Connexion, Boeing’s in-flight broadband internet service, is being shuttered, reports the Wall Street Journal, citing insufficient users willing to pay. That’s a real setback for what I assumed was the unassailable march forward of ubiquitous wifi everywhere, including on planes. I used Connexion on several SAS flights between Stockholm and New York last year and I was immediately smitten — in fact, it was indispensable on one occasion.
It’s also a tragedy for my Google Earth experimentation ambitions. I just recently bought a GPS device with the full intention of making my own DIY live flight tracker using Google Earth, a window seat and an in-flight wifi connection.
How are we going to have Google Earth be the next-generation flight tracker on planes if there is no internet access to feed it? With Google getting into the free wifi business, perhaps buying Connexion on the cheap would be a logical fit: It would give Google-branded free wifi to a grateful yet captive audience of flyers (they’d all need to register with a gmail account, of course) while other passengers would get to stare at Google Earth for hours on end, with nearby plane data provided by FBO, as well as airport approach routes and weather overlays. That’s a lot of free advertising for Google.
(PS: FBOWeb’s flight offerings for Google Earth have expanded greatly since last I checked. This page now contains links to flight plans of planes involved in recent incidents, an hourly snapshot of all US flights in the air, and, in the aftermath of the latest terrorism scare, flight traffic in and out of London airports.)