July 26, 2022

The FAA continues its roll out of Controller Pilot Data Link Communications-Departure Clearance (CPDLC-DCL), adding Florida’s Palm Beach International Airport (PBI) to the growing list of airports using CPDLC-DCL.

Heidi Williams, NBAA’s senior director air traffic services and infrastructure, said post-pandemic traffic has rebounded so it’s fortuitous the FAA is launching CPDLC-DCL at PBI.

“We are seeing more dynamic re-routes and changes taking place,” added Rich Boll, member of the NBAA Access Committee and chair of the ATC, Airspace and Flight Technologies Working Group. “The FAA took notice of that as well and realized the benefits of getting CPDLC-DCL implemented at PBI. CPDLC-DCL at PBI is a long-standing request from the business aviation industry and was supported by NBAA. It increases the speed with which pilots can process changes and reduces the risk of pilot error.”

That said, Boll reminded pilots to be aware that CPDLC-DCL does not send the SID with the departure clearance and encouraged pilots to always use “push to load” – don’t assume there have been no changes and enter it yourself – and always use the LOAD prompt and reload the SID when a new route clearance is received.

CPDLC-DCL implementation is not without its hurdles. COVID-19 continues to create challenges for training air traffic controllers. Any aircraft with a qualified CPDLC system using SATCOM or VHF can participate with ground-based CPDCL-DCL. Once in the air, though, only VHF mode 2 datalink is acceptable.

Business aircraft operators are reminded that they must not participate in en route CPDLC unless they have approval from the FAA and L3Harris to participate in the operational trials.

An LOA is not required for Part 91 operators for domestic CPDLC-DCL participation; however, the appropriate OpSpec/MSpec is required for Part 91K and Part 135 operators.

“The FAA’s announcement about CPDLC-DCL capability at PBI is great news for business aviation,” said Williams. “Several of the more than 60 CPDLC-DCL-enabled airports are key business aviation locations, including Van Nuys Airport (VNY), Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport (CVG) and now West Palm Beach International Airport. We are thrilled to see the FAA expand this datacomm tower service to PBI.”

Enroute CPDLC is expanding in the Southeast U.S., including Miami Center, which is currently in testing phase. Jacksonville Center will also begin the testing phase soon. Once those areas are fully implemented, almost the entire Eastern seaboard – from Miami through to Washington, DC – will be operational, and it could be as soon as the holiday season or end of year.