FANS 1/A – Back to the Future Where Data Rules

The combination of growing air traffic, strained and constrained government budgets and higher fuel prices in the 1980s generated demand from airlines, governmental agencies and even passengers for more efficient and reliable flight paths. In addition to spacing aircraft closer to increase capacity, safety had to be maintained and even improved.

But it’s not like the aviation community just woke up one day and said “Hey, let’s be more efficient!” It took a partnership of global stakeholders almost five years to get things going. Starting in 1983 the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) in partnership with Boeing®, Airbus®, Honeywell and other aerospace leaders established the Special Committee on the Future Air Navigation System (FANS). They were charged with developing the operational concepts for the future of air traffic management (see Honeywell by the Letters for ATM). The FANS report was published in 1988.

Essentially, the committee concluded that the application of satellite technology was the only viable solution that would enable international civil aviation to overcome the shortcomings of the then-current communication, navigation and surveillance systems and fulfill the needs of the foreseeable future. Of course, that’s why it was called “Future.”

The proposal developed by the FANS committee eventually came to be known as the CNS / ATM concept – Communication, Navigation, Surveillance / Air Traffic Management – the basic idea being to allow more aircraft to fly more safely and more efficiently within a given amount of airspace. CNS / ATM utilizes global communications systems, global navigation systems, and Automatic Dependent Surveillance (ADS) to provide a range of air traffic communications services.

First Implementation

Boeing and Honeywell built the FANS application to run using the existing ACARS system. (ACARS is a datalink system using the telex format going back to the late 1970s for transmission of short messages between aircraft and ground stations via high frequency radios or satellite.) This avionics package became known as FANS-1 and was certified on a 747-400 in 1995. The Airbus equivalent system is known FANS-A, and these systems are known collectively as FANS-1/A.

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration and Transport Canada Civil Aviation have now mandated FANS 1/A requirements for certain North Atlantic airspaces, and the European Aviation Safety Agency mandated the Aeronautical Telecommunications Network, Level B1 (PM-CPDLC capability) requirement for Continental European airspace.


FANS provides a variety of benefits, including: More efficient and more direct routing; increased payload capability, especially for takeoff-weight-limited flights; reduced fuel burn; reduced separation between aircraft and less dependence on HF voice radio, which is subject to noise and propagation disruptions.


FANS Data Comm Components

FANS 1/A requires direct data link communication between the pilot and the air traffic controller, known as Controller Pilot Data Link Control (or CPDLC) and an automatic surveillance link between the aircraft and ground, known as Automatic Dependent Surveillance – Contract (or ADS-C).

Controller Pilot Data Link Communications (CPDLC)

CPDLC is an air/ground data-link application using satellite communications that enables the exchange of text messages between controllers and pilots. It complements traditional voice communications by providing pilots and controllers with an additional mode of communications.

CPDLC is the primary means of communication in the North Atlantic Tracks Region, Oceanic and other remote regions.

Additionally in 2020, aircraft operating over land in Europe will be required to have Protected Mode-Controller Pilot Data Link Communications (PM-CPDLC) equipment. PM-CPDLC enables pilots and ATC to send pre-set or “canned” data messages between the ground and the aircraft but does not include a surveillance component.

Automatic Dependent Surveillance - Contract (ADS-C)

ADS-C, which replaces air traffic control radar contact, is an automated position reporting system in which the air traffic controller sets up a “contract” with the aircraft’s navigational system to report its position at regular intervals.

In 2020 FANS 1/A will require all aircraft flying at all flight levels on the North Atlantic Tracks Region – a series of six “highways” across the North Atlantic – to use ADS-C.

Fast Forward to 2020

It has been said that time waits for no one and this is particularly true of the 2020 deadline for mandates compliance. So the best time to upgrade is now. Several business jet maintenance, repair and overhaul centers have received Supplemental Type Certificates to upgrade your aircraft, but their calendars are filling fast. Your window of opportunity narrows the longer you dither.

Need more details? Visit Honeywell Mandates Solutions on the web.

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