Datalink Business Case Study

Problem Area

As a consequence of the mandatory implementation of Datalink applications on airplanes operating above flight level 285, new opportunities may arise. More specifically, CPDLC Datalink applications may also be utilized below flight level 285 and at Schiphol airport. The aim of the KDC project PRJ-1945 “Datalink Business Case Study” is to conduct an initial identification of potential applications, costs, and benefits of implementing CPDLC Datalink applications that support the operations at (and within close proximity of) Schiphol airport.

Description of work

The study was divided in two separate parts. The first part was conducted by To70 and identified the data link services that are potentially beneficial for the Schiphol operation. NLR subsequently assessed the identified applications from a strategic and economic point of view, thereby appraising the benefit of using Datalink for flight operations below flight level 285.

To70 results and conclusions

To70 concluded that the following applications can be considered potentially beneficial for the Schiphol operation:

  • The microphone check: this is considered a feasible application for all ATC / crew communications. It offers a safety benefit, since it introduces an additional, independent communications channel for solving blocked sector frequency and non-com issues.
  • Direct-to and transfer-of-communication instructions, for outbound and inbound traffic under control of ACC..
  • Planning related information (such as STAR + transition / EAT / RWY) for inbound traffic under control of ACC.

CPDLC is an integral part of the SESAR concept which involves a shift from a tactical to a more plan based operation. For inbound traffic the application of the SESAR concept will mean that traffic receives arrival information at a much earlier stage. As described in the To70 report, such operations are supported by longer and typically more complex clearances. Datalink will be one of the enablers to support this concept. The EC mandate to reduce RT load is a first step in the direction towards supporting future concepts, reducing voice communication with data link and enabling a more efficient flight operations.

NLR results and conclusions

The CPDLC data link service will have added value for the Schiphol operation. A positive relation between the datalink applications and the safety, capacity, environment, and efficiency performance areas has been identified. The analysis has indicated several potential benefits that might be gained through the use of CPDLC. With respect to loss of communication, CPDLC is likely to contribute to safety and efficiency. In addition, CPDLC has been identified as beneficial when used for provision of arrival information to inbound traffic. R/T reductions may be achieved when CPDLC is used for transfer of control.

Given the result of the cost benefit analysis and the future developments driven by SESAR, the following recommendations are made:

  • The quantitative arguments don’t justify the investment for CPDLC in the present AAA system. The investment costs are higher than the expected returns.
  • It is recommended to implement CPDLC as part of the AAA replacement which is foreseen in the 2020 timeframe. This recommendation is based on the following arguments:
    • It is a matter of time until an EASA Implementing Rule (IR) for CPDLC in lower airspace is issued. It expected that an IR will be issued between 2020 and 2025.
    • The implementation of CPDLC in lower airspace will generate benefits although these are insufficient to justify implementation in advance of an EASA implementing rule. Nevertheless when the IR is issued, the ATM system must comply with it.
    • The AAA replacement system is expected to be based on common requirements with other ANSPs, and the related investments for CPDLC are expected to be significantly lower than for an implementation in AAA.



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