The competition is under way to provide air-ground data communications in U.S. domestic airspace, a key piece of the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen). At the same time, the FAA has asked its NextGen Advisory Committee (NAC) to recommend a data communications “roadmap” through 2030, taking into account different datalink standards.
Future Air Navigation System
With a narrower pipe but greater reach for voice and data than its rival Inmarsat, the Iridium satellite network is becoming increasingly relevant for aircraft cockpits.
The Iridium satcom system received FAA approval for use as an Aeronautical Mobile Satellite (Route) Service so operators can use Iridium systems for over-ocean critical ATC communications. Iridium’s advantages over other communications systems include much lighter weight, lower power needs and coverage over the Earth’s poles. The FAA approval means that Iridium satcom can be used for Future Air Navigation System (Fans) 1/A communications.
The FAA has issued a request for offers to provide data communications services under the agency’s Data Comm effort, considered one of the “transformational” programs leading to the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen).
The FAA has endorsed use of the Iridium satellite data service for air traffic control (ATC) communications in oceanic airspace, providing airlines and business jet operators with what is considered a low-cost solution for Future Air Navigation System (FANS) datalink messaging.
Despite all the fits and starts, NextGen in the U.S. will eventually affect business aircraft operators, although perhaps not on the schedule that the FAA currently espouses. It is not too soon to start considering the impact of NextGen on business aviation and how it will drive equipment requirements.
On March 23 at the Aircraft Electronics Association show, Universal Avionics announced it has started taking orders for its next-generation datalink communications system, the UniLink UL-800 and UL-801 communications management unit (CMU). The UL-800 and -801 enable high-speed datalink communications between pilots and ATC, according to Universal, and feature future air navigation system (Fans 1/A) and VHF datalink mode 2 capabilities.
International Communications Group (ICG) and Rockwell Collins have demonstrated the compatibility of ICG’s NxtLink ICS-220A communication systems with Rockwell Collins Pro Line Fusion avionics in the Gulfstream G250, the companies said. The tests demonstrated the use of controller pilot datalink communications (CPDLC) and automatic dependent surveillance-contract (ADS-C) functions in the G250’s Pro Line Fusion avionics.
Honeywell received FAA TSO approval last month to start deliveries of an FMS software upgrade that provides advanced GPS-enabled approaches and access to Future Air Navigation System (Fans) routes in congested airspace and on oceanic airways. With the approval, Honeywell’s FMS 6.1 software upgrade can be installed in approximately 600 business aircraft equipped with the Honeywell FMZ-2000 flight-management system.
Honeywell’s next-generation flight management system (NGFMS) is currently undergoing flight testing on the Gulfstream G650 and the Boeing 747-8. “The NGFMS provides all of the capability to meet requirements for improving air traffic management through decreased separation and more direct routing,” said Honeywell Aerospace vice president of marketing and product