March 16 – Data Comm, the NextGen technology that enhances safety and reduces delays by dramatically improving the way air traffic controllers and pilots talk to each other, is up and running at five airports in the New York metropolitan area: JFK, LaGuardia, Newark, Teterboro and Westchester. These airports were among the first to receive the critical system upgrade.
The new technology supplements radio voice communication, enabling controllers and pilots to transmit important information such as clearances, revised flight plans and advisories with the touch of a button.
“Data Comm is helping to keep flights departing on time throughout the New York area,” said FAA Deputy Assistant Administrator for NextGen Pamela Whitley. “This significantly improves flight operations throughout the nation’s airspace, since one-third of all flights in this country each day fly to, from or through New York airspace.”
Members of the media today toured the air traffic control tower at JFK and a jetBlue aircraft for a working demonstration of Data Comm from the perspective of controllers and pilots. Officials from the FAA, jetBlue, the National Air Traffic Controllers Association and the Professional Aviation Safety Specialists were on hand.
The improved efficiency provided by Data Comm saves an average of 13 minutes per flight in New York during times of heavy traffic congestion, typically caused by bad weather. More than 7,500 flights receive the benefits of Data Comm each month at the New York area airports – a number that continues to grow. Data Comm last year improved the flying experience for 10.6 million passengers on 70,000 flights departing from New York.
The technology is being used by eight other U.S. operators in New York – American, Alaska, Delta, Fed Ex, Southwest, United, UPS and Virgin America – and 22 international airlines. Data Comm is installed in 31 different types of aircraft.
Voice communications can be time consuming and labor intensive. For example, when planes are awaiting takeoff, controllers must use a two-way radio to issue new routes to pilots to help them avoid bad weather. This process can take 30 minutes or more, depending on how many aircraft are in line for departure. It also introduces the potential for miscommunication known as “readback/hearback” error.
By contrast, flight crews on planes using Data Comm receive revised flight plans from the controllers via digital messages. The crews review the new clearances and accept the updated instructions with the push of a button. Planes keep their spots in the takeoff line – or may even be taken out of line and sent ahead – enabling them to depart on time.
Data Comm is now operational at 55 air traffic control towers nationwide, following a rollout that was under budget and more than two and a half years ahead of schedule. The budget savings will enable the FAA to deploy Data Comm at seven airports in addition to the 55 listed below.
New York John F. Kennedy
New York LaGuardia
Salt Lake City
Windsor Locks (Bradley)