In an important step towards implementing a Single European Sky, the European Organisation for the Safety of Air Navigation, EUROCONTROL, has selected SITA to provide aircraft data link communications services for its Maastricht Upper Area Control Centre.
SITA's selection follows the recent adoption of the European Commission regulation that mandates data link communications for air traffic control across the EU in a move designed to boost air traffic control capacity as voice channel communications become increasingly congested. The Maastricht Upper Area Control Centre delivers air navigation services for the upper airspace of Belgium, Luxembourg, Netherlands and North West Germany. This will be the first geographic zone to benefit from the mandated implementation of Controller-Pilot Data Link Communications (CPDLC) in European airspace. The mandate will revolutionize how en-route air traffic control services are delivered in European airspace as the majority of routine controller/pilot communications that are currently exchanged through voice radio-telephone will be migrated to data link message exchanges, similar to email. The major benefit will be a significant increase in air traffic controllers capacity to handle aircraft and therefore increased overall airspace capacity with a reduction in flight delays. Annual demand for flights in Europe is expected to almost double from todays ten million over the next 20 years. It is also conservatively estimated that implementation of data link across the entire European Air Traffic Management network will result in operational savings of Euros 200 million per annum. The SITA data link communications service will enable the exchange of Controller-Pilot Data Link Communications (CPDLC) messages over a VHF Digital Link Mode 2 infrastructure between the MUACC air traffic controllers and suitably equipped aircraft within its airspace. SITA's selection as the data link service provider for MUACC follows the European Commission Single European Sky Committees adoption in October 2008 of the Data Link Services Implementation Rule. This mandates the EU Air Navigation Service Providers and airlines to be equipped with the necessary skills, systems and services to introduce operational CPDLC services from 2013 in the Western part of Europe followed by the remaining States by 2015. SITA has been delivering CPDLC data link communications services to customer aircraft communicating with EUROCONTROLs MUACC since 2003 when the pioneer phase of the Link2000+ programme was launched. SITA was also selected to provide the MUACC with its Data Link Front End Processor which is used to manage links to aircraft. Approximately 400 aircraft from 15 airlines committed to the pioneer phase. Some 80% of the pioneer airlines have selected SITA as their CPDLC data link communications service provider including Lufthansa, Alitalia, Fedex, Hapag Lloyd and Air Europa. SITA has partnered with the German Air Navigation Service Provider, DFS, to deliver a seamless data link communications service to MUACC that integrates the VHF Digital Link Mode 2 infrastructures of the DFS and SITA, SITAs Aeronautical Telecommunications Network routing infrastructure and 24/7 customer support service. SITA's Director of Air Traffic Management, Akhil Sharma said: SITA is very pleased to have the confidence and trust of EUROCONTROL to be the data link communications service provider that will have the responsibility of delivering the highest performance levels of data link communications services to MUACC over the coming years and, critically, in the first two years of the mandate phase by which time we expect data link-equipped aircraft movements to be in the order of thousands per day. SITA looks forward to working with Air Navigation Service Providers across Europe as they develop their plans to comply with the data link services mandate.