Memphis International Airport Will Be First Test Site for FAA's NextGen Digital Data
Memphis International Airport will be the first test site for the Federal Aviation Administration's new digital data communications technology, which will revolutionize communication between air traffic controllers and pilots.
The FAA awarded a $331 million contract last month to Harris Corporation Government Communications Systems to provide data communications integrated services, with a subcontracting team that includes ARINC Inc., GE Aviation and Thales. Initial testing is expected to begin in November at Memphis International Airport, using FedEx aircraft equipped for the tests.
The transition to digital data communication from the current analog, voice-only communication as the primary means of relaying information in air traffic management will be a major step forward in the FAA's Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen) programs. Data communication will improve air safety, reduce delays, increase fuel savings and enable controllers to safely handle more traffic by reducing congestion on radio frequencies. It will provide more timely and reliable two-way data exchange between controllers and flight crews for departure clearances, advisories, flight crew requests and reports.
If proven, the FAA is expected to deploy data communications in air traffic control towers by 2016 and in air traffic facilities that manage high-altitude traffic beginning in 2019.
The FedEx B777F will be among the aircraft equipped for the new FAA NextGen digital data tests.