ATM Modernization, Regulation

5 Updates on US-Europe CNS/ATM Avionics Harmonization Efforts

By Amy Kluber | December 16, 2016
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[Avionics Magazine 12-16-2016] Civil aviation officials and researchers are working on roadmaps and strategies to harmonize the required on-board avionics needed to operate under the modern Air Traffic Management (ATM) infrastructure and procedures being deployed in the world’s two largest areas of flight operations: the United States and Europe. The Single European Sky ATM Research Joint Undertaking (SESAR JU) released the 2016 version of its annual NextGen-SESAR state of harmonization publication on Tuesday, Dec. 13. Here are five updates on the latest Communications, Navigation, and Surveillance (CNS) avionics-related harmonization efforts between FAA leadership in the United States and SESAR JU leaders in Europe for their ongoing ATM modernization deployment projects.
An airline pilot in the cockpit. Photo: FAA

Air-to-Ground (ATG) Data Communications

Moving ATG aircraft communications between pilots and controllers from primarily voice-based to data-message-based environments is one of the biggest avionics-related goals of leadership for both the NextGen and Single European Sky ATM deployment projects. As it currently stands, aircraft operators that fly in both European and U.S. domestic airspace are required to have aircraft equipped with different avionics to perform Controller to Pilot Data Link Communications (CPDLC), Future Air Navigation System (FANS) in the U.S., and Aeronautical Telecommunications Network (ATN) in Europe. The message sets for each of these communications protocols are functionally similar, but not identical. Harmonizing this current split is one of the main focuses of the NextGen-SESAR avionics harmonization effort.
In the latest CNS/ATM harmonization document, leaders from FAA and SESAR JU say that “Agreement has therefore been reached on a timeline for convergence toward a standard for Baseline 2 (B2) DataComm services to facilitate wider stakeholder buy-in and commitment.” RTCA and EUROCAE released the first of the B2 DataComm services standard in the first half of 2014. According to SESAR JU and FAA, a “second step will allow for the U.S. implementation with a release of a second and final standard for the full convergence toward common B2 DataComm services.”
The new harmonization publication also features a roadmap for consolidated ATG DataComm services through 2036, with a staggered introduction of new harmonized communications protocols in U.S. and European airspace.

Internet Protocol Suite

The ARINC Industry Activities Airlines Electronic Engineering Committee (AEEC) Internet Protocol Suite (IPS) standard development subcommittee defines IPS as a new network infrastructure common to both Air Traffic Services (ATS) and Aeronautical Operational Communications (AOC) safety service applications. The subcommittee, which features representatives from American Airlines, UPS, Airbus, Boeing, Honeywell, Rockwell Collins, Thales and others see IPS as a future aviation communications protocol that will give operators DataComm performance equal to or greater than performance currently permitted by the Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System (ACARS) network that airlines have been using for ATG data communications since the late 1970s. Within the new harmonization document, FAA and SESAR JU avionics experts say that “Moving to IPS standards will lead to reduced costs and improved performance.”
Aviation technology experts in both regions are now also seeking a “profile, Minimum Operational Performance Standards (MOPS), Standards and Recommended Practices (SARPS) and SAE/AEEC standards for IPS.” The roadmap for consolidated ATG data communications services featured in the new harmonization publication shows 2024 as the projected future timeline when IPS can be officially introduce for ATM use in U.S. and European airspace.

Future Satellite Communications

New satcom technologies are expected to play a major role in providing a non ground-based infrastructure capable of supporting future ATG DataComm in the U.S. and Europe. Specifically, the new harmonization document states that new satcom systems will provide supplements to the Very High Data Link (VDL) Mode 2 communications for domestic data communications in both regions.
“Satcom systems are leading the way in terms of offering broadband data channels that will interface to a variety of legacy and next generation avionics,” the report says.
NextGen and SESAR JU leadership also say that additional approval is required by associated spectrum licensing authorities to ensure the use of new satcom systems can be permitted in domestic airspace.
One of the biggest examples of the move toward the use of satcom for CPDLC in 2016 was seen through operational usage and airframer line-fit selection of new satcom equipment. In June, Airbus selected Inmarsat’s Swiftbroadband Safety (SB-S) service as a line fit cockpit communications technology for its A320 and A330 aircraft families. Earlier this month, Hawaiian Airlines also officially announced it will be adding SB-S to its Airbus A321 new engine option (neo) fleet. SB-S provides enablement for CPDLC among other ATG communications.


Automatic Dependent Surveillance Broadcast (ADS-B) is the surveillance infrastructure that civil aviation authorities in the U.S., Europe and around the world are using to replace traditional ground based radar. Regulatory authorities have already harmonized the mandated timeline for ADS-B avionics equipage in both regions, and new solutions have continued to roll out in recent years for operators of different aircraft types to comply with the January 2020 mandate in the U.S. and the June 2020 mandate in European airspace.
At this point, the main collaboration and harmonization work between FAA and SESAR JU leadership centers around “the possibility of including a joint strategy on surveillance that would provide a holistic view of surveillance infrastructure needs,” according to the new publication.

Navigation Systems

The latest U.S.-European harmonization efforts around on-board navigation systems requirements focuses on the development of a joint navigation systems roadmap. The new publication states that this roadmap will focus on the introduction of Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) technologies in both airspaces. GNSS technologies such as Satellite-Based Augmentation Systems (SBAS) and Ground-Based Augmentation Systems (GBAS) will be featured in the new roadmap, which also seeks to address the interoperability of Performance-Based Navigation (PBN) infrastructure as the “redundant or alternative system to GNSS.”
SESAR has also proposed deployment of Alternate Positioning, Navigation and Timing (APNT) based on “Distance Measuring Equipment (DME), to provide Required Navigation Performance (RNP).”
Additionally, the new harmonization report also states that the first version of a draft dual-frequency multi-constellation SBAS MOPS is targeted for 2018.



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