Why Upgrading FANS 1/A is a Must to Improve Safety of Aircrafts?

FANS or Future Air Navigation System was first introduced to better the communication and surveillance system in Boeing and Airbus aircrafts operating in remote routes. FANS 1/A has revolutionized the communication system which previously used a High Frequency Radio or HF to transmit information between flight crew and ATC.  

Now, pilots can use FANS 1/A as a real-time tool, where a data link is used to initiate satellite communication for transmitting real-time data. A recent mandate by FAA reveals upgrading FAN 1/A is a must for enhancing the safety and efficiency of aircrafts. 

Benefits of a FANS 1/A-equipped Aircraft 

With a FANS 1/A equipped system, aircrafts can exchange data link-enabled communication with ATC through Iridium or Inmarsat satellites. Business jets have been flying with different versions of CPDLC and ADS-C. CPDLC application ensures smooth exchange of communication between ATC and aircrafts serving as a better alternative to voice communications. ADS-C takes care of the surveillance function, with the latest addition being ADS-B Out that displays an accurate broadcast of the aircraft position via an aircraft transponder.  

The introduction of digital data communication reduces the possibility of human errorThe aircrafts can now fly perfectly at an optimum altitude without burning excess fuel. Accurate data leads to optimized flights plans and dynamic re-routing of airlines. Timely procurement of surveillance data ensures that altitude separation is avoided when airplanes cross tracks 

Improved systems like Dynamic Aircraft Routing Planning and User Preferred Routings save expenses on engine and crew maintenance. An aircraft will have a maximum of 2 CPDLC connections each with a distinctive ATSU. Among the two, only 1 will be active at one point of time. 

FANS 1/A requirements 

Some of the equipments required for implementation of FANS are: 

Communication Management Unit (CMU): 

If you have an existing CMU, you can upgrade it. However, it is important to have an equipped Communication Management Unit for smooth functioning of Data Link. 

Flight Management System (FMS): 

A proper FMS with MDCU or Multi-function Display Control Unit is essential. It shows SBAS/WAAS and GPS enabled accurate signals to the pilots. The system normally comes equipped with messaging and SATCOM dialing facilities. 


If the aircraft is already equipped with MCDU or Multi-function Control Display Unit, there will be no alternations the autopilot system. But it should be modified for both notification and display of messages in absence of MCDU. 

Cockpit Voice Recorder: 

A data-enabled Cockpit Voice Recorder along with a CVFDR or a Cockpit and Flight Data Recorder are required to capture the data sent to and fro. This will be crucial for flight’s safety and security as Data Comm will substitute voice communication 

An Inmarsat or Iridium satellite enabled system with WAAS or Wide Area Augmentation System and GPS help in better management of flights.  

Why ADS-B is a must for aircrafts?  

Operators who want to fly their aircrafts without interruption after 2020 must install ADS-B. You will either need a standalone or an integrated transponder for ADS-B requirement. Upgrading to a Mode S transponder can also make the aircraft mandate-compliant but you need to check the required equipment before upgrade.  

Transforming the future of business aviation with FANS 1/A 

If you want to be compliant with both PM-CPDLC and FANS 1/A+, your aircrafts need to update their Communication, Navigation and Surveillance equipments [CNS]. CPDLC handles the communication part of CNSa crucial part for FANS 1/A+ avionics suiteCNS contains a VHF datalink radio or a proper satcom, ADS -C contract, display unit [DCDU] and a datalink control.  

Business aviation will undergo several positive changes with data link communications in CPDLC. Improved air traffic control is just one of them. Eventually, FANS 1/A will transition into CPDLC-only system eliminating the ADS-C. The ADS-B receivers and Iridium NEXT constellation will allow 100% coverage for all aircrafts across the globe.  

FAA allows departure clearance via CPDLC or Controller Pilot Data Link Communications at 57 airports. It is possible for the flight crew to log onto the network just half an hour before the departure time.  

How will FANS 1/A evolve in future? 

Both Airbus and Boeing are ready to meet the second-generation FANS with Fans B [Airbus] and Fans 2 [Boeing]. The improved systems will be part of the new Aeronautical Telecommunications Network protocol. Both Fans B and Fans 2 will include a CMU-based ATN protocol resulting in a reliable and faster data link.  

The mandate of 2020 is targeted at increasing efficiency in air traffic by streamlining traffic in case of congestion. With the upgrade in FAN 1/A+ there will be less delays for aircrafts waiting for clearances on the ground. Better tracking of aircrafts and timely communications also enable improved performance and greater safety.  

But one must remember that every aircraft is unique with a distinct set-up and a unique configuration. There will be some equipments which will already be compliant with the 2020 mandate. Other aircrafts might need a complete overhaul. But each aircraft will definitely benefit from CPDLC installation as enhanced data comm capabilities are going to make business aviation safe. 

After 2020, it will be the age of PBN or performance-based navigation as per CNS operational requirements. The primary goal of Next-Gen is to create a PBN-enabled national airspace. After ADS-B, it will be the age of PBN capability as most aircrafts will be disallowed from flying in certain airspaces without PBN in their flight management system.  

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