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The IAA's North Atlantic Communications Centre provides communications services on the eastern half of the North Atlantic and is located in Ballygirreen, Newmarket-on-Fergus, Co. Clare.
It is known as Shannon Aeradio or Shanwick Radio (ICAO Code: EIAA). Approximately 70 personnel are employed at the North Atlantic Communications centre, including over 50 Radio Officers with the remainder involved in management, engineering, administration and other services.
Aeronautical Services at North Atlantic Communications
Aeronautical Mobile Service - Air/ground operations (Shanwick Radio)
Shanwick Radio provides a long range voice communications service for Oceanic Air Traffic Control in the eastern half of the north Atlantic. Shanwick Radio keeps in contact with all flights in Oceanic Airspace mainly by means of High Frequency Radio (HF), but also uses VHF Radio (Very High Frequency) and Satellite Phone (SATPHONE).
HF can provide global coverage because of its ability to bounce off the ionosphere and can span the globe in a series of skips. VHF coverage, on the other hand, is limited to line-of-sight range. Shanwick Radio uses over 20 HF and 2 VHF frequency channels. At peak times, it handles in excess of 1,500 aircraft in a 24 hour period.
In 2016, the Ballygirreen radio station handled over of 850,000 messages from 476,790 aircraft.
Under Joint Operations with Iceland, the number of messages handled was almost 1.4 million. The IAA together with its Icelandic counterpart ISAVIA handled 45% of all voice ATM messages on the North Atlantic in 2016.
Investment in Technology
In recent years, the IAA has invested significantly in new systems, providing the North Atlantic Communications operation with state-of-the-art facilities and bringing the service up to the highest standards. A new suite of transmitters and receivers was installed and the Air-Ground message processing and flight data system replaced.
This system, known as the ROFDS (Radio Officer Flight Data System), is linked to the Iceland Radio Centre and has enabled the Irish Aviation Authority and ISAVIA (the Icelandic Civil Aviation Administration) to provide joint radio operations for the Shanwick and Reykjavik/Sondrestrom Oceanic areas.
Formal agreement between the two companies was signed in 2004, and joint operations commenced in April 2006. This created, in effect, one virtual radio communications service provision for the North Atlantic from 45N to the North Pole. Radio officers in either centre work flights in either area, updating both systems seamlessly and transparently for the respective air traffic control centres in Reykjavik and Prestwick.
The next phase of the Joint Operations will increase the interoperability whereby operational staff in both centres will have access to each other’s transmitters, receivers and associated equipment through interconnectivity. This will bring substantial enhancements to the existing Joint Operations and deliver a safe, efficient and cost effective service to the airlines operating on the north Atlantic.
Aeronautical Fixed Service - AFTN
In addition to the North Atlantic Communications Service, Shannon Aeradio is the AFTN Communications Centre for Ireland. The Aeronautical Fixed Telecommunications Network (AFTN) is an international telegraphic service linking airline offices, air traffic control and meteorological services worldwide. All AFTN communications both in and out of Ireland are routed through the Ballygirreen AFTN switch.
New AMHS System
The Ballygirreen AFTN switch uses the Frequentis smartMessenger AMHS solution. In time, the system will be connected to international AMHS centres around Europe.
Aeronautical Broadcast Service - Volmet
Another service provided to the aviation community from Shannon Aeradio is the Volmet Broadcast Service. This is a 24 hour, 365 day-a-year continuous broadcast of weather data to aircraft in flight. The data consists of SIGMETs (warnings of significant weather phenomena, which may be hazardous to aircraft), terminal forecasts and actual weather observations for each of the principal airports in Europe. These reports are updated every 30 minutes. The broadcast goes out on three HF and one VHF frequency simultaneously.
1 November - 31 March
1 April - 31 October