Swissair, Northwest Airlines and Honeywell (formerly AlliedSignal) are to join Europe's Preliminary Eurocontrol Test of Air/Ground Data Link (PETAL II) programme in 2001.

PETAL II is Europe's groundbreaking validation of air-ground data links in operational air traffic control. The three-phase programme involves air traffic controllers and aircraft crew communicating by digital data link instead of voice messages.

Swissair, Northwest and Honeywell have committed to joining the third phase of the programme, which will use the aeronautical telecommunications network (ATN). The first stage involved the North European ADS-B Network (NEAN) VHF datalink-4 (VDL-4) infrastructure, while phase two uses the satellite communication-based future air navigation system (FANS-1).

Northwest and Swissair will operate Boeing 747-400s and Airbus A320s, respectively, equipped with Honeywell avionics, using the ATN network in Maastricht Upper Area Control airspace. American Airlines has committed four 767-300ERs fitted with Rockwell Collins avionics to the phase from May 2001.

Honeywell's involvement reduces overall programme risk, says Rob Mead, Eurocontrol's PETAL trials manager. "It also brings a new element to the trials through the short-haul A320s and the first major ATN-equipped European airline - Swissair," he adds.

SAS, Lufthansa, United Airlines, Continental, Air New Zealand and Qantas already perform PETAL flights.

Source: Flight International