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PHOTO: A team of Boeing Broadband Satcom Network (BBSN) communications specialists monitor communications traffic from their Network Operations Center in Kent, Wash.

Boeing expands satcom network during Haiti's critical hour

Since Jan. 12, when a devastating 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck the tiny nation of Haiti, and killed more than 150,000 people according to Haitian officials, a wave of planes carrying food, water, medical supplies, and search and rescue teams, has been flooding into the country.

With much of the country’s infrastructure in disarray, communicating with the flight crews and coordinating air traffic was a near-impossible task during the initial days immediately following the quake.

Today though, as a U.S. Air Force VIP/ Special Air Mission flight turn onto final approach at Haiti’s Toussaint L’Ouverture International Airport in Port-au-Prince, the crew members know they can depend on the plane’s global broadband communications system thanks to a dedicated Boeing team.

In the days following the quake, the Boeing Broadband SatCom Network (BBSN) program realized the need to expand communications coverage in the quake ravaged area.

“We had solid coverage over the northern part of the country,” said BBSN program manager Mike Turner. “It’s the southern part of Haiti we wanted to bolster. There is a lot of margin built into the robust system so by fine tuning our satellite signal patterns from our Network Operations Center in Kent, Washington, we were able to adjust coverage and make sure all of our flights stayed connected when they needed to the most.”

Colonel John Long, 316th Mission Support Group commander, left, helps repatriated U.S. citizens with their luggage as they disembark from an 89th Airlift Wing C-32 Jan. 17, 2010. U.S. Air Force Photo Master Sgt. J.C. Woodring

Colonel John Long, 316th Mission Support Group commander, left, helps repatriated U.S. citizens with their luggage as they disembark from an 89th Airlift Wing C-32 Jan. 17, 2010. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton traveled to Joint Base Andrews with 22 survivors of the 7.0-magnitude earthquake that hit Haiti Jan. 12 aboard the U.S. Air Force Special Air Mission C-32 aircraft.

The BBSN system is operated and maintained by Boeing’s Defense & Government Services Information Services business and provides broadband internet, television and communications services for the Air Force’s fleet of 13 VIP/Special Air Mission aircraft. Formerly called “Connexion by Boeing,” the BBSN service was added to this fleet following Sept. 11, when the need for airborne communications on special Air Force planes became paramount.

Ed Laase, a director with Boeing’s Defense & Government Services, Information Services said efforts by BBSN engineers and regulatory staffers who work through diplomatic and jurisdictional challenges, enabled the coverage expansion within hours.

“When we got the go-ahead from our U.S. Air Force customer at Air Mobility Command at Scott Air Force Base, Ill., our team responded quickly and efficiently with no extra cost to the customer,” said Laase. “I think it shows how much our team cares about providing this service, and it also illustrates the maturity and agility of our BBSN system.”

U.S. Air Force Maj. Aaron Gibson, program manager for the Air Mobility Command’s Executive Airlift Communication Network, said in a letter to the Boeing BBSN organization, “I truly appreciate this effort by your entire team.  I am honored to know that you look to assist where possible in time of crisis.”

“The Boeing Broadband Satcom Network can be found supporting the United States’ senior leadership on their global missions,” said Greg Deiter, vice president of Boeing’s Defense & Government Services. “It’s become the ‘gold standard’ of mobile aeronautical broadband communications worldwide, and we are proud of our team for finding a way to use BBSN to support the U.S. Air Force as they help the people of Haiti in their time of need.”