FAA Authorizes Iridium To Provide Oceanic ATC Communications


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FAA Authorizes 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 traffic control. 

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.

?Iridium 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. 

?After 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 Aeronautics (RTCA). 

?We 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 half.? 

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).? 

Gilligan added, ?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 installations?? 

Noting other 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 preferred routes.? 

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.

This FAA recognition marks one more milestone as Iridium wins broad acceptance in commercial aviation as a key component of any cockpit communications solution. Iridium?s aviation industry partners, and their myriad products and services, play a key role in increasing Iridium?s aviation customer base, which is now already more than 25,000 subscribers.

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