Spain and Portugal Partner with SITA to Meet 2013 Data Link Deadline

SITA is partnering with the Spanish and Portuguese air navigation service providers (ANSP) to deliver data link infrastructure for pre-operational testing in preparation for the introduction of controller pilot data link communications (CPDLC) across the Iberian Peninsula by 2013.

The news comes as Spain’s Aeropuertos Españoles y Navegación Aérea (AENA) and NAV Portugal continue talks on forming a single Functional Airspace Block in the context of the Single European Sky initiative.

The introduction of CPDLC by 2013 in European Union airspace is being driven by the Single European Sky’s Data Link Services Implementation Rule, which requires all air navigation service providers and airspace users operating in the upper EU airspace to be equipped with the required ICAO-compliant technology based around the aeronautical telecommunication network (ATN) and VHF digital link mode 2.

Reducing air traffic controller workload

CPDLC is a service which enables pilots en-route and air traffic controllers to exchange certain routine air traffic control (ATC) messages via data link and will replace the traditional means of communication over radio telephone that have been used in the industry for well over 50 years. The result will be reduced air traffic controller workload, thus enabling increasing numbers of aircraft to be managed safely and at the same time a reducing the risk of verbal misunderstandings.

AENA, through its partnership with SITA, owns and operates a network of 29 VHF ground stations across Spanish airports capable of delivering both VHF digital mode 2 and aircraft communications and reporting services (ACARS) protocols for both ATC and airline operational centre (AOC) traffic. The deployment was completed in 2004 and since then the two companies have developed a strong working relationship in the coordinated delivery of the highest levels of data link services.

This latest development in the partnership involves SITA providing AENA with a complete simulator with the necessary end-to-end data link infrastructure including an ATN router, data link front end processor (DL-FEP) and a test air traffic controller human machine interface(HMI) supporting CPDLC transactions. The test ATN Router, ProATN, is an EGIS Avia product and the test DL-FEP is a joint SITA/EGIS Avia product initially developed for the EUROCONTROL Maastricht upper area control centre and the DFS Karlsruhe air traffic control centre.

Jesus Cid, head of the Aena’s air navigation communications division, said: “AENA is proud to be at the forefront of complying with the Data Link Services Implementation Rule so we can enhance the safety of our airspace through the delivery of CPDLC services to all aircraft.”

First step of SITA’s partnership

The first step of SITA’s partnership with NAV Portugal involved the deployment of a fully-equipped SITA VHF ground station supporting both ACARS and the VDL digital mode 2 protocol as mandated in the Implementation Rule. SITA also provided the AMOS monitoring system which enables the NAV Portugal engineers to ensure 24/7 operation of the VHF ground station.

NAV Portugal is the first ANSP in the world to benefit from a complete internet protocol (IP) gateway for all air/ground and ground/ground data exchanges supporting ATC control applications. The deployment of both the VHF ground station and IP gateway was completed within a very demanding timescale of three months.

Carlos Alves, director of technical studies and projects for NAV Portugal said: “We are well on the way to deploying the complete set of infrastructure required to meet the 2013 deadline. Our collaboration with SITA has helped us enormously to meet our evolving needs.”

Akhil Sharma, SITA’s head of air traffic management said: “CPDLC implementation in high-density domestic airspace is set to revolutionise the manner in which air navigation services are delivered in Europe and will set the standard for the rest of the world. AENA and NAV Portugal are to be congratulated for leading the way. They are among the early adapters and will have no difficulty meeting the 2013 deadline which is so essential to the creation of a Singe European Sky.”

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