Now that controller-pilot data link communication (CPDLC) capability is deployed in 11 of the 20 air route traffic control centers in the U.S., NBAA and GAMA are asking the FAA “to restore full availability of en route data link communications for all equipped general aviation aircraft.” In 2019, the FAA requested a stop to the use of en route CPDLC by general aviation aircraft, which was followed by the restoration of some service under the agency’s U.S. Domestic Enroute CPDLC Avionics Trial. “However,” according to the associations, “confusion escalated…after the FAA closed that program to new aircraft last year.”

In a March 31 letter to FAA Air Traffic Organization COO Timothy Arel and David Boulter, acting associate administrator for the FAA Aviation Safety Office, NBAA and GAMA asked for an update by April 30. The associations are also seeking information on acceptable performance standards for CPDLC for all operators and a timetable for the publication of guidance documents.

While operators are still able to use departure clearance (DCL) with their CPDLC-equipped aircraft, the situation with en route CPDLC is preventing the use of its benefits. CPDLC enables text message-type communications between pilots and controllers “of non-urgent strategic instructions and clearances, increasing the flight crew’s situational awareness and reducing radio frequency congestion,” according to NBAA. DCL greatly reduces radio congestion for pilots obtaining IFR clearances and even allows changes to be negotiated without having to make a radio call.

“We recognize this is a complex situation as the FAA works to make CPDLC available to all U.S. domestic operators,” noted Heidi Williams, NBAA senior director for air traffic services and infrastructure, who co-signed the letter with Jens Hennig, v-p for operations, safety, and security at GAMA.

“CPDLC-DCL has been shown to reduce taxi delays and improve understanding of ATC clearances, and business aviation operators are eager to resume use of this innovative technology for en route operations,” Williams said. “We look forward to prompt resolution of this situation.”


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