Airbus Americas chairman will advise Redmond communications firm
October 17th, 2013
Allan McArtor, chairman of Airbus Americas Inc., has just taken a very public role in a very Northwest company.
McArtor this week joined Redmond-based Kymeta Corp. as one of a five-person advisory board, which will help the satellite communications company determine its strategic directions, said Kymeta President and CEO Vern Fotheringham.
“I’ve know Allan for many years,” Fotheringham said, calling him, “A very innovative gentleman with a deep reservoir of knowledge and experience, and first-name acquaintance with a wide swath of the industry.”
Before his role as Airbus America’s chairman, McArtor’s career has included stints as director of the Federal Aviation Administration, director of air operations for Federal Express as well as developer of its satellite communications network, and founder of Legend Airlines. An engineer, McArtor was a decorated fighter combat pilot during the Vietnam war.
Kymeta, which spun out of Bellevue patent acquisition and invention company Intellectual Ventures earlier this year and is backed partly by Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates, is developing small satellite antennas that may be used, among other things, to connect commercial aircraft directly to communications satellites.
This means that McArtor will be directly involved with one of the leaders of airborne satellite communications technologies, right on Boeing’s home turf.
To be sure, McArtor probably only will visit the Puget Sound area twice a year (his first Redmond meeting is Friday), and will be supplying “wise counsel” rather than “specific commercial engagement or endorsement,” Fotheringham said.
But McArtor’s presence has to be just a little galling for Boeing people with long memories, because Boeing itself tried to be a pioneer in the airborne internet field, when it launched Connexion by Boeing in 2001.
That service used military-derived phased-array antennas, the leading technology of the time, to bring live internet onto commercial aircraft. Lufthansa signed up, as did several other carriers, but the equipment was bulky and the service was expensive, and it never really took off.
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