May 31, 2011

Data-Comm Continued

My last post started a discussion. I continued thinking about what I wrote and how I feel about what I wrote. My guess is that if you are very involved selling data-link to the government you would not invite me to your party. And that is a shame, because I want it, and I'd like to help you make it work for me as a controller. I know it doesn't seem like there's room in this world for moderation or flip-flopping or whatever. As a safety minded controller, I just came right out of the gate with two good reasons not to dismantle the air-ground radios we use now. I may have prefaced it all with "this is why data-link isn't getting off the ground", but I digress.

Data-link (text messages to flight decks) should be expanded beyond the current use of issuing route clearances to airliners at major airports. But it shouldn't be the only form of communications available. Can we afford voice and data-link? Can we afford not to have both? Can we have this conversation?

Let me give you two situations where data-link would really help:

1 - A plane is flying along and has a radio failure. We exchange clearances via text message. YAY!

2 - An Iberian A340 is flying westbound to Ohare through my sector. There are storms over central and southern Michigan. All Ohare traffic is now being rerouted. Have you ever tried to issue a long reroute to a pilot that speaks English as a third language when your sector has 25 other planes in it? How about the other 6 Ohare arrivals in my sector? It sure would be nice to say "American 734, American 12, Emirates 866, Iberian 38, United 792, Eagle Flight 3941, and Flagship 7833, there is a reroute to Ohare, please check your printer, thank you, acknowledge with an ident". And my D-side highlights those planes in his URET, types SYR..YWT..TVC..GRB..MSN.BULLZ1.KORD, SEND. Roger that. Eliminating all repeats on routing clearances would be VERY nice.

And now that that ball is rolling, there are other things that would be nice to see in the 21st century. My D-side could select "send route as displayed in URET". There could be a "Contact Center on (whatever sector has track control's frequency)" button" When a message is sent, the datablock would indicate that somehow, and then change when the message is received. We'd only need to send one message to each plane at a time since we still have voice communications as a primary way to issue clearances.

Any other ideas?

Thanks for the comments so far.

Till next time....



Don Brown said...

Five bucks says your first text message received is;

"Any chance we can get direct ATL?"


Keep on plugging away, DM. You're doing good.

Don Brown

Mike said...

We use this out in the Ocean in ZNY and I will admit your absolutely right. We use it all day long for routing clearances and even basic things like a climb or descent if we don't need it quick. It is also great for freq changes and other menial things like finding out when aircraft are able higher. It is being used in Europe by Eurocontrol for things you just said. They use it in a way that the H handles any reroutes and sends any freq changes to the plane allowing you as an R side to focus specifically on separating and vectoring aircraft. If its implemented right it would help us a lot on the domestic side but many smaller aircraft are not equipped with it.

Kevin said...

I can see some real benefit from communications such as this but as Praxis mentioned in a comment in the previous post there are some real concerns with implementing something like this.

Typically I find myself giving a brief synopsis of the rides to each pilot as they check on. If I don't, I know they're going to come back and ask anyway so I give the a quick idea of what to expect. It would be nice to have this information in the form of a datalink that could be sent to each aircraft saving me the trouble.

But as Praxis mentioned; I can't see it being used for control instructions, other than possibly reroutes as described in your post.

HD Avaitors said...

Wow, How I wish I could fly an airplane to know all these things.. :)

Tom Brusehaver said...

CPDLC (controller pilot data link communication) is how all this is done.

I wrote some of the ATOP (oceanic) software, and CPDLC was built in. It uses preformatted messages, so theoretically, the FMS will be able to read the message for the pilot. The pilot can scan the message and push OK and the autopilot will start flying the reroute. No retyping.

I then moved on the ERAM. CPDLC was to be in the second or third revision, to be released in 2011. (of course, that was when IOC of ERAM was to be in 2008). I left in 2007 so I can't tell when it will be delivered to ERAM.