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.
Largely obscured by the preoccupation with new security directives inspired by September 11, the debate over the FAA’s now binding interpretation of a long-standing pilot duty-time rule appears to have run its course. In fact, traffic declines have rendered the issue moot at major airlines, where pilot furloughs have left many longing for the days when duty times approached the 16-hr limit set by the FAA.
A Concord, Mass. startup company is offering what it claims is a low-cost datalink service based on Arinc and Iridium communication standards. Wingspeed announced at the NBAA Convention its XL Link System, a low-speed data network with avionics that cost 70 percent less than comparable Acars equipment.
Most corporate pilots know how TCAS operates and what it does, but fewer are familiar with ADS-B. ADS-B works via small onboard transmitter/receivers, which send out brief signal bursts that include the airplane’s identification, GPS position, altitude and current flight profile once per second. These bursts are picked up by all ADS-B-equipped aircraft within line-of-sight range.
The combination of GPS position, digital communications networks and the Internet has made possible–and affordable–a variety of products and services for continuous real-time tracking of aircraft fleets by dispatchers on the ground. Nowhere has such capability been more eagerly accepted than in the realm of helicopter flight operations, many of which are now using data-link services to keep close tabs on their aircraft at all times.
The FAA has certified the CMS-1000 communication management system from Pentar Avionics. The panel-mount unit provides digital and analog input and output, ACARS processing, an optional internal VDL Mode 2 (VHF datalink) radio and optional GPS sensor.
Rockwell Collins continues to increase its presence aboard the Airbus A380, most recently by securing multimillion-dollar contracts to supply the avionics communications routers and airline operational communications applications for the mega airliner.
Wingspeed Corp. is unveiling a pair of new XLLink Iridium voice/datalink systems today that the company said will provide access to affordable flight tracking, two-way text messaging, voice calling and the aircraft communication addressing and reporting system (Acars) data service.
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