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Thursday, September 20, 2012

Harris Awarded FAA's NextGen Datacomm Contract

Emily Feliz

Harris Corp. has been awarded FAA's $331 million Data Communications Integrated Services (DCIS) contract as part of the NextGen airspace modernization initiative, the agency said Thursday. FAA teased the announcement at this week's Avionics for NextGen conference in Atlantic City, N.J.

Harris, with its partners Thales, GE Aviation and another undisclosed airline partner, beat out competing bids from a Lockheed Martin-led team and an ITT Excelis-led team. More

Datacomm, which will be rolled out in 2015 in the tower domain and in 2018-2022 for the en route environment, will replace voice communications with data messages sent between the cockpit and the air traffic control tower with the goal of more efficient pilot-controller communications and more efficient operations. The DCIS contract will provide ground-to-ground and air-to-ground segments of the data communications system, with special attention paid to the interoperability of the data communications services and avionics.

Furthermore the two-way data exchange between air traffic controllers and flight crews will allow for more timely and effective clearances, and gives controllers the ability to safely handle more air traffic, according to the agency. 

"DCIS lays the groundwork for the move from traditional air traffic control to more active air traffic management,” said John O’Sullivan, vice president, mission critical networks, Harris Government Communications Systems. “Our approach to this effort reflects the same high standards that Harris adopted during the successful FAA Telecommunications Infrastructure (FTI) program, which the FAA has called a model of government and industry partnership.” 

The contract also requires the DCIS contractor to utilize one or both of the current commercial services providers of air-to-ground network service –– ARINC or SITA –– to provide a VDL-2 service accommodating ACARS messages.

The agency said the Datacomm contract calls for seven years, with 10 additional one-year options. 

Additionally the DCIS contract calls for a Data Comm Avionics Equipage Initiative, an $80 million fund to encourage equipping a minimum of 1,900 aircraft during the course of the first six years of the contract for Future Air Navigation Systems (FANS) 1/A. According to FAA, 10 percent of the funding may be used to equip Part 135 aircraft; the remainder is to be used for Part 121.

“The FAA’s commitment to Data Communications is a critical next step for improving air safety, reducing delays, increasing fuel savings and improving the environment,” said FAA Acting Administrator Michael P. Huerta. “When fully implemented, DataComm will make work safer and more efficient for both the air traffic controller and the pilot.”

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