In April of this year, I discussed the reservations I had with certain unanswered questions relating to the Starlink system designed for Business Aviation. In the months following, we have seen updates that have clarified some of my concerns. No update, however, has been quite as massive as the announcement made earlier this month. Both Starlink Aviation and Nextant Aerospace have been approved by the FAA to install their connectivity solution on all Gulfstream G650 aircraft.
While the STC approval is a huge success for Starlink and Nextant, it has become clear that Gulfstream has certain reservations about this recent authorization. In a Maintenance and Operations letter released on September 15, the company addressed these concerns to all Gulfstream operators. In the letter, they outline three specific points for operators to be aware of. First, Gulfstream discusses structural integrity: “Incorporation of this third-party STC will impact the fuselage structure with respect to the antenna installation; Structural Warranty may not apply to the affected areas of this modification”.
The following reservations both revolve around the lack of control Gulfstream will have over installation data and design. First, Gulfstream’s “technical operations and engineering teams will not have the data or ability to support any repairs…that may arise with the STC upon installation or afterward”. Similarly, their final concern focuses on “hardware and software configuration [which] will be out of Gulfstream’s control”. This means that Gulfstream may not be able to support in-service issues with the third-party installation without potential additional cost.
While Gulfstream may be suspicious of the FAA’s approval of Starlink and Nextant’s solution, it is important to recognize that they are not outright condemning it. In fact, it is quite standard for an aircraft manufacturer to have reservations in the face of a solution that they did not create. It is still an STC approved solution, and not every STC approved solution for all aircraft is always appreciated or validated by the aircraft manufacturer. Their hesitations do not make the STC any less safe or valid of an option for connectivity. In the letter itself, Gulfstream makes it clear that they do not fully disapprove of the solution, stating that they “will continue to work with Starlink to evaluate new technology, and…are committed to validating solutions on [their] aircraft when and if the data [they] gather supports the viability of the product”.
At Pro Star, we are starting to offer proposals for Gulfstreams, specifically G650s. The installations could begin as soon as Q4 2023. Quotes for the G650s can be requested now. Additionally, Gulfstream models G550 & G450, as well as the Bombardier Global Express solutions will become obtainable through the same conduit within the next two to four months. Subsequently, installations for these aircraft will be available for quotations. Since the April blog on Starlink Aviation, the cost of the hardware has remained stable, hovering at $150,000. The monthly cost for the service has also remained the same, ranging from $12,500 to $25,000 a month. Since there is not a formal Dealer Network, questions concerning hardware and service should be directed to Starlink directly. email@example.com For aircraft owners looking to install this solution, you can expect the cost of installation to at least match the equipment cost. It could potentially be up to 1.5x the cost of equipment. This is to cover the cost of interior removal and reinstallation, installation labor, the STC, and custom installation kit. Additionally, many aircraft will also require existing equipment to be relocated to accommodate the Starlink terminal installation. All in all, this approval from the FAA is an exciting step forward for Starlink and Nextant. With more models closely following behind the G650s, this could truly be the beginning of a revolution in luxury connectivity for the world of aviation.