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Flight Crews: New Data Comm Procedures Detailed in Updated Guide

Aug. 4, 2021

NBAA is encouraging operators to review newly approved domestic Controller/Pilot Datalink Communication (CPDLC) procedures now available in a free, online resource published by L3Harris in preparation for the FAA’s expansion of data communications (data comm) across the National Airspace System (NAS).

The FAA’s rollout of domestic CPDLC has been hindered by the COVID-19 pandemic, but national deployment could now be completed by the end of 2022. At the same time, L3Harris has been working with the FAA and OEMs to rectify a problem with lower-than-expected transmission success rates that temporarily excluded many general aviation aircraft from the data comm trials.

L3Harris’s effort has already enabled several GA aircraft types to rejoin the CPDLC domestic enroute participation, and more aircraft will be added. L3Harris also provides an online resource where operators can find the approved list of FANS-capable CPDLC avionics, as well as data comm equipage needs. View the L3Harris CPDLC resource.

“The L3Harris Pilot Handbook is an important and detailed resource that provides clear guidance on key aspects of CPDLC.”

Richard Boll Chair, NBAA Access Committee’s ATC, Airspace and Flight Technologies Working Group

As the CPDLC rollout has progressed, the FAA’s Data Comm Integration Working Group – an industry collaboration that includes NBAA – has been updating resources supporting the data comm program. For business aircraft operators, the most useful of these tools is a pilot handbook maintained by L3Harris that has recently been amended to incorporate new operator procedures.

View the Pilot Handbook for U.S. Domestic Enroute CPDLC (PDF)

“The L3Harris Pilot Handbook is an important and detailed resource that provides clear guidance on key aspects of CPDLC,” said Richard Boll, chair of the NBAA Access Committee’s ATC, Airspace and Flight Technologies Working Group and one of the association’s representatives on the FAA Data Comm Integration Working Group.

“For pilots already using data comm in the NAS, it is important to note the format of route clearance messages. The route message is one of the most powerful functions of CPDLC because it enables the controller to tactically change the route of the aircraft while avoiding the repetition inherent in voice communications. However, it is imperative that pilots understand that for this to work at its best, route clearances must be loaded into the flight management system with the push-to-load function,” Boll explained.

The L3Harris Pilot Handbook also reminds operators using international data comm standards that some procedures are applied differently within U.S. airspace, says John Kernaghan, a Gulfstream pilot and member of NBAA’s Access Committee. “Unlike international CPDLC, you don’t need to tell domestic controllers you are using data comm. And, if you use free text in domestic operations other than in an emergency, it is not supported and the controller will not receive the message,” Kernaghan noted.

Domestic pilots will also find L3Harris’s handbook educational, even if their aircraft’s avionics system has yet to be approved or CPDLC is not installed.

“A lot of this is new to domestic operators, so it is important to understand what functionalities of CPDLC the FAA is spooling up,” says Kernaghan. “This guide also helps pilots stay informed on the progression of data comm and the language used for different types of route clearances, so when it is time for them to use CPDLC – and that time will come soon enough – they will be familiar with the procedures.”

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