GAO: ‘Trade-Offs’ Made in Rolling Out NextGen

 - April 9, 2013, 2:30 PM

In an effort to deliver operational improvements more quickly, the FAA has made “trade-offs” in establishing performance-based navigation (PBN) procedures that could limit their benefits in the near term, according to the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

Under its NextGen ATC modernization effort, the FAA has focused on implementing PBN procedures such as required navigation performance approaches at major airports within busy metropolitan areas, or “metroplexes,” where the fuel-saving and efficiency benefits can be demonstrated sooner. But the agency has put off implementing more time-consuming procedures such as ones that could trigger lengthy environmental reviews, the GAO says in an April report to Congress.

The report analyzes the FAA’s efforts during the NextGen “midterm” period from 2013 to 2018. The FAA’s main effort to implement PBN procedures during this period is the Optimization of Airspace and Procedures in the Metroplex (OAPM) initiative, which focuses on major airport operations that have a large effect on the overall National Airspace System. The FAA plans to demonstrate the benefits at eight OAPM sites by 2015 and five more sites by 2017.

“In the past, industry stakeholders, especially airlines, have expressed concerns that some published PBN procedures, including those developed at priority metroplexes, have not provided sufficient benefits,” the GAO advises.