Since everyone agrees that rapidly increasing traffic volumes over the next 20 years will demand the FAA’s NextGen solution–or something very similar–it came as a surprise to hear a recognized authority ask whether there actually will be such a system. This is the almost unthinkable question that Neil Planzer, Boeing Phantom Works v-p for strategy and advanced air traffic management, posed at an Atlantic City, N.J.
Air Traffic Organization
There was good news for Alaskan pilots last week, when FAA Administrator Marion Blakey introduced the agency’s draft 2008-2012 Flight Plan, along with the NextGen Concept of Operations, to Congress.
An analysis of 56 airports’ operational capacities has concluded that the FAA must “move forward aggressively” to implement the NextGen system or risk further delays at 27 major airports. The Future Airport Capacity Task (Fact) report also found that 15 metro areas will have to make use of smaller, regional airports, such as Teterboro Airport in New Jersey and Stewart International in New Windsor, N.Y., to avoid increasing congestion.
Although a “road map” for the next-generation ATC system will be released June 23, members of the House aviation subcommittee at a hearing yesterday expressed some concerns about their efforts to date. Rep. James Oberstar (D-Minn.), chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, is worried about oversight, particularly ownership of ADS-B, the “backbone” of the NextGen system.
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.
Hoping to stave off aviation gridlock this summer, the FAA last month summoned 60 participants from major and regional airlines, pilot and employee representatives, industry associations and other organizations to develop a strategy to reduce system delays.
In the light of the European Union’s final go-ahead given to the “Single European Sky” (SES) initiative, speakers at the Jane’s ATC Maastricht Conference (see box) engaged in a lively debate about how to enhance air-traffic management performance.
Boeing has proposed that a team headed by its Air Traffic Management business unit lead the FAA’s Traffic Flow Management Modernization program, a 12-year initiative to modernize the traffic flow infrastructure in the U.S. and add new functions and features to the system, which the FAA uses to monitor, manage and measure the flow of air traffic nationwide.
The FAA revised its controller hiring plan early last month to adjust for greater retirement numbers and revisions to staffing requirements at each of the agency’s 314 staffed facilities. The plan provides a range of authorized controller staffing numbers, giving the agency greater flexibility to match the number of controllers with traffic volume and workload.
• Congress dodged the dog days of August by taking a six-week recess beginning July 22, but not before legislators increased their bills introduced count to 2,772 in the Senate and 5,001 in the House of Representatives.