Key software for the US Federal Aviation Administration's controller-pilot datalink communications (CPDLC) programme has been delivered to prime contractor Computer Sciences (CSC).

The on-time delivery of router software for the aeronautical telecommunications network (ATN) keeps the CPDLC programme on track as the FAA struggles with budget and schedule problems in other areas of its airspace modernisation effort.

Airlines are pressing the FAA to keep a high priority on deploying CPDLC, which promises near-term relief from flight delays caused by congestion of the voice frequencies used for controller-pilot communications.

"Frequency congestion is a major contributor to delays. It limits the number of aircraft a controller can handle," says Carl McCollough, FAA director of communication, navigation and surveillance systems.

American Airlines will be first to use CPDLC when it initially becomes operational in mid-2002 at Miami. Bob Baker, the airline's vice-chairman, says: "Frequency congestion is enough of a problem that it could change the outlook for air transport growth.

"CPDLC is a critical priority for the airlines," he adds, urging the FAA to ensure the system is an investment priority. The plan is for CPDLC Build 1, with limited messages, to be operational at Miami in June 2002.

The next stage, Build 1A, with expanded messages, is to be deployed nationwide between January 2004 and January 2006.

CPDLC will be the first use of the ATN "aeronautical internet". ATN router and application software has just been delivered to prime contractor CSC by industry consortium Aeronautical Communication International.

The software was developed under contract to airline-owned ATN Systems.

Source: Flight International