FAA’s NextGen Program Hits Turbulence

 - October 6, 2011, 5:10 PM

The FAA faces significant challenges in achieving the vision of the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen), government and industry panelists told the House aviation subcommittee yesterday. Prominent among challenges is the $2.1 billion En Route Automation Modernization (ERAM) program to replace the computer system connecting 20 FAA air route traffic control centers. After encountering problems at initial sites in Seattle and Salt Lake City, the FAA plans to complete ERAM deployment four years late in 2014, at an additional cost of $330 million. DOT Inspector General Calvin Scovel III warned that ongoing issues with ERAM could affect interdependent NextGen programs, including automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast (ADS-B), data communications (DataComm) and System Wide Information Management (SWIM), as well as the transition to a common automation platform for terminal and en route operations. ADS-B, DataComm and SWIM, representing three of six NextGen “transformational” programs, also have issues. While the FAA plans to spend nearly $2 billion on them over the next five years, it has yet to produce an “integrated master schedule” and “programs are left with no clear end-state,” Scovel said.