FAA Advances On Controller-Pilot Datalink Availability


The National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) has announced that the FAA recently made permanent its plan to enable business aircraft operators to participate in enroute controller-pilot datalink communications (CPDLC). The announcement came just a month after NBAA and the General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA) petitioned the FAA to act on the issue for the benefit of all appropriately equipped general aviation aircraft.

CPDLC enables aircraft to communicate and exchange information and data digitally with air traffic control, rather than relying on voice communication. According to the NBAA, “The FAA continues to work with the industry to broaden the participation of CPDLC enroute and open the opportunity for business and general aviation to participate in the enroute environment. In August, the agency noted it anticipates opening enroute datacomm beyond the existing trials that have been in place for several years.”

Heidi Williams, NBAA’s senior director of air traffic services and infrastructure, said, “The FAA lines of business have come together and decided on a path forward, opening that enroute environment to the broader industry.”

NBAA said that, as enroute CPDLC is deployed throughout the U.S. National Airspace System, avionics performance requirements for participating in the CPDLC system are evolving. “Once fully deployed and the ‘acceptable’ CPDLC performance requirements are completely understood,” NBAA said, “the defined performance criteria for long-term CPDLC participation will be published.” May 2025 is the FAA’s target deadline for completing this phase.

Mark Phelps
Mark Phelps is a senior editor at AVweb. He is an instrument rated private pilot and former owner of a Grumman American AA1B and a V-tail Bonanza.

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    • I think a gentle rollout makes the most sense here. Try it with a few, then more, then many. Why not do this with the ATIS info also? Any equipped aircraft could display the received burst of data.

  1. It’s about time.
    This is not a new technology. We started using CPDLC years ago on the North Atlantic Track System. Canada began using it for normal ATC communications on routes to and from NATS very soon after it was introduced there. Works beautifully, and cuts down on all those blocked transmissions on “crowded” frequencies. When you think about it, that is how transponders work––data bursts carrying loads of data can be transmitted in a second. It will necessitate new equipment, but when the high rollers (airlines and bizjets) start using it, the equipment will get cheaper as time goes on.
    C’mon FAA. Overcome your inertia and get busy improving the system! Way, way, way overdue!

  2. CPDLC should also be pushed as quickly as reasonable for taxi route instructions!!
    Would remove the possibility of error and allow pilots to confirm route as many times as required without chatter or ESL issues.
    Next step is to push the “burst of data” straight into the FMS for “follow the magenta line” on the moving map!!!

  3. Presumably this communication would be done over 978 UAT? If so the equipment could be inexpensive.

    Either way I agree. The current ATC radio system was designed in the 1930s with incremental changes to add radar and VORs. It was designed for when the sky was large and the planes occasional.

  4. I think 978 UAT is only good wUSA and Mexico. Not for international flights. Also, 978 UAT not authorized above 18,000’. So can’t be used in FL

    If I remember correctly.