Pilots, air traffic controllers shifting to text messaging

Federal officials say airline pilots and traffic controllers are on schedule to switch to text communications at most of the nation's busiest airports by year's end.

The Federal Aviation Administration calls the start of the new Data Comm technology a milestone that holds the potential to reduce delays, prevent errors and save billions of dollars in fuel costs.

Controllers and pilots will still use their radios for quick exchanges like clearance for takeoff and for emergencies and situations where time is critical. But the nation's air traffic system is gradually shifting to text messages for a majority of flying instructions.

The technology was rolled out at Dulles International Airport in suburban Washington, D.C., three weeks ago, and is now used for about 10 to 20 percent of departures there.