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Air transport communications specialist SITA, and Egis - through its subsidiary Egis Avia, today announced that they have been selected by NATS to provide the air traffic control service provider with a state-of-the-art data link front end processor (DL-FEP) and Pro-ATN routers. This will enable NATS, which services aircraft flying in UK airspace and the eastern part of the North Atlantic, to meet the European Commission's 2013 deadline for the implementation of controller pilot data link communications (CPDLC) across Europe.

The regulations require western European air navigations service providers (ANSPs) to equip their air traffic control (ATC) centers with data link systems by 2013 and require operators of aircraft flying in their airspace to install ATC data link avionics by 2015.

The DL-FEP and Pro-ATN solutions will be deployed at NATS' area control centers at Swanwick, Prestwick and its corporate and technical centre in Whiteley. The DL-FEP, which was jointly developed by SITA and Egis Avia, will connect the NATS flight data processing systems via VHF data link networks with aircraft systems using CPDLC. It acts as a data link communication gateway, enabling the NATS air traffic control system to seamlessly communicate with both FANS (future air navigation systems) and ATN (aeronautical telecommunication network) equipped aircraft.

Allan Robb, Senior Programme Manager, NATS, said: "We look forward to working with SITA and Egis Avia on the successful deployment of this project, which will add Data Link capability at both our Swanwick and Prestwick control centres. The new Data Link system is planned to be operational in early 2013, in line with the European implementing rule."

Philip Clinch, SITA Vice-President Aircraft Solutions, said: "This agreement with NATS adds to the existing relationships SITA has with the ANSPs across Europe to help them meet the requirements of the European mandate. These include the ANSPs of France (DSNA), Belgium (Belgocontrol), Luxembourg (ANA), the Netherlands (LVNL) and Switzerland (Skyguide) and the EUROCONTROL Maastricht center. The majority of Western European ANSPs now use the data link front end processor and the ProATN router from SITA/Egis Avia for air to ground data link communication."

CPDLC enables pilots and air traffic controllers to exchange certain routine air traffic control messages via data link replacing the traditional means of communication over radio that have been used in the industry for over 50 years. EUROCONTROL, the European Organisation for the Safety of Air Navigation, estimates that CPDLC implementation in European airspace will bring an 11% increase in capacity and a 29% reduction in controller workload. Safety will also be enhanced thanks to the replacement of congested, bad-quality voice channels by data channels where messages are unambiguous and available on screen in the cockpit.

NATS operates 16 ATC towers and 2 ACCs (en-route control centres) and handled 2.1 million flights in 2011. This summer it is preparing for the London 2012 Olympics when it expects to handle 700 additional commercial flights within London airspace, 3,000 additional business aviation flights, many extra helicopter movements per day, and the arrival and departure of 150 heads of state.