New Data Comm system reduces wait time on SLC runways

New Data Comm system reduces wait time on SLC runways (Photo: KUTV)

(KUTV) Salt Lake International is the second airport in the nation to adopt a communication system between air traffic control and air crafts called Data Comm.

“It’s a text conversation that we can have with the aircraft back and forth. So we can make multiple changes to it if we have to,” said Chris Bakke, a representative of the Salt Lake control tower.

The current industry standard for issuing flight clearances is a mix between pre-departure clearance and voice communication. Air traffic control sends a one-time message with the flight details.

“A sort of one time, text message to the airline’s company, not the aircraft itself,” said Bakke.

However, on the standard model, any adjustments that may be needed due to weather concerns, altitude needs, or flight pattern issues, the pilot and air traffic controller must communicate over radio.

Voice communication is labor intensive, time consuming and can lead to miscommunications. Data Comm, by contrast, enables streamlined, two-way data exchanges between controllers and flight crews for clearances, instructions, advisories and other important information. It speeds up and simplifies communications, and cuts down on travel delays.

“The more we can do through data instead of voice is going to save us time,” said air traffic controller Jon Risenmay.

Risenmay said planes on Data Comm will be cleared for departure earlier since their process is streamlined electronically.

“Sometimes, they get backed up. We have six or seven airplanes on frequency, waiting for their turn. Instead, I can just hit the button and be done.”

Bakke said the new system will save time, money, and the environment.

“If they can shave off even one minute of taxi time, [Delta] will save $17 million a year.”

Delta currently has the majority of its SLC fleet on the Data Comm system. They hope expand that to 300 air crafts by the end of the year, which is two years ahead of schedule.

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