EU and US regulators EASA and FAA are joining forces to present a new roadmap for air-to-ground connectivity

The earliest communication with aircraft was by visual signalling, ground-to-air only © unknown author in britannica.com

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) have launched a joint collaborative initiative to rethink aviation connectivity and released a white paper proposal to modernize and harmonize the aviation data communications landscape by 2035.

Airbus and Boeing contributed to the study as aviation stakeholders, providing insights and information that enabled EASA and the FAA to flesh out the vision presented in the White Paper.

Aviation Connectivity supports the various air-to-ground data exchanges essential to supporting safe, sustainable Air Traffic Management (ATM) and efficient flight operations. It does not include the provision of broadband services to passengers.

The exchange is currently supported by a number of technologies that rely largely on limited-bandwidth connections, such as B. VHF (Very High Frequency) data links and first generation aviation SATCOM. While these technologies have served the aviation community well for decades, the systems currently deployed are fragmented and not always interoperable. There is a need to look to the future and upgrade the system to today’s standard using technologies such as broadband.

In addition to the desire to modernize, there is an urgent need for the aviation community to agree on tomorrow’s common solutions due to the increasing demand for these systems. Because future air traffic management concepts, optimized airline operations and the maintenance of the latest generation of aircraft will depend on secure and high-performance connectivity solutions.

The main objectives of the project were that the future connectivity landscape must provide the required security and performance levels as well as sufficient capacity. Another goal was to efficiently use the bandwidth spectrum already allocated to aviation without having to request additional dedicated bandwidth.

The whitepaper outlines a jointly proposed vision for the future aviation connectivity landscape, based on the combination of aeronautical-specific solutions (VDL Mode 2 and SATCOM Performance Class B) – which provide safety and performance – and commercial broadband solutions. Together, these enable high capacity and efficiency at manageable costs.

The paper also includes a roadmap to ensure a smooth and safe transition to the new approach. To support this, the roadmap uses existing or already planned infrastructure as much as possible to optimize the level of complexity between air and ground while providing the required performance.

EASA and the FAA have both committed to supporting research under the Single European Sky ATM Research (SESAR) and NextGen programs and as a next step to supporting the transition strategy outlined in the White Paper.

Patrick Ky, Executive Director of EASA: “For the first time, we have a shared vision across all four organizations in the task force to build modern air-to-ground communications that meet the needs of tomorrow. This is the first step to achieve this, and an important one. We now look forward to working with the many other stakeholders to make this vision a reality.

David Boulter, Acting Assistant Administrator, Flight Safety, Federal Aviation Administration: “Data and connectivity are driving advances in aerospace and are critical to safety and efficiency around the world. We look forward to working together to make the transition to a more modern, harmonized and connected global aviation community.

EASA and the FAA look forward to working with the broader aviation community – including ICAO, as well as regulators, standards organizations, manufacturers, operators, air navigation service providers and communications service providers – to collectively build a safe, capable and harmonized future of connectivity for aviation.

COLOGNE/WASHINGTON DC 11/16/2022

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