Nov. 5, 2015

The FAA is rolling out Controller Pilot Data Link Communications-Departure Clearance (CPDLC-DCL). Currently, only George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston, TX (IAH), William P. Hobby Airport in Houston, TX (HOU) and Salt Lake City International Airport in Utah (SLC) are operational, however, the FAA plans to bring 56 airports online by the end of 2016.

Business aircraft operators should note that New Jersey’s Teterboro Airport (TEB) is scheduled to be operational by the end of the March 2016. Aircraft equipped with FANS 1/A can log on to CPDLC-DCL at participating towers to obtain an IFR clearance.

“A DCL clearance may include a re-route, and the initial clearance may be amended as needed until departure,” noted Wayne Colyer, with NBAA’s Access Committee. “Based upon equipment capabilities, both initial and amended clearances can be loaded into the FMS with the push of a button. In order to participate the aircraft has to have FANS 1/A, crews have to be trained on CPDLC – DCL, and companies need to include SOPs for DCL in their ops manuals.”

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

Operators now enrolled in the pre-departure clearance (PDC) program may establish a clearance fallback hierarchy in the subscriber data base or ICAO flight plan by adding a Z in block 10a and in block 18 adding DAT/1FANS2PDC.

“This annotation allows the clearance to revert to PDC if CPDLC service becomes unavailable, but voice is the ultimate fallback,” Colyer said. “Operators may be unable to participate as OEMs are in various stages of upgrading hardware and software.”

View a CPDLC-DCL instructional video.

View the FAA Flight Deck User’s Guide for CPDLC-DCL.

The domestic PDC system differs from CPDLC-DCL in that:

  • It is sent by a service provider (GDC, ARINC, etc.) over ACARS or by email
  • PDC can only be used by a flight at a specific airport once in a 24-hour period using the same flight ID
  • The clearance will only be sent as a PDC clearance if you are cleared as filed. A logon is not required and normally the clearance cannot be requested sooner than the proposed departure time plus 30 minutes (P+30) At this time there is no plan to change the PDC program, which uses VHF data link.

Operators should note that the European DCL system is similar to the U.S. PDC system. It too is transmitted over ACARS and a logon is not required. Some airports will send the clearance at P+30, though others will not issue the clearance until closer to the departure time.