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ITA Airways Joins Inmarsat’s IRIS Datalink Program

An ITA Airways Airbus A330-200 at Rome Fiumicino Airport. (Photo: ITA Airways)

Italy’s national airline is the second European carrier to join Inmarsat’s IRIS program. Starting in Summer 2023, ITA Airways’ entire fleet will operate digitally connected flights to and from Italy using the innovative datalink technology developed with the European Space Agency (ESA).

Inmarsat (International Maritime Satellite Organization) is a British company founded in 1979 that provides advanced mobile satellite telecommunications services worldwide, making operations more efficient and secure. It manages satellite communications for 84 nations through a network of geostationary satellites capable of covering almost the entire globe, excluding the polar regions.

The IRIS program will enable aircraft to fly more fuel-efficient routes by providing digital satellite communications to replace VHF data links, which are nearing capacity due to airspace congestion, minimizing flight delays, saving fuel and reducing the environmental impact of air travel.

IRIS technology benefits airlines and air navigation service providers by providing the bandwidth and reliability needed to enable more efficient digital exchanges between aircraft and ground systems through trajectory-based operations.

This 4-dimensional trajectory-based operation will improve airspace management by promoting operational efficiency for airlines, avoiding holding patterns, accessing better routes and optimal altitudes, and using continuous climb and descent paths. The additional data link capability provided by the SB-S will also power a range of onboard digital applications, such as AI flight profile optimizers and real-time weather applications.

The Italian carrier will equip its entire fleet of new Airbus A320neo and A330neo aircraft with Inmarsat’s SwiftBroadband-Safety (SB-S). ITA Airways’ aircraft will play a key role in the IRIS demonstration flights, which will take place in European airspace in 2023.

The IRIS technology will enable Air Traffic Management (ATM) operators to optimize the use of airspace and reduce CO2 emissions by 8-10% through the use of fast and reliable data links between aircraft and the ground.

ITA Airways is not alone in equipping its aircraft with Inmarsat SB-S, as Virgin Atlantic, Jet2, Transavia Airlines and EasyJet have also signed up.

In the period from 2023-2024, Airbus plans to deliver 72 aircraft with Light Cockpit Satcom (LCS) on board, compatible with IRIS. These new technologies and their deployment on many European commercial airlines will contribute to the implementation of the Single European Sky ATM Research (SESAR), a project to completely overhaul European airspace to manage air traffic for the “Single European Sky.”

Once again, ITA Airways is demonstrating a strong focus on environmental impact and is committed to achieving its goal of being Europe’s greenest airline by 2026.

Joel Klooster, Senior Vice President of Aircraft Operations and Safety at Inmarsat Aviation, said in a press release: “The addition of ITA Airways, just months after EasyJet joined, demonstrates the continued strong interest in the IRIS program as it prepares to enter commercial service in Europe later this year, followed by full global implementation.”

Vincenzo Claudio Piscopo
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  • Vincenzo Claudio Piscopo

    Vincenzo graduated in 2019 in Mechanical Engineering with an aeronautical curriculum, focusing his thesis on Human Factors in aircraft maintenance. In 2022 he pursued his master's degree in Aerospace Engineering at the University of Palermo, Italy. He combines his journalistic activities with his work as a Reliability Engineer at Zetalab.

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