The future is now—CPDLC mandate affects international bizav operations
FANS requirements now affect many regions worldwide.
Since 1996, FANS routes have expanded rapidly from the first North America/South Pacific corridor. By the end of this decade, nearly every region will be affected by FANS/CPDLC operations.
John Deere operates a FANS/ CPDLC capable Gulfstream G550, a GV and 2 Cessna Citation Xs. The G550 entered the fleet in May 2011 and was equipped with a Honeywell PlaneView integrated avionics system upgraded to Enhanced Level Foxtrot standard.
The current Citation Xs and the GV are not FANS/CPDLC capable. However, a new Citation X is on order and the Garmin G5000 (to be installed at the factory) will come with FANS/CPDLC for oceanic using the Iridium network and digital VDL Mode 2 for European Link 2000+. (The G550 uses Inmarsat.)
Before commencing FANS/CPDLC flights, John Deere pilots completed a 1-day course at Flight Safety Intl which included 6 hrs of ground school and a simulator session. This training added 1 day to the normal recurrent training footprint.
In addition, according to Toal, the flight ops and maintenance team really did their homework in preparing for NextGen ops—developing the program included updating manuals, MELs, training and developing a datalink checklist which is used on every FANS/CPDLC flight.
In Jan 2012, Toal and Senior Capt Mike Coffman conducted John Deere's inaugural FANS flight from TEB (Teterboro NJ) to LTN (Luton, London, England) without a hitch. Since then, Deere's G550 has used FANS/CPDLC capabilities routinely over the North Atlantic and Pacific, and now over continental Europe.
On a recent flight to Europe, Toal was able to log into CPDLC over Europe for the first time with Maastricht Control via VDL Mode 2 as part of the new Link 2000+ program. Overall, Toal reports no real difficulties with FANS/CPDLC implementation, but cannot stress enough that it required total team effort for smooth integration into the flight ops department.
The benefits of FANS/CPDLC are clear—airlines and early adopters in business aviation have reaped the benefits of more efficient flight ops and increased safety by enhancing communications in parts of the world where conditions could be described as "sketchy." While the technology enables NextGen ops, implementation affects the entire flight ops organization—not only the aircraft, but the pilots, dispatch and maintenance.
Operators planning on implementing FANS/CPDLC for the first time must do their homework. Beyond the prerequisite education, operators should be encouraged to partner with a capable vendor and with other operators that have established a knowledge base to become true subject matter experts. For international ops, NextGen is a much better way to do business.
Stuart Lau is a senior account manager at CAE Flightscape. He leads the IHST HFDM Working Group and acts as an IHST liaison to the Global HFDM Steering Group. He is also a pilot for a large international airline and a safety and accident investigation committee member. Lau has been associated with Pro Pilot since 1996.