FAA and Industry Bring Datalink Services to the Cockpit

The FAA this week named NavRadio Corporation and ARNAV Systems as providers for its Flight Informaton Serives (FIS), which promises to bring displays of text and graphical weather, airspace info and NOTAMS directly to the cockpit. AVweb Publisher Carl Marbach has the details.


The FAA announced Saturday that it has chosen NavRadio Corporation of Golden,Colo., and ARNAV Systems of Puyallup, Wash., as industry providers for theFlight Information Services (FIS) datalink program. This service will allowpilots to receive displays of text and graphical weather, special-use airspaceinformation and notices to airmen directly in the cockpit.

"This is a wonderful example of government-industry partnering,"said FAA Administrator Jane Garvey. "It’s a win-win situation for us all:government, industry and users."

Initial operating capability is planned within six months, with Alaska as thefirst site. The full national deployment schedule will occur in the followingyear. Users will need to equip their aircraft with a VHF data radio and a colormultifunction display to receive the information. Text weather including METARS,TAFS, SIGMETS, AIRMETS, PIREPS and icons depicting surface conditions will beavailable free. Other graphical data including NEXrad radar images will becharged on a subscription basis.

Immediately following the announcement, AlliedSignal said it has agreed toacquire NavRadio and will begin developing the U.S. network necessary totransmit the FIS information. "Affordable graphic weather displays in thecockpit will be a major safety improvement for today’s general aviationpilot," said Frank Daly, president of AlliedSignal Aerospace Avionics andLighting.

ARNAV is currently providing its WxLink service, a low-cost datalink radio toits FAA-certified cockpit multifunction displays. "Cockpit weather deliveryand display is the most important utility to impact aviation since long-rangenavigation," said Susan Hamner, ARNAV vice president of marketing. "Wehave hundreds of pilots using WxLink today and giving testimony to theeffectiveness of this utility. I know of at least 10 situations where WxLink hascontributed to a safe landing which might have otherwise ended badly."

Both providers will supply the radio link and optional multifunction display.Users can opt to use the radio’s RS-232 communication link to power their owndisplay or laptop computer display.

A large part of the United States will be covered by these links byAirVenture 2000, with full coverage sometime after that.