to keep laptops running for the duration of our flights, which vary from 1 hour up to 4 hours for our longer test flight route.
The route we usually take is plotted so it stays within coverage of the satellite provider we’re testing that day. The most popular flight route is a round trip from Aurora back to Aurora via the Chatanooga area.
I’ve turned the plane into my office for the past two weeks, and have found that the bulkhead seat is the best for getting work done. The bulkhead offers plenty of legroom, but the best part of this row is a folding table that allows me to setup my office with multiple computers and other equipment.
Once settled in, we go through the same safety briefing as any other airline and we follow the same rules; this means no items on the floor during take-off and landing, all bags under the seat in front of you, seatbelts buckled and tray tables folded away. For our tests, we have access to 2Ku Internet on the ground, all through take-off and landing.
The 2Ku system is performing extremely well, and working on the plane has been just like sitting in the office, except for the 33,000 foot height difference. Email, web, social media and other apps all perform perfectly, and thanks to the increased bandwidth, I can even work with a Netflix video playing on my folding table, all while our engineers simulate loading the system with up to 100 passenger sessions. We’re not calling it #FastestInflight for nothing!
During the past couple of weeks, I’ve flown thousands of miles enjoying the 2Ku experience. The only downside is that all this flying hasn’t earned me any frequent flyer points!
We’ll have a lot more great stuff happening on our plane in the coming weeks, so stay informed on the latest developments around Gogo 2Ku with our information hub right here on the Concourse blog.