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Entidad Pública Aeropuertos Españoles y Navegación Aérea (AENA), which manages air traffic control in Spanish airspace, has selected SITA to upgrade its air to ground radio network to meet the requirements of the European regulations on the implementation of data link services. The regulations relate to the deployment of VHF Digital Link (VDL) Mode 2, in conjunction with the Aeronautical Telecommunication Network (ATN) or ATN/VDLm2 as it is known.

The agreement covers the upgrade of 27 VHF ground stations, which AENA acquired from SITA in 2002, and the deployment of 11 new stations. It also includes the delivery of an independent VDLm2 frequency, and ATN infrastructure, monitoring platform from ALTYS Technologies.

Spain's airspace, which covers mainland Spain, the Balearic and Canary Islands, is one of the fastest growing in Europe and recent forecasts by European aircraft manufacturer Airbus suggest air traffic in Spain will almost double by 2030. The introduction of air to ground data link services is therefore a major requirement not only to meet the requirements for the Single European Sky but to provide Spanish air space with reduced pilot and controller workload, improved air route capacity and to enhance safety.

Jesus Cid, Head of Communications Division for Air Navigation, AENA, said: "Working with SITA means that we can count on an ideal partner for the essential upgrade of the AENA VHF radio network to meet the requirements of the European mandate related to ATN/VDLm2 infrastructure.

"It is important for AENA that we continue to improve the management of Spain's air space and participate in the Single European Sky project which will deliver both safety and environmental improvements across Europe."

Philip Clinch, SITA Vice President, Aircraft Services, said: "This two-phase project to upgrade and expand Spain's VHF ground station network has already begun and will be completed by next year. This confirms AENA's leadership in meeting the requirements of the European mandate to offer CPDLC (Controller Pilot Data Link Communications) service to airlines operating in Spanish airspace, the majority of which already use SITA's AIRCOM services."

In 2009, a European regulation, the Implementing Rule on Data Link Services, was enacted. This regulation mandates the introduction of the CPDLC application in the European Union airspace. It requires all EU air navigation service providers and airspace users operating in their airspace to be equipped with the required ICAO-compliant technology based around the Aeronautical Telecommunication Network (ATN) and VHF Digital Link Mode 2 (VDLm2) from 2013 onwards.

CPDLC enables pilots and air traffic controllers to exchange certain routine air traffic control messages via data link replacing the traditional means of communication over radio that have been used in the industry for over 50 years. EUROCONTROL, the European Organisation for the Safety of Air Navigation, estimates that CPDLC implementation in European airspace will bring an 11% increase in capacity and a 29% reduction in controller workload. Safety will also be enhanced thanks to the replacement of congested, bad-quality voice channels by data channels where messages are unambiguous and available on screen in the cockpit.

SITA has already been selected as provider for air to ground data link infrastructure or systems by the air navigation service providers of Germany (DFS); EUROCONTROL Maastricht; FABEC (Functional Airspace Block – Europe Central) which groups France (DSNA), Switzerland (Skyguide), Belgium (Belgocontrol), Netherlands (LVNL), and Luxembourg (ANA) together; United Kingdom (NATS) and Portugal (NAV Portugal).