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CPDLC Explained: A Pilot's Perspective

UJ Pesonen is a demonstration pilot with Textron Aviation. He began his career with engineering flight test in 2005 and has flown for the demonstration team for several years. One of his favorite features inside of the cockpit is CPDLC which stands for Controller Pilot Data Link Communication. He describes it as intuitive and easy for pilots to learn.

"That is really texting, like you text on your phone, but it's air traffic control and pilots texting back and forth," Pesonen explained. "Some advantages of CPDLC are reduced pilot workload and therefore more situational awareness all around. And then the clarity of communication. So, messages from air traffic control are less likely to be misinterpreted when you can import them into your FMS and you can read them on a screen rather than listen to them," he finished.

Pesonen explains why, from his perspective, CPDLC makes the pilot’s job easier.

"There are preset messages. If ATC sends you a request or a new clearance, there's the Wilco or Roger already preselected for you. If you're unable, then you select that from a list. If you want to request a new altitude, new routing, there are preset requests and then you just enter that altitude in there. You don't have to be creative; you just look through the menus and you select the option that you need. So (it is) very straightforward."

Pointing out the ease of the upgrade is only the beginning of why Pesonen enjoys CPDLC. He notes that having it available on multiple avionics platforms makes it more versatile. He has used the software both on international flights and domestic routes and notes the differences are not that unique.

"If you're somewhere, say Oceanic, instead of all regions, I would go select North Atlantic, and now I've got a number of options like Reykjavik, Gander Oceanic, Shanwick, or others. In the U.S. it's easy. It's always going to be KUSA across the whole nation. Once you have your destination selected, you only have to press one button to arm the connection," Pesonen demonstrated.

Having used CPDLC on hundreds of flights, Pesonen described how it has made his job on the runway easier.

"If you're at a busy airport and they change direction of flow, CPDLC can give you a full route clearance while you're taxing, instead of writing that down CPDLC alerts you can import it into your flight plan, verify the fixes, then you're done."