A recent FAA briefing note concluded, “The future of ATC is all about data communications,” and government and industry officials, both in the U.S. and overseas, are in complete agreement with this view. The problem facing aviation is that these same officials seem to be in agreement on precious little else.
Controller Pilot Data Link Communications
Despite recent events, the FAA is continuing its modernization of the National Airspace System (NAS), and controller-pilot datalink communication (CPDLC) remains a key building block in its Operational Evolution Plan.
Raytheon said it achieved initial operating capability (IOC) for a second limited-production version of its new standard terminal automation replacement system (Stars) at the Tracon facility serving Bradley International Airport (BDL) in Windsor Locks, Conn.
Maneuvering over Southern Florida and through busy Miami airspace on a classically warm and convective Thursday in March, an FAA test airplane spent several hours aloft exchanging more than 100 routine messages with ATC–all without the pilots or controllers having to utter a single word.
The FAA’s Operational Evolution Plan (OEP) is moving to regain the momentum lost following September 11. Introduced last June, the OEP was aimed at transforming today’s air traffic system into a more efficient, expanded-capacity operating environment by the progressive introduction of advanced ATC and aircraft systems over the next 10 years.
The FAA has awarded contracts to Rockwell Collins, Honeywell and Avidyne for development of technology that will integrate digital voice and data into air-to-ground communications as part of the next-generation air/ground communications (Nexcom) program.
The FAA later this year will begin asking avionics makers to submit bids for competitive contracts to produce prototype radio interface units (RIU) and ground network interface units (GNIU) for demonstrations of the next-generation air/ground communications (Nexcom) program. FAA’s Nexcom program office is overseeing the transition to the future digital voice/data VHF radios, paving the way for controller-pilot datalink communications (CPDLC).
The FAA has awarded an initial $20.5 million contract to ITT Industries aerospace/communications division to provide the agency with multimode VHF digital air-to-ground radios as part of its next-generation air/ground communications system (Nexcom). If all options are exercised, it could be worth as much as $580 million.
As the crow flies, the distance between Baltimore and Newark is only about 160 mi. But during the height of thunderstorm season, when lines of towering cumulus march eastward–often erupting into wide, impenetrable walls of rain, turbulence and lightning–the distance can easily double, while travel times can triple.
In one of her first speeches as FAA Administrator, Marion Blakey promised that her five-year term will be driven by data and hard numbers, be consistent across all FAA regions and offices and emphasize the agency’s role in international aviation.