NextGen Committee Recommends Modernization Priorities

 - September 20, 2013, 4:23 PM
'We're not taking things off the table,' said Rep. Rick Larsen (D-Wash.), ranking member of the House Aviation Subcommittee. (Photo: Bill Carey)

The RTCA NextGen Advisory Committee (NAC) has recommended a list of priorities for the Federal Aviation Administration as it rolls out the NextGen ATC modernization in the U.S. against increasing budgetary pressure.

The high-level committee, chaired by Alaska Air Group chairman Bill Ayer, approved the NextGen priorities on September 19 in Washington, D.C., responding to a July tasking from the FAA. The FAA generally follows the committee’s recommendations.

The NAC recommended that the FAA give highest priority to performance-based navigation (PBN); multiple runway operations, including closely spaced parallel operations; surface operations to include data-sharing on the movement of traffic on the airport surface; time-based flow management in en route and terminal airspace; wake recategorization and wake separation and PBN implemented through the FAA’s Optimization of Airspace in the Metroplex (OAPM) effort.

U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen (D-Wash.), the ranking member of the House aviation subcommittee, remarked on the priorities list on September 20 during a conference hosted by the NextGen Institute at the Department of Transportation headquarters. “This prioritization process has been an opportunity to reinforce the industry’s priorities and to coordinate scarce [government] resources with those investments the industry is committed to making,” Larsen said. “Priortization of NextGen program advancement doesn’t mean that the full suite of NextGen benefits or technology improvements shouldn’t happen. Instead, it just means that we should have a clear order of what steps should be taken and when they should be taken. [We’re] not taking things off the table.”

To identify priorities, the NAC applied a list of weighted criteria against a list of 36 NextGen capabilities and activities. “Monetizable” benefit, weighted at 46 percent, was the leading criteria, followed by implementation readiness (28 percent) and non-monetizable benefits (13 percent). Capabilities deemed to be high in both benefit and readiness were categorized as Tier 1A; capabilities deemed high in benefit but with low or medium readiness were categorized as Tier 1B.

Tier 1A capabilities “should be considered highest priority, and be given full resources to achieve (initial operational capability)…or accelerate those dates,” the committee said. “Budget cuts should not affect these capabilities.”

(Following publication of this article, RTCA clarified that the NAC has assigned high priority to the top 11 Tier 1A and 1B capabilities. “The NAC only wanted to make the distinction the Tier 1B capabilities needed to be accelerated because they were not as ready as Tier A. All are equally high priority,” RTCA said. BC)