Communication technology. Data link services mandatory for aircrafts flying above 28.500 feet

As from 5 February 2020, aircrafts flying above the altitude of 28.500 feet in the European airspace must be equipped with appropriate electronic systems able to operate data link services. The deployment of this technology in Europe will improve the efficiency of communications between pilots and controllers, increasing safety and capacity in air traffic control as well.

Operational use of data link has increased steadily over the last years thanks to all stakeholders’ efforts and with the substantial European Union’s financial support. In 2009 the Commission had adopted Regulation 29/2009 laying down requirements on data link services for the single European sky. Data link services are a set of related air traffic management transactions, supported by air-ground data link communications, which have a clearly defined operational goal and begin and end on an operational event. In other words, these are communications between aircraft and ground stations conveyed through data links, complementing the traditional voice communications of air traffic control. 

According to Regulation 29/2009, at least 75% of flights should be equipped with data link capability. However, in accordance with the Commission Implementing Decision 2019/2012 permanent and temporal exemptions exist for aircrafts reaching the end of their production life and produced in limited numbers, as well as and for those for which re-engineering costs would be disproportionate due to old design. 

Marco Stillo