More fully explaining acquisition and use of CPDLC

Historical background, current and future applications, makers of the equipment, costs of acquisition, installation and training.

Line-select options for drill-down submenus on a Universal unit reveal the time-
saving features of CPDLC. Standardized language adds clarity and avoids misunderstanding. Versatility is also built-in with emergency and free text screens.

CPDLC also eliminates errors that ae created with foreign accents and voice anomalies because it types clear text message requests that are legible. CPDLC also reduces radio chatter.

While it is still required to perform HF and SELCAL checks when coasting out, CPDLC coupled with ADS-C will eventually be our primary mode of communications over water.

However, CPDLC is not a total replacement to VHF. Nearly instant audio-rich data, referred to as the "party-line" concept, cannot be replaced in some areas of operation. This is an area between the surface and FL180 where CPDLC loses to this party-line concept. VHF enhances safety of flight in close proximity to other aircraft that could pose a threat.

The ability to hear another aircraft in your area via radio is immeasurable. Another aircraft can report its position that may affect your safety of flight in and around the traffic pattern. Expect to see VHF around for a long time for safety reasons.

What CPDLC & ADS-C have become

With CPDLC, pilots can acquire clearance on the ground 30 minutes before departure via FANS and manually input this to their FMS. ATC can modify a clearance up to 10 minutes after takeoff. Manufacturers and the FAA are still debating whether pilots should have the ability to upload a clearance into their FMS/FMC. Today crews can only manually input the clearance after receiving their clearance.

When airborne, CPDLC is usable once you are logged on with an oceanic controller and in their specific airspace. Each oceanic sector has a built in geographic filter software so crews cannot mistakenly log onto a sector they are not actually in. You must be logged onto ATS Facilities Notification and establish this link with an oceanic controller for CPDLC to work.

This is initiated by the pilot to notify the ATC of the aircraft's datalink capability.
In 2019, CPDLC should be usable above FL180 across the entire US via the FANS network during implementation of Phase 2. Where CPDLC excels is in over water operations.

Logging on and coasting out, CPDLC allows pilots to make clear concise communications to ATC that we long for. With ADS-B Out and In, flightcrews will eventually have the ability to see where other aircraft are, further improving safety over water.

ADS-C provides vertical rate, ground and Mach speed, weather, lateral and vertical deviation reports, as well as pilot initiated emergency reporting and prediction. ADS-C is slower with data since ADS-C reports over the SATCOM, VHF network. ADS-B reports via Mode S transceiver twice per second. CPDLC is operational at 56 airports within the US, creating a faster Nav system.

Not all satellite systems are alike

Cockpit indicator lights notifying the crew of control unit status and satellite and CPDLC connectivity with ATC.

A CPDLC installation must link it to a satellite system, which works through an antenna mounted on the aircraft. Depending on your aircraft, you have a choice of 2 satellite

Western Jet Aviation Founder and Owner Jim Hansen and Dir of Avionics Tim Atkinson sum it up the best. Buyers have a choice of Iridium or Inmarsat satellite antennas; each antenna choice has caveats. Inmarsat – a great system – operates on 3 satellites that orbit earth near the equator. Inmarsat requires a massive motorized rotating antenna to align itself with its satellites.

Visual alert notifying the crew of an ATC communication or uplink. Usually coupled with an aural alert except in critical phases of flight.

Only airlines can afford the space for these huge rotating antennas. Iridium fixed antennas are much smaller in size and use data-burst technology, making them much more attractive for corporate aircraft. Less moving parts equals longevity. Iridium has 66 cross-linked satellites orbiting the planet.

Antennas have a system compatibility problems. One antenna versus another can create conflict issues with all your on-board equipment right down to your entertainment system. And Iridium can experience outages. Clouds, server outage, congestion, a temporary missing satellite in your area, a satellite failure or Inmarsat satellite interference can all wreak havoc on an Iridium signal.

Costs to purchase and install CPDLC in corporate aircraft

If you are fortunate enough to work for a benevolent flight department, you may be in luck when you explain to accounting that CPDLC may be pricey. Otherwise there might be a rude awakening when it comes to CPDLC acquisition and installation costs.

CPDLC installations can vary from $350,000 to as high as $1 million, depending on the equipment you select. Initial equipment investment can run upwards of $250,000, and the older the aircraft, the more expensive the CPDLC installation may be. For aircraft built before 2012, the cost could exceed $1 million.

Some instances require you start with a clean slate. Western Jet has worked on legacy aircraft where entire avionics panels had to be replaced in favor of new radios, FMS, GPS, display data entry devices, as well as new CVR data to comply with the new 2 hour recording requirement. But in more modern corporate jets, they only had to swap out a few boxes in a much simpler installation.

Pricing for a Honeywell installation in a Gulfstream can run from $500,000 to $850,000, while Universal Avionics equipment for Falcon or Bombardier aircraft costs from $350,000 to $400,000 and up. These prices include the mandatory ADS-B or ADS-C, and if you are fortuitous, the installer/manufacturer/seller may include crew training in the package.

As with all new and expensive technology, whether CPDLC drops in price as more operators install them remains to be seen. Most MROs can install CPDLC, provided you purchase an already prepared supplemental type certificate (STC). Western Jet Aviation in Van Nuys CA and Chicago Jet Group in Sugar Grove IL are 2 major installers of CPDLC equipment with proven track records.

Most jet aircraft built after 2012 have CPDLC approval. And in terms of down-time for your CPDLC set-up, Western Jet and Chicago Group estimate around 3–6 weeks for the install and approval process.


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