Now and Next

posted on 2nd October 2023
Now and Next

EVA caught up with Gogo president and COO Sergio Aguirre for an enthusiastic conversation on where the company is now and a glimpse at his future vision

There is a lot going on at Gogo as it works towards delivering a new paradigm in business aviation connectivity. It therefore took several attempts to win a few minutes of company president Sergio Aguirre’s time and EVA eventually joined him via Teams during his morning coffee.
Greetings done, he announced: “I want to tell you a story about the journey we’re on. Around eight years ago, we realised we needed to start planning an upgrade for our first air-to-ground network. We needed to keep up with the technology in other ground-based telecommunications sectors. We also saw companies filing concepts for LEO [low earth orbit] satellites. They were only on paper at the time, and no one was sure they’d work, but we recognised that a tremendous level of innovation in the connectivity space was coming, and probably a couple of decades later than our business aviation customers really wanted it.
“The ground-based technologies had evolved, but our air-to-ground technology and the satellite technologies were largely static. We wanted to create a concept where adding new technology to a customer’s aircraft didn’t require a ‘rip and replace’. We wanted to avoid customers complaining that they’d spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on a system only for us to tell them in a few years’ time that they had to rip it out again.”

That concept evolved into the Gogo AVANCE platform. “We designed it to make upgrades less costly, reduce downtime and avoid wasting or throwing away invested dollars,” Aguirre continued. “People aren’t yet enjoying the full benefit of that, but they are starting to see how it all comes together. With our technology upgrade, for example, AVANCE means that only a seamless software drop is required on the aircraft. They don’t have to replace anything, yet the upgrade will give them a 40% improvement in performance when we complete the network update. Now, people are hearing our message that with AVANCE installed, all they need to do is add an antenna to the top of the aircraft for global coverage through Gogo Galileo.”
Meanwhile, maintenance departments are receiving staged software updates via the Gogo Cloud ground network. When the notification arrives, they need do little more than click to install, just like on an iPhone. The system also collects health monitoring data for the Gogo systems onboard, so Gogo can predict a developing problem, such as a decrease in fan speed, and invite maintenance directors to order a new box in time for the next aircraft maintenance cycle.
As a service package, AVANCE is very attractive, but Aguirre is most excited about the potential for scaling it worldwide through Galileo, which leverages OneWeb’s LEO satellite constellation. “If we had tried to establish an organisation globally 15 years ago, we’d have needed people all over the world. We still need people in locations globally to provide the personal contact our customers expect, but when you can solve 80 to 90% of problems remotely, the investment in touch labour is massively reduced. It means that much of the technical diagnostics and corrective actions have been automated, leaving our customer support team free to provide a highly personalised service to each client.
“We try to encapsulate this in our concept of ‘Now and Next’. OneWeb hadn’t finished its first constellation before it began talking about launching its second-generation satellites. Imagine that! And think about the hundreds of millions of dollars being invested in ESAs [electronically steered antennas] at the moment… We’re not done with this evolution, we’re just at the beginning.”
There are further, less immediately obvious benefits to Gogo Galileo. Gogo holds the IP rights for the Galileo ESA antenna which gives customers the option to upgrade their system with the latest technology without having to recertify a new installation. Aguirre predicts a day when Gogo Galileo customers may only need to change the ‘guts’ of their ESA if they want to add another satellite network. The possibility is great for the customer, but also for the OEM, since aircraft need only be trialled for drag, icing and other parameters with one antenna form factor, rather than multiple antennas.
In Aguirre’s future vision there are US Gogo customers with only an air-to-ground antenna on their aircraft; others who fly mostly over the US but regularly overseas who have a Galileo ESA too; and a whole new sector equipped only with an ESA for global LEO coverage. Because of their limited size, air-to-ground antennas have traditionally been the only means of delivering connectivity onto smaller aircraft. Now, Gogo’s Galileo HDX ESA will fit on an aircraft as small as a King Air, and that, combined with Gogo’s status, promises a dramatic new era in global connectivity for business aircraft of any size.
Aguirre concluded: “Our funded roadmap addresses every business aviation customer regardless of the size of aircraft or where they fly. Galileo is analogous to our North American air-to-ground service, but will be available on small to medium aircraft worldwide. We see the same connectivity revolution we created in the US 15 years ago happening again globally.”