The Sky Is No Longer The Limit — Blue Sky Network

R. Fred Polak |  Editor

The days of wondering where your aircraft are and how to get in touch with them are past. If real-time, worldwide voice and data communications are essential to your operations and you want to take control of your fleet no matter where in the world they are, then Blue Sky Network is worth looking into. Through the seamless integration of Iridium Satellites, GPS and Blue Sky Network’s Satcom systems, pilots, flight crew and ground personnel can always stay in touch with each other. Whether it’s voice calling through the on-board audio system, two-way text messaging, short code messaging or automatic position reporting, Blue Sky Network can do it all.

Taking Control of Your Fleet

Now, flight operations managers, dispatchers and customers can control all of their aviation assets from the comfort of their own desks. Sky Router is a unique global Web portal designed and operated by Blue Sky Network to support globally dispersed assets. Although the system can and does work with many different industries, we are going to keep our focus on the aviation industry. 

What’s It All About?

Blue Sky Network’s satellite tracking solutions help an organization better ensure the security of its assets and the safety of its people.

Devices such as Blue Sky Network’s D1000 series (installed satellite tracking devices), ACH1000 Advanced Control Head (two-way voice and messaging) and HawkEye PT (portable, personal tracker and two-way messaging) make it easier for helicopter owners and fleet administrators to track the whereabouts and operations of each aircraft more easily, and to stay in constant contact with each pilot, no matter where in the world they may be. Using Blue Sky Network, companies such as Cougar, Bristow, and Erickson (every Air-Crane has Blue Sky Network installed) are able to track and communicate more quickly, more accurately and more completely, delivering productivity increases and lowering their overall operating costs.

Main Functions

The system’s main functions are tracking and communications (though navigation, trip planning and other functions are also available). The back-end system is the differentiator. In 2003, Blue Sky Network launched SkyRouter, the first tracking tool of its kind. SkyRouther is a Web portal that enables you to have 24/7 oversight of your assets from anywhere in the world.

With the most recent release of SkyRouter (aka “SkyRouter 2”), Blue Sky Network delivers the next evolution in satellite tracking and an entirely new level of functionality:

EVENT REPORTING: Know when your aircraft starts, stops, has an emergency, takes off, lands, loses/gains altitude, speeds, goes erratic, etc.

TWO-WAY MESSAGING: Options are available for two-way voice messaging, two-way text messaging, short codes, canned messages and more.

MULTIPLE MAPPING: Track every asset on its own map or view them all at once; SkyRouter uses Bing maps that are rich in detail.

EMERGENCY ALERTS: Operators can send with one button, and administrators are alerted visually, on the map and under an events tab, and sonically via a chime.

GEO-FENCING: Create custom boundaries on maps (circular and polygonal) and be alerted when an aircraft or vehicle enters or leaves a specific geo-fence.

PLAYBACKS: Review the trip history of any aircraft to ensure safety standards and guidelines are being followed.

COMPOUND RULES: For example, combine geo-fences with event alerts with other parameters to best fit the needs of your operators and administrators.

FLEXIBILITY: SkyRouter can port data from any platform or device. No matter what vendor or hardware you use to capture data, SkyRouter will help you disseminate it.

SkyRouter is currently STCd in the following helicopters:

• Eurocopter models; EC120, EC155, AS365N, and AS332L1, AS 350

• Bell Models 214 and 222

• Schweizer model 269-D


From an installation standpoint, there are only three, four or five line replaceable units (LRUs) to deal with, depending on what your system requirements are. Voice communication uses the following LRUs:

1 - C1000A Cabin Unit

2 - PTA12-100 Airborne Telephone Adapter

3 – ACH-1000 Advanced Control Head

4 – 9505A Iridium Portable Satellite Phone

Tracking and two way text messaging uses the following LRUs:

1 – D1000A or D1000C Iridium Transceiver

2 – ACH-1000 Advanced Control Head

3 – D2000A Carry-On Flight Tracking Transceiver

When dealing with radio frequencies (RF) from an installation perspective, the length of the cable run from the receiver/transmitter to its antenna can be an issue. To date, that has not been an issue with Blue Sky Network in any installation. There are no special mounting considerations required for any of the three LRUs  The modem unit is typically mounted in the avionics bay, and the control unit (a standard one-half ATI size) can be mounted in the cockpit instrument panel.

As in most applications that deal with GPS and Satcom, the antenna location is paramount in that it has to be on top of the aircraft for best results. Typically, away from the vertical stabilizer, with unrestricted exposure to the sky, down to eight degrees above the horizon works just fine. Depending on the size and scope of your maintenance department, you may want to do your own installation or have another organization do it for you.

System Maintainability

Once the system is installed in your aircraft, keeping it in top-notch condition is relatively easy. Some of the questions that are asked often are listed below:

• Are any periodic tests required? No, everything is on-condition (OC).

• Are there any filters that need to be inspected or cleaned? No.

• Are there any cooling requirements or fans used? No.

• Any issues of powering on the system with the antenna disconnected? No.

• How is the system configured? By software through the mounting rack.

• How is the system tested to show it is fully operational? A functional ground test procedure and an operational flight check procedure are used to verify proper installation, functional performance and electromagnetic compatibility with existing aircraft systems.

• Any special tips for maintenance or dos and don’ts? There is no routine servicing or maintenance required with Blue Sky Network solutions, and the installation itself has no additional overhaul time limitations.

• Any internal batteries? If so, are they field replaceable? There is a coin battery in D1000 Modem unit. This can be field replaceable if necessary.

• Any special words on grounds and shields? Shields should only be grounded for the D1000 Modem unit at the end of the interconnect cable. Other ends remain floating.

• Any special tools required for the installation? None required. Normal avionics shop tooling is sufficient.

• How about troubleshooting tips? Blue Sky Network solutions are highly technical “under the hood.” As such, they recommend contacting their technical support team before attempting any hands-on troubleshooting.

Technical Support

Blue Sky Network’s support team is another key differentiator. Every person on the team is an experienced technician working out of the San Diego office. They have pilots in their employ as well, so they have the hands-on experience pilots and operators/administrators require. In most every case, customer support calls are handled by engineers who have field tested the equipment themselves. Additionally, any and all repairs are done on site. Blue Sky Network is, in essence, a one-stop-shop for the in-flight tracking and communication needs of any helicopter owner or operator. 

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