Eurocontrol has received formal letters of commitment for its Link 2000+ datalink programme from air traffic services (ATS) providers, aircraft manufacturers and communication providers. This comes as the Preliminary Eurocontrol Test of Air/Ground Datalink (PETAL) project comes to an end and planning for the transition to operational implementation is under way. Datalink services, replacing voice communications, are needed to resolve Europe's capacity problems.

PETAL, which has been testing datalink communications between aircraft crew and air traffic controllers at the Maastricht control centre since 1998, is due to finish at year-end. Eurocontrol has established the PETAL to Link 2000+ project to ensure that the experience gained during the trial is maintained, allowing a transition to Link 2000+, which is aimed at implementing datalink services in the core area of Europe by 2007.

Maastricht has committed to enhancing air-ground datalink functionality. A new air-ground datalink human machine interface is being installed at the centre, integrated with a new operator input and display system which will support datalink services.

Earlier this year, Eurocontrol and the International Air Transport Association wrote to ATS and communication providers, aircraft manufacturers and airlines requesting formal commitment for Link 2000+. Support has come from ATS providers in Austria, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the Ukraine, says Eurocontrol.

Airframe manufacturers Airbus and Boeing are supporting the programme, as are communication providers ARINC and SITA. Formal commitment from airlines has been less forthcoming, but British Airways has expressed support, while PETAL participants have included Air Canada, American Airlines, Air New Zealand, Lufthansa, Scandinavian Airlines and United Airlines.

An industry steering group has been formed to develop Link 2000+ operational plans and handle safety and certification issues.

Source: Flight International