Text messaging may be old hat to cellphone users, but it is still new in the air-traffic control system, where the FAA this week announced that it is now operational at Miami International Airport, the 12th busiest airport in North America. The text-based communication system, known as “Data Comm,” represents “a whole new era of communications between controllers and pilots,” said Jim Eck, the FAA’s assistant administrator for NextGen, in a news release this week. “This translates directly into safer, more efficient operations, helping aircraft take off and reach their destinations on time.”
Airports without Data Comm service must rely on voice communications, which is time-consuming for the controllers and also has the potential for miscommunication due to “readback/hearback” error, the FAA said. Flight crews on planes using Data Comm receive information from controllers via digital messages. The pilots review the clearances and accept the instructions with the push of a button. The change can save controllers up to 30 minutes during busy travel times, enabling more airplanes to depart on time. Data Comm is now operational at 55 air traffic control towers, including those at complex airports such as Chicago O’Hare, New York’s JFK and LAX in Los Angeles. The FAA says it will begin in 2019 to implement Data Comm in air traffic control facilities that mange high-altitude traffic.