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The Big Deal About FANS & Why You’ll Need to Have It (Even If You Don’t Fly Oceanic)

Jul 31, 2018
Paul Damschen, Senior Flight Test Pilot

Paul DamschenPaul Damschen is a Senior Flight Test Pilot and FAA Designated Engineering Representative (DER) Systems and Equipment for Universal Avionics. He has been project manager of several successful designs with key technologies supporting the FAA's NextGen Air Traffic Control Systems. Paul is an Airline Transport Pilot, Type Rated in A320 series, B737, B757, B767, C650, and B300 aircraft. In 2007, Paul was the co-recipient of the Robert J. Collier Trophy – Automatic Dependent Surveillance Broadcast (ADS-B) Team. Paul is also a member of the Society of Experimental Test Pilots.

New mandates have moved Data Communications (Data Comm)/Communications Management Units (CMU) from a "nice to have" to a "really gotta have" category. Aviation authorities around the world approach mandates in different ways:

  • In the U.S., the FAA has for the last several years managed new system requirements largely (but not entirely,) from a "best equipped, best served" perspective.
  • Other authorities have created airspace requirements mandating certain equipment installations in order to fly in that airspace.

Future Air Navigation System (FANS) 1/A+ capability falls into both categories.

FANS 1/A+ Around the World

FANS Oceanic utilizes Controller-Pilot Data Link Communications (CPDLC) and Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Contract (ADS-C), while U.S. FANS Domestic and European operations utilize CPDLC/Aeronautical Telecommunications Network Baseline 1 (ATN B1) and Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B).

U.S. Domestic FANS within the contiguous 48 states is currently phasing in. CPDLC Departure Clearances (DCL) are already available in over 64 airports, the latest being VNY as of June 2018. CPDLC DCL is effectively a text message with your clearance embedded in it. Simply log onto the clearance delivery system using "KUSA" as the log on, and within seconds you should receive your clearance via CPDLC. This capability will expand in the next few years to include enroute CPDLC messaging for ATC communication. If you're equipped with a UniLink™ with Software Control Number (SCN) 31.3 or later, which supports Multi-Frequency and TSO 160a and push to load and FMS SCN 1002.1 or later, you need to do nothing in order to receive enroute CPDLC messaging in the future; you're good to go. These releases are scheduled for the near term, please check with your UA Authorized Dealer/Integrator for availability.

However, beware – although Part 91 operators do not need a Letter of Authorization (LOA) to utilize CPDLC in the U.S., in Europe you will. Therefore, if your system is Eurocontrol ATN compatible, as the UA UniLink UL-800/801 CMUs are, you'll need to complete the operational approvals necessary prior to using ATN, Part 91 or not.

Eurocontrol has not made ATN capability mandatory as of this writing, but it's on the horizon. The original intent was to make it a requirement for operations above FL275, however this requirement may change, be sure to check the Eurocontrol website for updated information. Currently, several European air carriers are participating in the ATN with Maastricht Center.

Even If You Don't Fly Oceanic…

FANS Domestic is coming to airspace you fly in! It's just a part of NextGen, and if you want your clearances and airspace access, you'll need Data Comm in your aircraft. UA has ready FANS solutions for you, either Domestic or Oceanic, or European airspace.

More Information

To learn more about Data Comm Systems with FANS 1/A+, CPDLC DCL, and ATN B1, download a copy of UA's "Understanding Data Comm Systems" White Paper, available here.

If you have any other questions about FANS/ADS-C or -B and CPDLC, let us know! We love to hear from our customers and consider our communications with you to be an important part of our customer relationships.

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