One of the traditional buzz phrases in discussions about improving ATC has been the time-honored “system of systems” that envisions a National Airspace System in which everything meshes together smoothly. It will be some time before the U.S. realizes that vision with NextGen, according to Lockheed Martin’s Tom Dilenno, who spoke at last month’s Air Traffic Control Association Conference.
Air Traffic Organization
The FAA expressed enthusiasm about the RTCA’s final report of its NextGen Mid-Term Implementation Task Force released last week. The recommendations focus on five operational areas: surface, runway access, congested metropolitan airspace, cruise and National Airspace System access. They also encompass two specific NextGen capabilities: automated digital communications and integrated air traffic management.
Acting on calls for more stringent regulatory oversight of regional airlines after the February 12 crash of a Colgan Air Bombardier Q400 outside Buffalo, N.Y., the House of Representatives in late July introduced a bill called the Airline Safety and Pilot Training Improvement Act of 2009, which, among other things, would require all first officers to carry an air transport pilot certificate to serve in the right seat of any Part 121 airliner.
A bipartisan group of senators introduced an FAA reauthorization act last month that carries provisions to speed up implementation of the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen) while retaining the current mechanisms for paying for the ATC upgrades. The Senate Commerce Committee approved the measure a week later.
A bipartisan group of senators on Tuesday introduced a two-year FAA reauthorization bill that speeds up the timetable for implementation of the NextGen ATC system but does not call for user fees. That means, at least for now, general aviation will continue to pay its share of FAA programs and ATC modernization through modestly higher fuel taxes, as opposed to a new system of user fees that the Obama Administration wants in Fiscal Year 2011.
New FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt has joined a diverse group of aviation industry organizations in calling for an acceleration of the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen).
In a speech before the RTCA Symposium last month, Babbitt said NextGen is just not moving fast enough. “I want more, and I want more faster,” he said. “This Administration has been unequivocal in its statements that the status quo just won’t go.”
Since Hank Krakowski became COO of the FAA’s Air Traffic Organization in October 2007, he has focused his attention on making the ATC system more efficient.
Congress seems to be getting fed up with the slow pace of the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen) rollout. When NextGen was publicly announced in 2004 by then-Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta, 2025 was often mentioned as the target date by which all of the expected benefits would become available to users.
Although the downturn in the economy has dampened the near-term prospects for the general aviation industry, demand for business aviation will expand over the long term, according to the most recent forecast from the FAA, which anticipates a growing U.S. and world economy.
Continuing a shuffle of executive positions in the agency’s aviation safety organization, which began with the retirement of Nick Sabatini and others, acting FAA Administrator Lynne Osmus officially named Peggy Gilligan associate administrator for aviation safety, succeeding Sabatini.