Chicago Airports Get Data Comm Technology

The Federal Aviation Administration installed Data Communications (Data Comm) technology at the Chicago airports Friday.

Data Comm technology will help reduce wait times at Chicago O’Hare and Midway airports by allowing pilots and air traffic controllers to send takeoff information via text communication.

Controllers enter flight departure information into their computers and electronically send the information to the aircraft’s flight deck. The pilots read the information, confirm that they’ve seen it, and press a button to send the instructions into the aircraft’s flight management system.

Data Comm is part of the Federal Aviation Administration’s NextGen initiative, which seeks to update information management, create fuel savings, reduce costs, increase the number of flights, grow safety measures, and decrease carbon dioxide emissions. The FAA began issuing Data Comm technologies to air traffic control towers in 2015 and has equipped more than 50 towers with Data Comm systems. The next phase includes expansion into en route airspace, which will begin in 2019.

The concern with traditional voice communication is that it can lead to miscommunication. When pilots read back a series of complicated instructions and make one error, they must reread the instructions until they’re completely correct. This can take two to three times longer than takeoff instructions sent by Data Comm, according to the FAA.

Data Comm is expected to save more than $10 billion over the 30-year life cycle of the program and could save the FAA about $1 billion in future costs.

Other airports equipped with Data Comm technology include Salt Lake City (SLC) International Airport. The FAA has also updated satellite air traffic control procedures in Southern California airports such as Los Angeles International (LAX), Palm Springs International (PSP), and San Diego International (SAN).

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