Lockheed Martin CEO: Collaboration Key to NextGen Success

 - June 10, 2013, 11:00 AM
Lockheed Martin CEO Marillyn Hewson said the success of NextGen depends on collaboration among aviation “stakeholders.” (Photo: RTCA)

The deployment of Lockheed Martin’s formerly troubled en-route automation modernization (Eram) system should serve as an example of the program execution critical to the success of the complex NextGen ATC modernization effort, according to the company’s CEO, Marillyn Hewson.

Lockheed Martin is installing Eram at 20 air route traffic control centers (ARTCCs) the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration operates to manage high-altitude air traffic. It replaces the 1980s-generation IBM Host computer system and controller workstations, providing an improved computing platform capable of new functions such as automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast (ADS-B) aircraft position reports that are considered foundational to the NextGen effort.

In a luncheon address to the RTCA Symposium in Washington, D.C., on June 5, Hewson said that 11 ARTCCs continuously operate the Eram system. Another five centers have reached initial operational capability status. “I’m grateful for the outstanding partnership we’ve enjoyed with the FAA, the control center teams and NATCA [the National Air Traffic Controllers Association],” said Hewson, who became Lockheed Martin’s chief executive in January.

The FAA first awarded Lockheed Martin a contract for the ATC system replacement in 2002. Schedule delays and cost overruns caused the agency to recalculate or “rebaseline” the Eram program in June 2011. The FAA now estimates the program will conclude four years late, in August 2014, and cost $330 million more than planned, or $2.4 billion.

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) attributed Eram’s earlier problems to “insufficient testing to identify software issues before deployment at key sites and insufficient stakeholder involvement during system development and deployment.” In written testimony to the House Appropriations Committee in March, the GAO included Eram among “key issues and management challenges,” noting that its earlier delays affected the NextGen data communications (data comm) and system-wide information management (Swim) programs.

“There was a time when the program wasn’t going as well as we wanted it to,” Hewson acknowledged in her speech. “As a foundational program for NextGen, we know how important it is to get it right to deliver on a promise. We learned a very important lesson from that experience, which I believe will be vital to NextGen’s future. Collaboration with all stakeholders at every stage of the program is the key to success.”

In an earlier panel discussion at the RTCA Symposium, David Grizzle, COO of the FAA’s Air Traffic Organization, said that engaging air traffic controllers in the system replacement helped reverse Eram’s fortunes. “The way we’ve been able to get Eram back on track is by involving controllers in multiple aspects of that program roll-out, [at each] center,” Grizzle said. “Before the product even rolls off the loading dock at Lockheed Martin we’ve got controllers with their hands on it, and as every stage of product improvement takes place, controllers are working on it.”