British Airways plans to launch a six-month trial of wireless gatelink communication technology at London Heathrow Airport, starting in March or April. Initially, a Boeing 747-400 will be equipped with a gatelink antenna, radio modem unit and an airborne server in a project also involving SITA, Rockwell Collins and Penny & Giles.

A second 747-400 will join the programme later, says Matthew Brown, BA senior development engineer and gatelink project leader.

London Heathrow Terminal Four is equipped with the ground infrastructure, which is undergoing testing. BA is considering extending the trial to additional UK airports and aircraft types.

In the first instance, BA intends to test two applications with the wireless local area network technology - downloading quick access recorder data and built-in test equipment from the Rockwell Collins Total Entertainment System. The airline wants to explore additional applications after the initial six-month period. "Within BA there is a lot of cross-departmental interest, and we are formulating different applications now," says Brown.

Wireless gatelink technology has been identified as offering huge potential for the transfer of airline data. Possible applications include updating navigation databases, uploading passenger profiles, aircraft monitoring and maintenance data, in-flight entertainment data, apron data communications, and even air traffic services applications.

The technology forms the basis of the Condor/Rockwell Collins-led Condor Aircraft Integrated Network project. It is also the subject of a Eurocontrol study, due to be completed early next year.

The Brussels-based air navigation organisation has identified wireless datalink communication systems for future air traffic management applications.

Source: Flight International