The future is now—CPDLC mandate affects international bizav operations
FANS requirements now affect many regions worldwide.
FANS/CPDLC involves a number of components integrated and managed by a communications management unit (CMU). Many aircraft will require an upgraded CVR capable of recording datalink communications in addition to the components illustrated here.
Joining the FANS club
Equipping an aircraft for FANS/ CPDLC operations, according to Duncan Aviation's Justin Vena, is not trivial and "will undoubtedly affect multiple subsystems." He adds, "While fully integrated platforms such as Honeywell's Epic or Rockwell Collins Pro Line Fusion may represent primarily software changes for FANS compliance, retrofit options [for legacy aircraft] will require a deeper level of complexity.
"Honeywell Epic-based systems, such as Gulfstream's PlaneView and Dassault Falcon's EASy, are likely to be addressed by OEM service bulletins [SBs] or STCs for late model aircraft," he says.
For Gulfstream models, an aircraft service change (ASC)—which are performed only at OEM service centers—brings the PlaneView system to "Enhanced Level Foxtrot," which accomplishes the FANS/CPDLC upgrades.
This upgrade enables wide area augmentation system–localizer performance with vertical guidance (WAAS-LPV), automatic dependent surveillance–contract (ADS-C), CPDLC and other features, such as the synthetic vision PFD (SV-PFD). As part of the Level Foxtrot upgrade, Gulfstream G350–550 aircraft are capable of operating to a required navigation performance (RNP) value of 0.1 nm (RNP-0.1).
On Dassault Falcon aircraft equipped with the Honeywell-based EASy system, similar updates are provided through an SB that brings the software to EASy II level. Dassault upgrades are available through OEM-based MROs or third-party providers such as Duncan Aviation. The Falcon 7X EASy II upgrade is expected during 1Q2013.
Demand for FANS upgrades is significant, according to Vena, who often fields 2 inquiries a day for legacy out-of-production aircraft. He offers this advice to prospects. "First, evaluate the aircraft's mission," he says, "then educate yourself and then budget and plan for [the upgrade]."
Operators with WAAS-LPV capable FMS equipment are prime candidates for FANS/CPDLC upgrade. Other system components include a datalink CMU—the brains of the system—a CVR capable of recording datalink communications, VHF transceiver (VHF datalink capable—VDL Mode 2), satcom (Level D certified), audio panels and displays to annunciate datalink messaging.
Due to the complexities of these installations, it is best to plan the upgrade during a heavy maintenance check that requires a service center visit.
Any aircraft currently fitted with Universal Avionics WAAS/SBAS-FMS, such as the Astra SPX or Learjet 60, is a likely candidate for a FANS/ CPDLC upgrade. According to Universal Avionics, a turnkey solution is available that includes the UniLink UL800/801 CMU, data-capable CVR, Level D satcom system (Inmarsat or Iridium), aural tone generator and a panel annunciator (if the displays are not capable of displaying messaging).
The UL800/801 CMU includes CPDLC and ADS-C functionality. (The 801 has a built-in VDL Mode 2 radio.) In addition to satisfying FANS/CPDLC requirements the UL800/801 provides ACARS functionality, flight information services (predeparture and oceanic clearance, D-ATIS, etc) automatic aircraft position reporting, weather information (including graphical weather maps) and uplinked FMS flightplans and forecast winds. Universal also offers a computer-based FANS simulator for flightcrew training.
Finally, Vena adds, "The next question asked, after a plan for the avionics installation is completed, is how do the operators plan to implement NextGen ops?" This is an important question, since it requires a FAA-approved letter of authorization (LOA) (for 14 CFR Part 91 operators) and a maintenance and training program.
According to FAA AC 120-70B, each operator must obtain approval to use a datalink system for communications. Part 121, 125, 125M and 135 operators must revise their operations specifications (ops specs), while Part 91K and 91 operators must revise their respective management specs (mspec) or obtain an LOA.
Corporate operators have reported mixed results in obtaining a FANS/CPDLC LOA from FAA, with approvals ranging from 5 to 32 weeks. To ease the transition into NextGen ops, Duncan and Universal have teamed with third-party training and compliance consultants to assist with this implementation phase.
NextGen at John Deere
Universal Avionics WAAS/SBAS-FMS provides accurate space-based navigation performance (PRNAV and LPV). When paired with the UniLink 800/801 (background) it provides NextGen FANS/CPDLC and other datalink capabilities.
John Deere Mgr Flight Standards Tim Toal adds, "At John Deere, it took a team effort to gain FAA approval since it had both a flight ops and maintenance component." According to Toal, the FAA LOA approval process took approximately 6 months to complete.
Toal, together with Maintenance Quality Inspector Ross Carbiener and Capt Jeremy Scales, formed the team that ultimately gained approval for FANS/ CPDLC operations. Resources included AC 120-70B, the FAA DataLink website and ICAO's Global Operational Datalink Document (GOLD), considered the "bible" of FANS/CPDLC operations.
For operators in the US, including corporate operators, AC 120-70B offers guidance on the concepts, qualifications, operational issues and required reporting. Flightcrew qualifications require datalink communications training (both academic and operational) during initial, transition, upgrade, recurrent and differences training. Maintenance personnel and dispatchers are also required to complete datalink training.