NextGen ATC Lacks ‘Urgency’

 - May 1, 2007, 5:39 AM

Aerospace Industries Association president and CEO John Douglass warned Congress that government agencies must redouble efforts to develop the nation’s next generation air transportation system (NextGen) or the nation will suffer serious operational–and economic–impacts.

He told the House space and aeronautics subcommittee that the Bush Administration and Congress must ensure that responsibility, accountability and urgency exist among the Joint Planning and Development Office and related agencies to guarantee they properly manage and conduct the full range of integrated NextGen activities.

One major issue Douglass identified is a research and development gap between NASA, which is concentrating only on basic research, and the FAA, which does not have the ability or resources to advance NASA’s foundational technologies. Congress added $166 million to NASA’s R&D funding this fiscal year, and applying that money to NextGen-related transitional research would boost research execution this year and close the gap now, he suggested.

Meanwhile, FAA Administrator Marion Blakey told the Aircraft Electronics Association Convention in Reno, Nev., that the FAA will award a contract this summer for the ground infrastructure for ADS-B services, which has been described as the backbone of NextGen.

Approximately 400 to 500 ground stations–each about the size of a dorm-room refrigerator–will form a network that will transmit aircraft type, GPS position, projected track and more, giving pilots and controllers the same situational awareness. Depending on onboard avionics, ADS-B will provide weather and traffic information as well. Lockheed Martin, ITT and Raytheon are the prime bidders for the ADS-B stations.

“We’re also proceeding with a proposed rule to mandate ADS-B avionics in the cockpit,” Blakey said. “Today, we require transponders for controlled airspace and busy airports. We’ll require ADS-B equipage for the same. The rule should be ready in September.”