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SESAR Deployment Manager Datalink Workshop

The SESAR Deployment Manager held a Datalink Services Workshop (DLS) on 17 January in Brussels to present the current situation regarding implementation of the European ATN Datalink network and discuss proposed landscape for future service provision including the so called ‘Model D’ VDLm2 infrastructure. ERA attended the workshop principally to request information concerning the publication of exemption criteria by EASA and to seek clarity for operators with little or no AOC traffic.

With the intention of creating full awareness of DLS implementation status and future steps, providing an update on the ongoing DLS Recovery Plan implementation, improving stakeholder awareness on the activities carried out so far by SESAR Deployment Manager (SDM), the Implementing partners and all the involved EU Bodies, this workshop was a valuable opportunity for stakeholders, and in particular airlines, to understand how ground-based implementation is progressing across the EU in view of the mandate requiring ANSPs to have implemented by February 2018.

Despite the mandate, there remain sizable areas of the EU that are either not compliant or else have Datalink provision but not in accordance with (EU) 310/2015. The link provided gives more information but in essence, SDM and the European Commission, also present at the meeting informed attendees that letters have been written to those states where ANSPs have yet to implement asking for an explanation.

Another area of concern for ERA members has been the delay in publication of a definitive list of exempted aircraft types for airline operators. EASA, tasked with defining exemption criteria, have produced a list which was subsequently modified to include aircraft that had previously been exempt and exempting aircraft that had previously been mandated to equip. This led to lobbying activity by a number of stakeholders, including ERA, with a view to ensuring that sensible provision was made by EASA in favour of aircraft that were ageing and difficult or disproportionately costly to retrofit and/or planned for near-term withdrawal from service. The European Commission representative informed attendees that the Datalink Services Implementing Regulation amendment has been stuck in the EC legal services department for the past six months however it was now moving which will lead to decisions concerning exemptions being made within the coming weeks.

One issue that was raised at the meeting by one of the Datalink service providers was the issue of spectrum capacity. The University of Salzberg has been commissioned to produce a capacity study up to 2040 which is expected to demonstrate that the planned EU DLS Model ‘D’ VDLm2 infrastructure will not be able to sustain predicted traffic levels (currently, Model ‘B’ is being deployed). Notwithstanding the significant increase in transmission of Airline Operations Control (AOC) traffic, particularly by new Boeing and Airbus types, with an anticipated saturation of both Model’s ‘B’ and ‘D’ by 2025-2030, why is the EC/SDM/EASA not seeking the development of new technologies now? The risk of adopting the yet unproven and limited life cycle Model ‘D’ when considering the longer lifespan of current avionics technology was also raised – what assurances can be provided by the EC/SDM/EASA that avionics upgrades will not be required by airlines when the DLS model is upgraded?

The workshop left many questions unanswered and uncertainty remains for many operators. ERA will continue to focus our attention on DLS as well as ADS-B implementation and report on developments while seeking clarification concerning both exemptions and future developments.

Please contact Russell.dudley@eraa.org if you have questions.