FAA gives Gogo green light for 2Ku flight tests

Inflight entertainment provider Gogo has received authority from the US Federal Aviation Administration to flight test its 2Ku satellite connectivity service on a company-owned Boeing 737-500, Gogo announces.

The supplemental type certificate (STC) is the first of two STC's the company needs before launching 2Ku on commercial flights, a milestone Gogo hopes to reach later this year, the Itasca, Illinois-based company says in a media release.

The initial STC permits Gogo to test the system's radome, avionics and one antenna on its 737 "Flying Lab".

Gogo acquired the aircraft, registration N321GG, from Commercial Jet Solutions in August 2014, according to the Ascend Fleets database.

Boeing manufactured the 737-500 in 1992, and Malaysia Airlines, Air France and Czech Airlines have operated the aircraft, Ascend shows.

Gogo's next regulatory hurdle is to achieve a second STC permitting flight testing of a second antenna.

Gogo has said satellite-based 2Ku will initially provide data transfer speeds of up to 73 Mbps, but expects speeds to eventually reach 100 Mbps.

By comparison, Gogo's air-to-ground ATG-4 IFE product has transfer speeds up to 9.8 Mbps, the company has said.

Six airlines, including Aeromexico, Air Canada, Delta Air Lines, Japan Airlines, United Airlines and Virgin Atlantic Airways have committed to test or fully deploy 2Ku, Gogo says.

It adds that Delta and Virgin Atlantic will be the first to launch the product later this year.

"We currently have more than 350 aircraft commitments for the technology," says Gogo.

News of the STC follows Gogo's January announcement that it received regulatory authority to operate 2Ku from the US Federal Communications Commission, the regulatory body hat oversees airwaves.