FAA NextGen - A step closer with data link network from SITA and Harris

Date: 10 September 2013
Location: Atlanta, United States


SITA today announced a seven-year contract with Harris Corporation, the systems integrator for one of the cornerstone US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) NextGen programs. SITA is providing Harris with the equipment to deploy an FAA-approved aircraft ground station network that will enable air to ground digital data communications. SITA already provides aircraft communications to around half of the airlines in the US.

The contract is part of the $150 million Data Communications Network Services (DCNS) element of Harris' Data Communications Integrated Services (DCIS) Program. Aircraft digital data communication is one of the primary components of the FAA's NextGen system. Moving air traffic control from voice to data communications will increase efficiency and safety. In Europe for example, it is estimated that, when all aircraft are fully equipped, the addition of data link usage for ATC will increase capacity by 11 percent.

John O'Sullivan, Vice President, Civil Programs, Harris Government Communications Systems, said: "Teaming with SITA allows us to provide a VHF data link network providing service to the FAA; enabling the movement away from voice communications for air traffic control to digital data connectivity."

SITA is a telecommunications provider owned by the airline community operating a global VHF data link (VDL) ground station network that enables aircraft communications with airlines and ATC operators. Since 1999, SITA has provided the FAA oceanic centers with access to aircraft avionics called Future Air Navigation Systems (FANS-1/A), enabling a revolution in oceanic ATC. With this network from SITA and Harris, all of the FAA's ATC center systems will be able to communicate with FANS 1/A equipped aircraft. These avionics use the airline industry standard ACARS data link system. Harris will deploy an ACARS message processor using SITA software, to process all the FAA messages in a secure environment and send the airline communications via SITA.

Philip Clinch, Vice President Aircraft Services, SITA, said: "SITA uses Harris VDL stations to provide data link networks to the European Air Navigation Service Providers (ANSPs) complying with the Single European Sky mandate. We responded to the FAA selection of Harris to provide their NextGen VHF data link service by providing Harris the means to deliver this required service, while also guaranteeing FAA-compliant service to the many airlines that use SITA AIRCOM in the USA."

SITA has been promoting, and enabling, the move of ATC to data link since the air transport community launched the first standardization 25 years ago. It developed the required technology in a cost-efficient way and deployed it through network partnerships with ANSPs.

Clinch, added: "We at SITA have been strong supporters of the move of ATC to data link and recognize that the ATC use of VHF data link will overtake airline usage to become the defining factor that keeps VHF technology at the forefront in aircraft communications."

SITA and Harris have been working together since SITA selected Harris 15 years ago to develop a ground station providing the ICAO standard VDL service. Harris will now replace SITA's 330 existing US stations with new FAA-compliant VDL stations. This will be part of the overall upgrade to the FAA ground systems.