Data Comm Now at Sea-Tac Airport

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is bringing new benefits to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport through a technology called Data Comm. Data Comm revolutionizes communications between air traffic controllers and pilots by replacing some traditional voice communications with digital information exchanges.

Voice communication is labor intensive, time consuming and can lead to miscommunications known as “talk back, read back” errors. Data Comm, by contrast, enables streamlined, two-way data exchanges between controllers and flight crews for clearances, instructions, advisories, flight crew requests and reports.

By exchanging digital messages, air traffic controllers, pilots and airline operations centers can communicate more clearly and efficiently. Better communication improves controller and pilot productivity, improves safety, can reduce flight delays and can help aircraft fly more direct routes, which saves time and fuel while reducing aviation’s impact on the environment. Several U.S. carriers are benefiting from Data Comm capabilities at Seattle, including Alaska Airlines, FedEx, UPS, American Airlines, and Delta Air Lines.

The FAA began testing Data Comm capabilities and benefits in 2014 at Newark and Memphis with UPS, FedEx and United Airlines, as well as select international operators. The FAA started deploying Data Comm in air traffic control towers in the fall of 2015.  The technology will be installed in air traffic control facilities that manage high altitude traffic beginning in 2019.

Data Comm is now operational at 55 air traffic control towers. Its rollout is under budget and more than two-and-a-half years ahead of schedule. That budget savings will enable the FAA to deploy Data Comm at even more airports.

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