Emma Kelly/LONDON

A business case for the implementation of datalink communications in Europe will be completed by an industry team involving airlines, air navigation service providers, airframe manufacturers and associations by the end of this year.

The European working group - the CAFT/Euro Datalink Focused Group - has been formed by the CNS/ATM Focused Team (C/AFT) and interested stakeholders. The airline-led C/AFT group, which includes the International Air Transport Association, Eurocontrol, the US Federal Aviation Administration, Boeing and Airbus, was set up in 1996 to develop economic cases to support communications, navigation and surveillance/ air traffic management (CNS/ ATM) implementation.

The business case will cover implementation of operational datalink services for air traffic control and airline operations control between 2002 and 2007. Completion by the end of this year will coincide with the publication of Eurocontrol's Link2000+ programme document, which will outline Europe's plans. The Eurocontrol Council will review the implementation plan and supporting business case in April 2000. Eurocontrol believes that the business case developed by the CAFT group will be instrumental in convincing stakeholders to invest in datalink and will provide a basis for the air navigation organisation's management to adopt the Link2000+ programme.

The CAFT/Euro Datalink Focused Group will hold a review workshop in September at which industry feedback will be sought on the business plan. A final review workshop is planned for year-end.

Air-ground datalink implementation in Europe is seen as necessary due to voice-frequency capacity limits, expected to be reached about 2006. Datalink communications would also improve the quality of air traffic control services. The CAFT study will focus on the core area of Europe, where datalink would be instrumental in solving delay problems which are mostly capacity related. As deployment of datalink is expected to take five to seven years - about the same time as capacity saturation - implementation should start as soon as possible, says Eurocontrol.

Source: Flight International