FROM THE FLIGHT DECK

CONTROLLER COMMUNICATIONS

From the Flight Deck features insights from the core of our aviation family – Jet Linx pilots!

Jet Linx Director of Operations Mike Kopp shares his insights on different topics in the aviation field.

In this issue, learn more about controller communications with Mike Kopp, Jet Linx Director of Operations and longtime pilot.

Clear and concise communications between pilots and controllers are essential to our Air Traffic Management Systems and flight safety. These communications separate air traffic by assigning routes and altitudes, alert pilots of conflicting traffic, provide position reports and assist in any potential emergency.

Primary communications between pilots and controllers are done by VHF radio. This radio provides for clear communications in the terminal area and domestically over short-range routes. It also has limitations, requiring frequent hand-offs (frequency changes) and often frequencies get busy with numerous aircraft under control on the same frequency. This requires the expert diligence of the flight crew to listen for instructions and read them back for confirmation.

Remote and oceanic routes often cannot be supported by VHF radio. Communication in these regions has typically been accomplished using HF radios (UHF frequency bands) with much longer range. Satellite communications are available as an alternative and back up to HF, using the Inmarsat and Iridium networks via flight phone.

The next phase in aviation communications is the most exciting and will change the way we operate globally – the ability to transmit data wirelessly via ground station or satellite. Controller Pilot Data Link Communications (CPDLC) protocols are now in place throughout many Oceanic Areas, and are quickly becoming mandatory in these areas. Various countries including the U.S. have begun using CPDLC domestically on a limited basis. CPDLC allows pilots and controllers to communicate through the aircraft’s navigation systems in a text format. Much like text messaging, it creates a record of communication and is less likely to be misunderstood due to accent, pronunciation or poor radio reception. It will reduce the number of hand-offs, and allow clearances to be loaded directly from the message into the navigation system to prevent inadvertent entry errors.

These advanced communications coupled with the mandates for ADS-B and ADS-C continue to improve the situational awareness of pilots and controllers to a level we could not have imagined 20 years ago.