It’s now been about six months since the Single European Sky for Data Link Services (SES for DLS) mandate from EUROCONTROL took effect. In an effort to educate the aviation community around the world about what this mandate means for airlines, airports, and air traffic controllers, Connected Aviation Today has covered the mandate with a brief overview and a look at what to expect while becoming compliant with the mandate.

In our third and final portion of the series, we offer insights from Andrew Onken, Principal Manager for Government and Air Traffic Services at Rockwell Collins IMS, about what SES for DLS means for aviation operators and what hurdles should be expected along the way.

Here’s what he had to share for aviation operators around the world interested in how SES for DLS directly affects their everyday duties:

Q:  How does the SES for DLS mandate benefit aviation operators?

“The [SES] system becomes more efficient as more aircraft are equipped with data,” explained Onken. “More aircraft are becoming dependent on data enhancing traditional voice communication, and that efficiency only rises with an increase in the right equipment implementation. SES for DLS is driving more rapid adoption of that necessary equipment.”

What this means is the mandate is pushing aviation leaders to integrate the necessary equipment so the system can run as smoothly as possible. And smooth, efficient operation behooves all aviation operators.

Onken followed up, “The end result should be a much more efficient air traffic control operation, which should result in less congestion and better predictability of flights.”

Q:  What challenges could arise as a result of SES for DLS?

“I wouldn’t call them challenges per se,” Onken noted. “The mandate is really just a reaction to this paradigm shift from voice communication to data communication. Controllers will have to learn to operate in a manner that they don’t currently operate in, but it should ultimately make their operations simpler and smoother as equipage levels hit critical mass.”

Essentially, the mandate is responding to trends already permeating throughout the industry and reacting to changing expectations of operators that already exist. However, changing processes is never as easy as it seems, no matter how intuitive or progressive. Those logistical challenges still need to be considered.

The expected issue of cost is already taken into consideration with SES for DLS as well. Instead of having to equip older aircraft or oceanic aircraft that don’t typically depend heavily on ground comms with all of this necessary technology, their exemptions are written into the mandate, making the transition largely painless.

“Newly manufactured aircraft coming off the assembly lines today are already equipped to comply with the mandate and provide more streamlined data communications. They have been since around 2003 or so,” Onken stated. Essentially, costly changes to aircraft that will have little return to the airlines can be avoided.

Concluding thoughts

Many improvements are already maximizing the effects of this portion of the mandate from EUROCONTROL, namely more effective operation of data link services over the years.

“We’ve come a long way in terms of improving DLS performance to the point where it’s perceived that we have recovered the performance of the data link service,” said Onked. “The system is ready for this mandate to really come into force.”

Chelsea Barone

About Chelsea Barone

Chelsea is an editor for Connected Aviation Today, managing the day-to-day editorial activities. Chelsea writes for other federal government and technology industry publications. Her background lies in B2B and enterprise technology, specifically cloud computing, SaaS, travel IT, and mobile devices.