One of the key drivers to implement the Controller Pilot Data Link Communication (CPDLC) mandate was to increase airspace capacity. As the COVID-19 pandemic has seriously impacted the commercial air travel industry, the spotlight is now shining on CPDLC’s ability to improve communication safety and air traffic management (ATM) cost efficiency. With the expectation that air traffic will be restored in five years, this gives network providers time to improve data link network performance.
Many questions continue to circulate around the Logon List status. Some operators would prefer for this list to be managed by EASA or a local authority rather than by the Air Navigation Service Providers (ANSPs) from a regulatory point of view. At the current time due to COVID-19, it is challenging to monitor the Logon List status due to low utilization of available airspace.
Clarity for Operators
Some operators are reluctant to equip their fleet as they are looking for further clarity on particular items. This includes: instructions on how to use data link and the difference between countries, ANSPs, and National Aviation Authorities (NAAs); as well as access to an ROI model as the cost of CPDLC modifications is high. Eurocontrol have taken these comments on board. In the immediate future, there is a desire to introduce CPDLC benefits to airlines that are equipped, which includes preferred flight time slots, economical fuel and cost flight levels, and more. Also, Eurocontrol shared that a dedicated taskforce will focus on data link harmonization throughout Europe, including making available a clear instructions booklet for ANSPs, flight crews and others.
In addition, questions were raised regarding penalties for non-equipped aircraft that must comply with the mandate. Eurocontrol confirmed that a penalty regime will be established. If not equipped, aircraft will not be permitted to fly above FL285. The only way to overcome this will be to apply for a temporary exemption at local airworthiness authority (if they are an EU member) or EASA (if they are not an EU member.)