Psst. We know the truth, all you Airshow customers. Sure, you might say you have Airshow’s Tailwind 100 satellite to stay connected to CNN and your stock quotes while you fly to your next business meeting. But we know what you’re really watching in your Gulfstream. “In most cases, the satellite is being bought by a corporation for its flight department,” says Mike Tiffany, Airshow’s marketing director. “It’s justified as news and staying in touch, and it’s a business expense. But I’m sure the guys are watching HBO.”
Airshow, a Tustin, Calif., company, recently released the Tailwind 100, its fourth-generation satellite television product for business jet owners. The 12-inch satellite is attached to the tail of your jet, and a DirecTV digital signal is piped into the Airshow receiver installed on the plane. The receiver processes the signal and projects it onto your screen, and you can watch any of DirecTV’s channels while you fly in the continental United States. The basic Tailwind 100 unit has two receivers, so business travelers can watch CNBC at the front of the jet, while children can enjoy cartoons at the back of the plane.
Airshow has been producing satellite television systems for business jets for four years. According to Tiffany, the Tailwind 100 gets more reliable service than previous Airshow products. “The signal quality is superb,” Tiffany says. “The only issue is that the service can cut out if there’s heavy weather or solar flares.”
Airshow, which is targeting larger jets such as the Bombardier Global Express, Gulfstream V, and Cessna Citation X, has 31 centers worldwide, located at fixed-base operators (FBOs), which will install the Tailwind 100. Garrett Aviation in Van Nuys, Calif., and Associated Air Center in Dallas are two centers that can provide installation. The satellite must be placed on top of the jet’s tail and covered with a radome, a protective shell that prevents the dish from being damaged during flight. Then the receivers must be installed inside the plane, which takes several hours, depending on the amount of upholstery or cabin finishes that must be removed to access the jet’s existing satellite system.
Once the system is installed, you can set up a large-screen television or individual mon-itors, or create a theaterlike experience. The system costs $245,000 and installation is $5,000. Premium service, which includes special sports packages, is included in the cost of Tailwind 100. “You can do anything—simple speakers, full surround sound, small monitors at your seat, or a great plasma on a bulkhead,” says Tiffany.
The company is planning future products that will provide overseas service and coverage while the plane is parked on a runway or in a hangar. In certain locations, such as Washington state, you can get a clear picture while the plane is grounded, but the company doesn’t promise ground coverage with the Tailwind 100. Which means that for the time being, at least, you might be out of luck if your plane lands before the news (wink, wink) ends.