The Federal Aviation Administration executive who leads the agency’s NextGen ATC modernization effort said the FAA will sign off in October on an industry-generated plan for achieving results in the next three years. The plan will prioritize precise approaches and departures, multiple-runway operations, data sharing on the airport surface, and data messaging between pilots and controllers.
“My commitment to you is that by October 18 you’ll have a plan with my signature on it that has milestones, timelines, metrics [and] costs, by location, to deliver capability in the one-to-three year time frame in these areas,” said Edward Bolton, the former U.S. Air Force general who now serves as FAA assistant administrator for NextGen. “That’s the FAA’s commitment to you all, and we will execute to those milestones.”
Addressing the Air Line Pilots Association Air Safety Forum on August 6, Bolton said industry and government representatives serving on the NextGen Advisory Committee (NAC) are within a month of reaching consensus on the near-term priorities. The NAC, a federal advisory committee assembled by standards organization RTCA, will review the “final integrated implementation plan” at its next scheduled meeting on October 8.
Last September, the NAC produced a set of first- and second-tier priorities designed to accomplish NextGen objectives in the face of increasing budgetary pressure and airline industry reticence to invest in the needed equipment and training. The plan Bolton promises resulted from the committee’s “deep dives” into the areas of performance-based navigation (PBN), a capability that saves time and fuel by enabling precise approaches and departures; closely spaced parallel-runway operations to facilitate airport throughput; information sharing on the movement of traffic on the airport surface; and data communications between pilots and controllers. The plan “will result in the delivery of tangible benefits and increase the community’s confidence in NextGen,” NAC chairman Bill Ayer stated in a letter to the FAA in late June.
Bolton cautioned that the federal funding available to accomplish NextGen is “finite,” and he urged the audience of airline pilots to “make hay while the sun shines” by supporting the effort.