Connection with a future

The Upper Area Control Centre in Karlsruhe is the first national control centre to introduce data link which expands communication possibilities between the ground and the cockpit.
DFS Deutsche Flugsicherung was the first national ANSP to introduce controller-pilot data link communications (CPDLC) for upper area control at its control centre in Karlsruhe. Karlsruhe and the EUROCONTROL Control Centre in Maastricht are partners in this endeavour. This will accelerate the development of data link airspace in Europe and the use of this technology significantly. Parallel to speaking with pilots via radiotelephony, air traffic controllers in Karlsruhe can now also communicate with the cockpit using short standardised text messages. Information that can be transmitted covers, inter alia, level clearances, headings or transfer of control to the next controller. Having started the service with one airline, Lufthansa German Airlines, four additional airlines have now started using data link communications with the Karlsruhe Control Centre and the service continues to be expanded. The introduction of CPDLC in Karlsruhe is a milestone in the process of implementing data link in all of Europe. The promising test runs and the years of experience using the system at the control centre in Maastricht have demonstrated the potential of this technology to more effectively respond to an increasing volume of air traffic in the future.

Modifying flight routes and sectors to cope with the upturn in air traffic - as DFS has already done in its concept called Free Route Airspace Karlsruhe (FRAK) - will not be enough in the long run. New technologies are necessary to boost capacity and to offer airlines ways to meet their growing expectations. The introduction of the very advanced ATS system P1/VAFORIT in Karlsruhe in December 2010, which eliminates the need for conventional paper flight progress strips, has already enabled a capacity increase of 11 percent. CPDLC is expected to have direct effects on the capacity of the control centres as well.

The outlook for CPDLC is promising. EUROCONTROL predicts that routine messages, which can be communicated in future via data link communications, are equivalent to 50 percent of the working time of an air traffic controller today. If 75 percent of cockpits were equipped with data link, capacity could be increased by up to 11 percent. CPDLC has been made available in Karlsruhe as part of a EUROCONTROL programme called LINK 2000+ which was launched to promote CPDLC services throughout European airspace.

Data link has been on offer and in use in operations in the airspace controlled by the EUROCONTROL Control Centre in Maastricht since 2003. Around 520 data link messages are exchanged between the control centre and pilots daily. The expansion of the data link network in Europe to adjacent control centres will increase the acceptance of the technology significantly. Both airlines and ANSPs will benefit from this.

DFS, Maastricht's first data link partner, is making a decisive step in moving ahead with this technology. At the same time, data link is becoming standard cockpit technology and all new aircraft have to be equipped for it.
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