NATCA DataComm Rep Chad Geyer: “We are working together as a team to make DataComm work the best way possible”
Friday, September 13, 2013

Data Communications (DataComm) is proceeding well toward a key systems operability test at the FAA Tech Center in Atlantic City next year, said a panel of top DataComm representatives – including NATCA National DataComm Rep Chad Geyer – on Wednesday, Sept. 11 at the Aviation Week NextGen Ahead Conference. Collaboration between the stakeholders is fueling the momentum, Geyer added.

“We are working together as a team to make DataComm work the best way possible,” he said. “We have used the Article 48 process in our contract to pull together members at facilities. We’re looking for safety and efficiency gains in this system.”

FAA DataComm Program Manager Jesse Wijntjes provided conference attendees with a detailed overview of the voice-to-digital communications program and what lies ahead. He stressed that the Agency is working with the stakeholder community. They have solicited input from RTCA and the airline community and balanced that with input from the controllers.

“We want what’s best for controllers, pilots and the service providers,” Wijntjes said.

Wijntjes described DataComm as a “transformational program critical to the success of NextGen operations.” Segment 1, Phase 1 is ongoing and includes 57 towers and their initial departure clearance functions. It’s on track for a first site 2016 initial operating capability (IOC). Segment 1, Phase 2 involves initial en route services and is slated for a first site 2019 IOC. “We have all the pieces in place and they’ll come together in New Jersey next year,” Wijntjes said.

The benefits of DataComm across the National Airspace System include increased controller productivity, leading to increased capacity, particularly with weather ground delay programs (GDP). DataComm reduces the impact of GDPs.

Geyer said that if even one minute were saved per flight through DataComm, “you can add that up and it means that the airlines save money and it’s more efficient for air traffic controllers,” he said. “DataComm can take away mundane tasks so that controllers can spend more time working an efficient sector.”

NATCA National DataComm Representative Chad Geyer (left) and Chris Sutherland, Senior Program Manager, Air Traffic Management, for Harris Corp. (and current NATCA corporate member), listen as FAA DataComm Program Manager Jesse Wijntjes gives an overview of the program and what lies ahead.