Connecting aircraft passengers to the internet at 40,000 feet is all in a day’s work for James Lee. A senior product support engineer, Lee is Honeywell’s go-to guy on satellite communications systems for just about anything that flies.
“Satellite communications systems have been around for more than two decades and they are more important today than ever before,” Lee said. “Business jet and airline passengers expect to have reliable, high-speed Wi-Fi wherever they fly, just like they experience at their home or office. It’s my job to help operators meet those passenger expectations.”
Of course, the connected aircraft is about a lot more than just surfing the web from a third-row seat, Lee emphasized. “The SATCOM system also enables all the safety and operational efficiency benefits of the connected aircraft,” he said. “For example, pilots can receive real-time weather information, operators can track their aircraft fleets in flight and maintenance chiefs can monitor the performance of mechanical systems on the aircraft.”
Airlines, company flight departments, individual owners and even government operators have Lee on speed-dial. He has an industry-wide reputation for providing personalized, hands-on service – anywhere, anytime. His commitment to customer service keeps him on the road about 20 days a month, helping customers install, configure and become familiar with their Honeywell SATCOM hardware and software.
Born in South Korea, Lee emigrated to the U.S. with his family at age 13. The Lee family settled in Illinois where James attended school and graduated with an engineering degree from the University of Illinois in 2005. He came to work for Honeywell in Arizona as a summer intern then started working full time shortly after graduation and worked several quality assurance and manufacturing jobs before taking his current role in 2012.
“I really like being part of the Customer Support team,” he said. “I like the responsibility of being on the frontlines and working directly with our customers. I enjoy the whole process of meeting with our customers, assessing the situation, then finding and implementing the best solution to meet their needs.”
Lee is equally comfortable working alongside the technician in the avionics bay or showing a C-level executive how to connect her laptop in the cabin of a business jet. He’s worked with Fortune 500 CEOs, celebrities and even a Russian oligarch or two.
“It can get pretty hectic sometimes,” Lee admitted. “Like the time I was working with a customer in Chicago and got an emergency request from the flight operations department of a high-tech company in California, so I took the red-eye to Burbank. I ended fixing their software issue and flying to San Francisco with the CEO to help him connect on an important investor call. Everything went exactly as planned and our system performed flawlessly. He was very grateful, which is one of the things that makes this job so satisfying.”
Lee is no stranger to red-eye flights. He took one to Maui over the Christmas holiday to troubleshoot a problem for a customer. He was lucky enough to get what may have been the last hotel room on the island, which was available for exactly one night. He was able to fix the customer’s issue and fly home to Phoenix the next day, just in time to spend some quality time with his girlfriend.
A global online sports apparel company was about to give up on finding the right SATCOM solution for its corporate helicopter until the flight operations team met Lee. “They simply weren’t having a good experience,” he remembered. “So I downloaded the logs and discovered that they weren’t using the high data-rate feature on the Honeywell Aspire 200 SATCOM system. As a result, the signal was being blocked by the helicopter rotors. All we had to do was activate the HDR feature, reconfigure the router, download new software and help them choose the service that met their needs.”
These days, Lee spends a lot of time teaching customers how to get the most out of Honeywell’s signature JetWave satellite communications system. JetWave enables air transport aircraft to connect to Inmarsat’s GX Aviation global high-speed service and business aircraft to connect to the Inmarsat Jet ConneX global high-speed service. It’s also available for military and government aircraft.
“JetWave is truly changing the way people think about connected aircraft,” Lee said. “JetWave is the hardware that makes fast, reliable, secure connectivity possible and it’s my job to support our customers as they install, configure and learn to use the system.
“It’s really a lot of fun to be a member of the Honeywell Customer Support team at this exciting time in the evolution of SATCOM and to help our customers realize the full potential of their investment in connected aircraft technology.”