Iridium To Provide Oceanic ATC Communications
By Eddy Metcalf
July 12, 2011 - The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration
(FAA) will authorize aircraft operating in oceanic
airspace to use its satellite data service for critical
air traffic control communications.
This marks completion of the FAA process evaluating
aircraft flying in airspace under its jurisdiction to
use Future Air Navigation System (FANS) 1/A over Iridium
(FOI) to meet communications requirements for air
The decision is an important milestone in providing corporate and commercial aircraft a cost-effective alternative for implementing FANS 1/A communications. Iridium Communications, a leader in global coverage, provides the aviation industry with an attractive alternative for long-range voice and data communication systems.
is a natural choice for aviation safety communications because
of our high reliability; global coverage; small, lightweight
hardware and the significant cost savings to aircraft
operators,? said Matt Desch, CEO, Iridium.
five years of study, validation and extensive in-flight testing,
we are thankful to all stakeholders that participated in this
achievement ? including the FAA?s Performance-based Operations
Aviation Rulemaking Committee Communications Working Group (PARC
CWG), our extensive ecosystem of aviation partners,
participating airlines, the International Civil Aviation
Organization (ICAO) and the Radio Technical Commission for
believe the FAA?s decision validates our position as the optimal
satellite service for aircraft operational communications, and
opens up significant new opportunities for Iridium in the
aviation market. FOI, when implemented, has the potential to
enable aircraft operators to reduce their capital investment by
In a letter to the FAA, Dave Nakamura, PARC chairman, wrote, ?The global air transportation system will benefit from FANS 1/A over Iridium (FOI) as it provides a practical alternative for Air Navigation Service Providers (ANSPs) to expand data link service and for commercial and business aviation markets to equip their fleets more quickly.
FOI hardware is a
significantly lower cost solution than other Aeronautical Mobile
Satellite (Route) Service (AMS(R)S) alternatives. Iridium-based
equipment is easier to retrofit, draws less power, is lighter in weight,
and provides global coverage, including the Polar Regions.?
In a response to
Nakamura, Margaret Gilligan, FAA associate administrator for aviation
safety, wrote, ?The FAA accepts FOI as a viable means for air traffic
service communications, particularly in accordance with performance
specifications for reduced oceanic separations based on automatic
dependent surveillance-contract (ADS-C).?
?The Air Traffic Organization (ATO) will take appropriate action to
remove restrictions on FOI operations in its oceanic airspace. The FAA
will also advocate removal of any restrictions imposed by other air
navigation service providers. FAA aircraft certification and flight
standards offices will continue to certify aircraft with FOI
important elements of the FAA decision, Damien McCormack, portfolio
director, SITA commented, ?This use of FOI operations would enable air
traffic controllers to reduce separation zones and enhance operational
efficiency without compromising safety, and has the potential to result
in reduced emissions and fuel usage through more efficient routing of
aircraft. In addition, airlines would benefit from global and
cost-effective communications coverage that enables them to leverage
The FAA accepted the recommendations of the PARC following satisfactory completion of a year-long operational evaluation of FOI technology. Other ANSPs are expected to follow the FAA?s lead and accept Iridium as a viable option to meet communication needs in their own airspace in the near future.
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