New Data Comm system speeds up LAX departures

Los Angeles International Airport authorities have reported a planes that received flight plan information via a new Data Comm texting system shaved six to 12 minutes off their departure times since the system went into place in March, the company said.

Even though sixty to 100 of LAX´s nearly 1,950 daily flights make use of the new Data Comm system, that number should grow as more planes receive new technology and airline employees are trained to use the equipment, airport authorities said.

Traditionally, pilots communicate with air traffic controllers over the radio, but that can be confusing and time-consuming, especially when pilots have to repeat lengthy takeoff and flight plan instructions to the tower, authorities said.

Under the new system, pilots are texted flight plans and upload them into the airplane´s computer simply by touching a button, which will cut down the potential for human error, said Mike Foote, vice president of the National Air Traffic Controllers Assn.

Data Comm said the system is expected to reduce wait times. Planes that have to change flight plans shortly before takeoff sometimes have to wait on the runway while pilots type a new course into the computer by hand.

So far, about 20 airlines at LAX use the text system, including Southwest, United and Delta airlines. Nearly 30 airports in the nation, including John Wayne, Burbank, Long Beach and Ontario, use it, authorities said.

The federal government has budgeted about USD750 million to equip air control towers with the new technology.