Data Link

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There are many activities afoot in the US and elsewhere to bring about the relatively near-term implementation of various data link technologies – both in the cockpit and on the ground. In today’s landscape, communication between pilots and controllers on the oceanic airways of the North Atlantic (NAT) is accomplished oftentimes through a combination of long-range VHF radios, HF radios, and for those equipped and approved, Controller Pilot Data Link Communications (CPDLC) technology – the in-cockpit text messaging ability.

Tomorrow’s world, as aligned with NextGen transformations, will see these data link technologies implemented in an effort to alleviate the audio congestion on radio frequencies thereby increasing airspace capacity, direct routing and allowing for faster clearances with auto-acceptance.

Data Link Components

The three primary components to data link communications are Future Avionics Navigation Systems (FANS) 1/A, CPDLC, and Automatic Dependent Surveillance - Contract (ADS-C).  ADS-C is similar to ADS-B, but is used primarily for making position reports.  With the same data link system operators should be able to request and receive their oceanic clearance.  ADS-C is separate from CPDLC – you can use ADS-C without CPDLC, but not CPDLC without ADS-C.  These two systems combined provide the basis for FANS compatibility.

Data Link Implementation

The FAA has published several notices that address data link enhancements and operations in the NAT.  In the NAT FANS 1/A, CPDLC and ADS-C will begin Phase 1 on February 7, 2013 on two designated tracks over the Atlantic between Flight Levels 360 and 390 inclusively.  Phase 2 will cover a broader area of the MNPS (Minimum Navigation Performance Airspace) beginning February 2015 with further details on vertical and lateral dimensions to come.

All of these activities will allow for greater safety, efficiency and capacity both in airspace, spectrum and manpower.  For the present they are non-exclusionary to allow for a reasonable period to phase in these new and different technologies, but the day is fast approaching when these blocks of airspace will require participation for access and that will require installation of some additional avionics.  


FAA Data Communications Presentation on CPDLC-DCL from March 2, 2016 (PDF)

NBAA's CPDLC-DCL webinar

Harris Corporation CPDLC DCL Presentation from Feb. 17, 2016, Teterboro Users Group Meeting (PDF)

FAA Advance Notice: North Atlantic FANS 1/A Data Link Mandate (77 KB, PDF)

NavCanada AIC: 24/12- Mandate for Data Link Services in the NAT (50 KB, PDF)

Business Aviation Insider: "Prepare for Data Link Requirements"


Controller Pilot Datalink Communications Departure Clearances to Begin at Van Nuys
June 7, 2018
NBAA and member operators worked with the FAA and data comm contractor Harris Corp. to add California’s Van Nuys Airport (VNY) to the list of U.S. airports where controller pilot datalink communications (CPDLC) has been deployed. Pre-departure clearance operations will begin June 12 at Van Nuys at 5:30 a.m. local time, and full departure clearance (DCL) capabilities at VNY will begin Aug. 20. “NBAA recommended Van Nuys because it is a busy business aviation airport and there are operators based there that are equipped today to take advantage of the DCL capability,” said Heidi Williams, NBAA’s director of air traffic services and infrastructure. Learn more.
Testing of IFR Clearance Delivery System to Mobile Devices Begins at HEF
May 10, 2018
MITRE Corp. and ForeFlight have teamed up to begin testing a system to deliver IFR clearance information to mobile devices, which will enable pilots to read their expected clearance before contacting ATC. The tests will take place at Virginia’s Manassas Regional Airport (HEF) from mid-May through the end of July. NBAA supports testing options for "data comm-like" capabilities, such as that planned for HEF, said Heidi Williams, NBAA’s director of air traffic services and infrastructure. Learn more.
Business Aviation Drives Expansion of Data Comm Departure Clearances
April 19, 2018
Business aviation has been a driving force behind the widespread rollout of data communications technology to enhance safety and efficiency. Ohio's John Glenn International Airport (CMH) is the latest airport in the U.S. to offer CPDLC-DCL services, and four more airports are slated to become CPDLC-DCL operational by mid-July. "The FAA has indicated many times they underestimated the number of business aircraft operators that would equip for these capabilities," said NBAA Director of Air Traffic Services and Infrastructure Heidi Williams. Learn more.
Revised Authorization Required for Performance-Based Comm, Surveillance Operations
Jan. 31, 2018
Starting March 29, operators flying in the North Atlantic Tracks and certain other international regions are encouraged to have a revised letter of authorization or revised operations specification for performance-based communication and surveillance (PBCS) because a new reduced-separation standard for aircraft may become available on that date. In November 2016, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) published a new PBCS reduced-separation standard. As a result of the revised ICAO standards, the FAA is requiring individual aircraft to demonstrate compliance with the new PBCS performance standards in order to use reduced separation tracks based on PBCS capabilities. Learn more.
Data Comm Transitions to Single Log-On
Oct. 19, 2017
FAA's Data Comm program will phase in a National Single Data Authority (NSDA) for controller–pilot data link communications (CPDLC) log-ons starting Saturday, Oct. 21. NSDA will be enabled at each CPDLC departure clearance airport, grouped by Air Route Traffic Control Center and time zone to minimize operational disruptions. Learn more about NSDA.
Iridium Addressing Data Comm Issue That Delivers Old Clearances
Oct. 19, 2017
Iridium is working to resolve an issue that is causing some old Data Comm messages to be delivered to aircraft after the specific clearances were no longer relevant, causing confusion among pilots. Iridium is working on a temporary fix that would filter out undelivered messages that are more than 4.5 minutes old and prevent them from being delivered to the cockpit. A permanent fix will take longer, but is also in the works. Learn more.
Data Link: It Pays to Be an Early Adapter
Sept. 11, 2017
The FAA's push to make communication between pilots and controllers more efficient took a step forward last year when the agency rolled out text messaging for IFR departure clearance at 55 airports, and business aircraft pilots who are among the early adopters are reaping the benefits. Learn more in the September/October 2017 Business Aviation Insider.
Controller Pilot Data Link Communications Illustrates NextGen's Success
Aug. 23, 2017
A demonstration that the FAA's NextGen program is delivering on its potential, Controller Pilot Data Link Communications – Departure Clearance (CPDLC-DCL) – commonly referred to as Data Comm – switches some exchanges from voice to data. Learn more about Data Comm.
Podcast: Data Link Benefits Include Speedier Clearances at More Airports
July 31, 2017
With the right equipment onboard a business aircraft, pilots can get a complete flight plan clearance prior to departure without ever saying a word. "This comes in handy when there’s a major weather event rolling through a really congested airport," said Chris Collings of Harris Corp. Currently, controller-pilot data link communications, or CPDLC, is available at 55 of the nation's airports, including Teterboro (TEB) in New Jersey and Westchester County (HPN) in New York, and it will roll out to seven more airports next year. Hear more about data link in the latest NBAA Flight Plan podcast.
FANS 1/A Deadline Approaching Fast
May 22, 2017
Effective December 2017, aircraft flying between FL350 and FL390 in the newly named "NAT High Level" airspace over the North Atlantic must be equipped with CPDLC, which enables text-based messaging with ATC, and ADS-C, which enables airplanes to transmit position data. Collectively, these datalink capabilities are known as the Future Air Navigation System, or FANS 1/A. Review how to comply with FANS 1/A equipment requirements in Business Aviation Insider.
Operators Urged to Become Familiar With Data Comm as TEB, HPN Rollouts Approach
Feb. 1, 2016
Business aircraft operators that are equipped to use data communications (Data Comm) to communicate with air traffic controllers are encouraged to take advantage of the safety- and efficiency-enhancing technology, which is close to rolling out at two key business aviation airports: Teterboro Airport (TEB) in New Jersey and Westchester County Airport (HPN) in White Plains, NY. Data Comm capability for IFR departure clearance already is in place at about half a dozen U.S. airports, and the FAA plans to have it at 56 airports by 2017. Data Comm operations are expected to start at TEB in late March, with HPN following in mid-April. Learn more about Data Comm.
New Flight Deck-ATC Data Comm Services Coming to Business Aviation Airports
Jan. 13, 2016
The shift from voice to data communications between pilots and ATC is expected to gain traction in 2016, so business aircraft operators need to familiarize themselves with these new technologies, especially since they will be introduced at two key business aviation airports this spring – Teterboro, NJ (TEB) and White Plains, NY (HPN). One way to learn more about this topic is to participate in a free NBAA webinar, which takes place at 1 p.m. (EST) at Jan. 27, and will provide pilots and other interested stakeholders with an overview of the upcoming changes. Learn more about the issue and register for the webinar.
FAA Introduces Controller Pilot Data Link Communications – Departure Clearance
Nov. 5, 2015
The FAA is rolling out Controller Pilot Data Link Communications-Departure Clearance (CPDLC-DCL). Currently, only George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston, TX (IAH), William P. Hobby Airport in Houston, TX (HOU) and Salt Lake City International Airport in Utah (SLC) are operational, however, the FAA plans to bring 56 airports online by the end of 2016. Business aircraft operators should note that New Jersey's Teterboro Airport (TEB) is scheduled to be operational by the end of the March 2016. Learn more about CPDLC – DCL.
FAA Releases New Guidance for Approval, Use of Data Link Communications
May 29, 2015
In anticipation of more widespread deployment of Controller Pilot Data Link Communications (CPDLC) systems in the United States, the FAA recently issued revised guidance for domestic operators seeking approval to use these systems. CPDLC provides in-cockpit text messaging capabilities between air traffic control and flight crews in regions with poor VHF or HF radio reception, or when two-way voice communications may not be possible. "We're only going to see more aircraft equipped with CPDLC in the years ahead," said Brian Koester, NBAA project manager, operations. "While the infrastructure is still being developed to support widespread data link communications in the U.S., the FAA has laid the groundwork for a defined process that business aviation operators may use to receive LOA approval for systems onboard their aircraft." Read more about the new guidance.
FAA Announces Phase 2 of the NAT Data Link Mandate
Nov. 25, 2013
The FAA on Dec. 12 will publish a notice to airmen detailing plans for the rollout of Phase 2 of the North Atlantic Systems Planning Group's (NAT SPG) North Atlantic Data Link Mandate (NAT DLM). The implementation begins with Phase 2a, on Feb. 5, 2015, when flights within the NAT Organized Track System between FL350 and FL390 (inclusive) will be required to be equipped with FANS 1/A (or equivalent) controller-pilot data link communications (CPDLC) and ADS-C systems. Phase 2b begins on Dec. 7, 2017 and expands the affected airspace to the ICAO NAT Region. When Phase 2c takes effect on Jan. 30, 2020, all flights at FL290 and above will need the required equipment throughout the ICAO NAT Region. For more information, contact NBAA's Operations Service Group at or review the FAA's announcement.
Implementation of Data Link Communication Set for North Atlantic
August 20, 2012
Beginning in February 2013, Phase 1 of data link technology efforts will go into effect for portions of the airspace over the North Atlantic (NAT). Throughout the month of August 2012 the FAA will be publishing several notices that address operations in this area. In order to enhance safety, efficiency, and capacity in this region, FANS 1/A, CPDLC, and ADS-C will be implemented on two designated tracks over the Atlantic between Flight Levels 360 and 390 inclusively. It will be mandatory for aircraft to be properly equipped to operate at those altitudes.