Next-Generation (Data-based communcations)

Data-based communications is the future for aircraft and maintenance technicians

NextGen Network Enabled Weather (NNEW) is part of an interagency effort to provide users of the National Airspace System with quick, easy and cost-effective access to timely, accurate weather information. Through the sharing of common weather data, NNEW will enhance safety and support collaborative decision making.

Systemwide Information Management (SWIM) is the network structure that will carry NextGen digital information. SWIM will enable cost-effective, real-time data exchange and sharing among users of the National Airspace System.

Collaborative Air Traffic Management Technologies (CATMT) is a NextGen transformational program that provides enhancements to the existing traffic flow management system (TFMS).

National Airspace System Voice System (NVS) will supplant FAA’s aging analog voice communication system with state-of-the-art digital technology. NVS will standardize the voice communication infrastructure among FAA facilities, and provide greater flexibility to the air traffic control system.

Atlantic Interoperability Initiative to Reduce Emissions (AIRE) is a cooperative agreement between the United States and the European Commission to promote and harmonize environmental initiatives and procedures in European and North American airspace.

DataComm Data Communications will enable controllers to send digital instructions and clearances to pilots.

The term universal access transceiver (UAT) refers to a data link intended to serve the majority of the general aviation community and is approved for use in all airspace except class A (above 18,000 feet MSL). UAT is intended to support not only ADS-B, but also Flight Information Service - Broadcast (FIS-B), Traffic Information Service - Broadcast (TIS-B), and in the future is capable of communicating supplemental range and position information. UAT will allow aircraft equipped with “out” broadcast capabilities to be seen by any other aircraft using ADS-B “in” technology as well as by FAA ground stations. Aircraft that are equipped with ADS-B “in” technology will be able to see detailed altitude and vector information from other ADS-B “out” equipped aircraft as well as FIS-B and TIS-B broadcasts. The FIS-B broadcast will allow receiving aircraft to see weather and flight service information including AIRMETs, SIGMETs, METARs, SPECI, National NEXRAD, Regional NEXRAD, D-NOTAMs and PIREPs, Special Use Airspace Status, Terminal Area Forecasts, Amended TAFs, Winds and Temperature Aloft.

These broadcasts serve to provide early adopters of the technology with benefits for more pilots to use the technology before the required 2020 date. Aircraft receiving traffic information through the TIS-B service will see other aircraft in a manner that is similar to how all aircraft will be seen after they have been equipped by 2020. The availability of a non-subscription weather information service, FIS-B, provides general aviation users with a useful alternative to other monthly or annual fee-based services.

The UAT system is specifically designed for ADS-B operation and is the first link to be certified for “radar-like” ATC services in the U.S. Since activated in 2001, it has been providing 5 nm en-route separation in Alaska and is the only ADS-B link standard that is truly bi-directional. Users have access to ground-based aeronautical data and can receive information from local traffic through a service providing reports for enhanced surveillance transponder equipped aircraft and non-ADS-B equipped radar traffic. This is planned to allow users to observe each other directly with high accuracy and minimal delay.

A big part of the good news for aviation maintenance will be the review and revision of need to know information to become a licensed technician able to maintain future aircraft. NextGen will also serve as a spring board to launch us into regulations more in tune with the digital world. AMT


Jim Sparks has been in aviation for 30-plus years and is a licensed A&P. He is the manager of aviation maintenance for a private company with a fleet including light single engine aircraft, helicopters, and several types of business jets. He can be reached at

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