As Europe begins the phased introduction of new datalink standards for aircraft and ATC (above FL285), Arinc Direct continues to play a leading role in future datalink standards (effectively the next-generation Acars).
So-called controller pilot datalink communications (CPDLC) requires aircraft to be able to communicate with ATC using VHF datalink (VDL) Mode 2, akin to text messaging of requests and clearances (although voice communications will still be used as a back-up).
Arinc already has contracts with three ANSPs in western Europe (the UK’s NATS, Germany’s DFS and Switzerland’s Skyguide), all of which have to implement the links this year. Yanko Videv, datalink program manager for Arinc EMEA Aviation Solutions, told AIN that demand for its services is very high and working with various national air navigation service providers (ANSPs) is challenging: all are different, they do not think like airlines and they have responsibility for vast tracts of airspace and a large number of aircraft. The company aims to engage with ANSPs “in the early stages of their requirement definition” to facilitate a smoother transition to CPDLC, Videv said.
The U.S. has Fans (future air navigation system) standards and has decided not to adopt the same standard as Europe for now, preferring instead to harmonize later when the following standard comes along, he told AIN. The long-term stated aim of ICAO is to see a common worldwide datalink standard, based around the ICAO Aeronautical Telecommunications Network (ATN) standards.
Arinc is also offering to advise airlines on equipping their aircraft for CPDLC. Some aircraft need to be modified or retrofitted with new avionics by February 2015, and there are implications for selection of suitable equipment, installation, certification and crew training, said Videv. Meanwhile, for U.S. aircraft Fans equipment will be acceptable in airspace requiring VDL Mode 2 equipage, under an exemption.
The Annapolis, Md.-based company supports more than 10,000 aircraft worldwide and has now deployed more than 350 VDL Mode 2 ground stations around the world. It also has integration and test stations based with companies such as Airbus, Boeing, Rockwell Collins and Honeywell. In Europe, over the past 10 years airlines such as easyJet, Etihad and FedEx have helped to pioneer datalink communications by taking part in trials under the Link2000+ program, which led to the eventual mandate under European law.