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ARINC celebrates ten years of VDL Mode 2

Nov. 18, 2010, Annapolis, MD - It began in 1998 as a proof-of-concept on a few ground stations in the Pacific Northwest. The goal was to squeeze ten times as much message content into the narrow spectrum of ARINC’s VHF data link service, and provide enhanced value to the aviation community.


November 18, 2010
Carey Fredericks

Success came in less than 3 years, and the first operational flight using ARINC’s new VDL Mode 2 communications network took place on November 20, 2000.

Ten years later, ARINC’s digital air/ground data link network now plays a critical role in day-to-day aviation operations. It supports the world’s busiest airspaces in 19 countries, delivering the extra data capacity carriers need for safe operation and modern flight applications in today’s crowded skies.

“ARINC anticipated demand for digital data link bandwidth, and by investing resources early we became the dominant provider of VDL Mode 2 services in North America and globally,” recalls Ron Hawkins, ARINC Vice President, Commercial Aviation Services.

Between 2000 and 2003, ARINC deployed hundreds of domestic US VDL Mode 2 capable ground stations, providing coast-to-coast VDL Mode 2 enroute coverage for all major airline customers. It followed in 2003 by deploying VDL Mode 2 infrastructure in Europe and winning the first VDL Mode 2 contract from EUROCONTROL for Controller/Pilot Data Link Communications (CPDLC). The same year, ARINC partnered with Japan’s AVICOM to deliver the first VDL Mode 2 services for the Asia Pacific region.

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Since that time, VDL Mode 2 technology has grown into a de facto standard of the aviation industry. VDL Mode 2 networks, primarily ARINC’s GLOBALink®, now carry a sizable share of all the operational data communications for commercial aviation. ARINC’s VDL Mode 2 network is used by more than 2500 commercial aircraft, sending and receiving more than 8 million messages a month—a figure that is growing by 20% yearly. VDL Mode 2 use has grown so fast that ARINC is now working with avionics and airframe manufacturers on new ways to increase capacity, utilizing and managing multiple VHF frequencies.

VDL Mode 2 is the enabling technology for the Federal Aviation Administration’s next generation of Air Traffic Control communications, and in preparation for the anticipated additional message traffic, ARINC is expanding its domestic US VDL Mode 2 network. The current infrastructure of more than 330 ground stations will be expanded to more than 500, to cover all major U.S. airports, including the 65 airports that are FAA Tower Data Link Service (TDLS) airports.

“In response to the initiative by EUROCONTROL and the FAA to harmonize their Air Traffic Control (ATC) systems, ARINC plans to continue to deploy additional VDL Mode 2 Ground Stations to support their future requirements,” Hawkins adds.