[Avionics Today 02-27-2015] The European Commission (EC) has decided to delay its mandate for operators to equip their aircraft with Controller-Pilot Data Link Communications (CPDLC) until February 2020. Technical issues related to the radio frequency environment and the ground-based data link communications infrastructure led to the EC amending its existing regulation, which would have mandated CPDLC equipage on all legacy aircraft flying above 28,500 feet in European airspace.
An image depicting what a pilot sees in the cockpit when using Controller-Pilot Data Link Communications (CPDLC). Photo: NATCA.
"I can indeed confirm to you some recent important developments related to the implementation of Regulation (EC) No 29/2009," Gzim Ocakoglu, a policy officer with the EC Directorate for Mobility and Transport told Avionics Magazine.
According to the EC's amended regulation, an investigation into the implementation of Data Link Services (DLS) ground infrastructure found technical issues with disconnections known as Provider Aborts (PAs) reported by Air Navigation Service Providers (ANSPs) and operators. "For that reason, certain air navigation service providers have already taken mitigation measures, consisting of the restriction of DLS operations to aircraft equipped with specific avionics through so-called ‘white lists,’ so as to address potential safety impacts of those PAs in the operations of data link service," the EC notes.
Europe is looking to implement the ground infrastructure necessary to facilitate CPDLC operations to supplement the increasingly congested voice communications channels currently used as the primary means of exchanging information between Air Traffic Controllers (ATC) and pilots. Compliance with the retrofit mandate requires aircraft to be equipped with a Future Aircraft Navigation System (FANS) 1/A or a router, antenna, CPDLC messaging interface and device, alerting system and a VHF Data Link (VDL) Mode 2 radio.
In 2014, the European Regions Airline Association (ERAA) reported that an investigation into the use of CPDLC in European airspace led by the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) concluded that only 40 percent of operators would be ready to use the technology by February. The same investigation estimated that only 70 percent of the necessary ground infrastructure to facilitate data link communications would be ready for use.
Ocakoglu said that the three main elements of the amending regulation include:
1. The regulation itself will be applicable from Feb. 5, 2018
2. The new ground DLS infrastructure implementation date will be Feb. 5, 2018
3. The new airborne implementation date will be Feb. 5, 2018
The EC has required the Single European Sky ATM Research Joint Undertaking (SESAR JU) to draft a work plan for further investigation. SESAR JU's work plan will include two phases of studies and remedial actions deemed necessary to address the data link ground infrastructure issues and the finding and validation of technical airborne solutions. Preliminary results and remedial actions are expected by 2016, although the EC estimates further validation "may require two more years."
Despite the delay in the equipage requirements, the EC is still moving forward with aggressive measures to flight test and validate CPDLC functionality throughout European airspace. Earlier this week, the EC’s Innovation and Networks Agency (INEA) awarded the A6 Alliance of Air Navigation Service Providers funding to define the best model for provision of the DLS communication infrastructure. Germany’s ANSP, Deutsche Flugsicherung (DFS), will lead the work to assess technical, organizational, and governance requirements for the European air-to-ground data link infrastructure.
You can read more about CPDLC equipage, ground infrastructure issues and flight testing programs in the United States and Europe in our recent in-depth article, “TCPDLC: Transitioning to Controller Pilot Data Link Communications.”