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Hopefully live streaming content will be easier at 30,000 feet - Photo: AirlineReporter

Hopefully live streaming content will be easier at 30,000 feet – Photo: AirlineReporter

Imagine someone took your iPhone and disabled LTE. Annoying. Then they shut off 4G. Super annoying. Then they took your remaining 3G connection and split it up between you and 160 of your closest friends. Welcome to the complicated world in-flight WiFi.

In-flight WiFi quickly transitioned from a magical new technology that few people had any reason to use, to a near-ubiquitous amenity that passengers demand on every flight. A victim of its own success, in-flight WiFi is now often incredibly expensive and annoyingly slow. How did we get here, and what is being done about it?

The GoGo Building is now part of the Chicago skyline seen from across the Chicago River. Photo- David DeLaGarza | AirlineReporter

The Gogo Building is now part of the Chicago skyline, seen from across the Chicago River

Being an aviation enthusiast means different things for different people. I like to consider myself an AvGeek generalist with interest in not only flights, plane spotting, and airline news, but also the behind-the-scenes of the industry. I have long considered myself a “culture nerd” as well, observing what makes some companies cohesive and successful, and others… well, not. In my work as a graduate student, I have dedicated a good bit of my study to culture, organizational behavior, and leadership strategy which has only intensified said interest. When in-flight WiFi provider Gogo offered a tour of their almost brand-new (to them) downtown Chicago HQ (referred to as The Gogo Building) I jumped at it. If you have an opportunity to let passions unite, fly with it!

Would #TheGogoBuilding have personality and charm like culture leader Southwest Airlines? Or, would their walls and decor be barren, and the general feeling something one might expect from the embodiment of the words “Corporate America?” I assumed something in between. I was wrong…

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The flight deck of N321GG, Gogo’s 737 testbed – Photo: David Parker Brown | AirlineReporter

I’m still grinning from ear to ear. Sitting in the flight deck of a jet during landing is pretty much THE AvGeek holy grail. It’s hard to do – FAA Part 121 regulations, which nearly all airlines operate under, prohibit non-crewmembers on the flight deck during flight. But every so often, you can find a plane that operates under different rules. As it turns out, our friends over at Gogo operate a 737 test bed which just so happens to fall under those rules.


Entering N321GG from door 1L – Photo: David Delagarza | AirlineReporter

About a month ago, AirlineReporter and Gogo teamed up to hold a huge contest for a few of our readers to win a flight on Gogo’s 737, N321GG, from Chicago to Austin, where the annual South by Southwest (SxSW) festival would be going down. I’m sure more than a few of you reading this story were disappointed not to get the ‘congratulations, you’ve won’ email. After receiving more than 10,000 entries, we randomly selected two winners. Our first winner, Meghan, is a flight attendant for a major US airline and a major AvGeek to boot. Our second winner, Shams, is a San Francisco-based tech consultant, and is looking forward to attend his first Aviation Geek Fest this April in Seattle. 

Gogo's 737-500 N321GG, a.k.a. the "Jimmy Ray" - Come fly with us!

Gogo’s 737-500 N321GG, a.k.a. the “Jimmy Ray” – Come fly with us!

UPDATE: Entry for the contest ended on Wednesday, February 17th. Stay tuned for the announcement of winners and to follow along with us on the big flight!

This is big. Really big. The biggest giveaway we have offered at AirlineReporter. How would you like to fly on Gogo’s own private Boeing 737-500 (named “Jimmy Ray”) on March 13th? Oh heck yes you would!

Gogo uses the plane to test their awesome technology (many of you have probably seen/used their in-flight WiFi). It is decked out in a VIP configuration and two of our readers can see for themselves by winning a free trip from Chicago to Austin — where SXSW will be going down.

Our Johnny Nguyen got to fly on the plane a while back and I loved watching his experience — I wanted to fly on it too. Join me, JL Johnson, and Dave Delagarza on this very special SXSW party flight. Keep reading to learn more and enter our contest!