Sounding Board: Five Minutes With Chris Moore, Satcom Direct
Chris Moore is president of business aviation for Satcom Direct, based in Melbourne, Florida. Moore joined Satcom in 2012 as chief commercial officer and was promoted to his current position as president in March 2019.
Q. How has the pandemic affected your business?
A. We did see a significant impact at the end of March and the beginning of April. Since then, things have been opening up. People have been more open to travel. We’re still seeing a lot of charter movements. The good thing is, we’re a well-run business. The business was around when 9-11 happened and we saw the stock market crisis in 2008; we’ve been going for over 20-plus years. This is an unprecedented event. This was a global shutdown–a global pandemic the world in modern times has not witnessed. The business aviation industry is a very resilient group. Our partners and our customers and suppliers came together. That’s been a real testament to the industry.
Q. What is the biggest challenge for the industry now?
A. I think the biggest challenge with the pandemic as a whole, not just ourselves, but for the industry and customers, is going to be the opening of borders. If you want to do an international business flight, for many countries you have to quarantine for 14 days. The primary purpose of business aviation is to act almost as a time machine. It gives time–from a productivity standpoint and a utilization standpoint–so we need to see those restrictions changing. Even if they start to change, what is the new normal? How do we move people about?
Q. As a business, what is your biggest challenge at Satcom Direct?
A. We’re extremely innovative. We’ve got a number of programs we’re developing at the moment on new antennas and new services. The big challenge now is how we continue the momentum that we built up before the pandemic. We had a lot of interest even during the pandemic ... We didn’t shut any R&D programs down. We’re in a good place as a business. We have to make sure we’re there with our partners and colleagues to support the industry when it comes back up to a new normal.
Q. How important has it become for customers to be connected during private flight?
A. From a business jet point of view, it’s becoming more and more of a standard. It’s an expected standard to have broadband on the aircraft. We’ve had clients who, if they don’t have internet on the airframe, consider it an AOG event. It’s especially important on long-range aircraft. Being disconnected for 12 hours plus is not what people want nowadays. It’s a business requirement.
Q. During the pandemic, are customers using the time to schedule installations?
A. It’s really a mix. Some customers are taking the opportunity to make upgrades to their airframes. Some are more cautious. It depends on who owns the jet.
Q. Satcom Direct offers SD Pro® to communicate data for all phases of flight. SD PreFlight generates crew profiles, aircraft operational status and fleet availability, and SD PostFlight populates aircraft and engine times and cycles. What’s next?
A. We recently announced our Plane Simple Antenna Series. It’s really exciting. It includes Ku-band, Ka-band and L-band antennas with very simple installations. It includes an antenna and two LRU boxes on board the aircraft. (Others) may have up to five boxes. That’s expensive to install. Ours simplifies what technically can be put on an airplane. It gives the customer a choice of networks and the ability to choose how they want their aircraft to work for them. It’s really exciting technology. We’ve got quite a lot of things happening. We see our competition coming out with complementary products, which is the biggest compliment and the biggest irritation as well.
Q. What are you doing in the area of cybersecurity?
A. We’ve got over 600 aircraft we handle cybersecurity threat monitoring for. That’s been designed for business aviation. We have a large presence in the government space too. We don’t have any outsourced elements in there. A plane is an extension of anybody’s network. We stop over 150 threats a month from medium up to critical events. We’ve had customers who have invited a guest on board who have had malware on their laptop. We’ve had to shut that laptop down remotely. We can be that proactive. It’s really something unique to SD. A lot of other people talk about cybersecurity, but everything we do is designed for our customers. We can contact the customers–as long as they give us the permission–and tell them that their laptop either needs to be disconnected or we can restrict that laptop for the flight. We work with clients on their security needs. We can put their corporate policies on the plane. We’re the only people who can do that.
Q. How do you keep up with all the threats?
A. We’re constantly upgrading our network. We own our own data centers and teleports and we keep making investments to make sure we keep the bad guys on the right side of the fence. It’s always a constant, and we try to improve on a daily basis.