In one of the strongest signals yet that the Obama Administration has gotten the industry message that the decades-old ATC system is sorely in need of replacement, the White House is asking Congress for a $1.14 billion budget in Fiscal Year 2011 for the FAA’s Next Generation Air Transportation System, a 31-percent increase from the FY 2010 figure.
Air Traffic Organization
The FAA has broken ground for a NextGen research park that will sit adjacent to the agency’s William J. Hughes Technical Center in Atlantic City, N.J. The complex will offer a central location for the FAA’s industry partners to perform research, development, testing, integration and verification of the technologies, concepts and procedures required by NextGen.
The FAA finalized the industry-wide technical standard orders (TSOs) for automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast (ADS-B), the backbone of NextGen. ADS-B will migrate the existing radar surveillance infrastructure from the ground to an aircraft and ground-based system. With the new standard in place, avionics manufacturers can design and build in-aircraft ADS-B equipment needed for NextGen.
The FAA last week finalized the industry-wide technical standard orders (TSOs) for automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast (ADS-B), the backbone of NextGen. ADS-B will migrate the existing radar surveillance infrastructure from the ground to an aircraft and ground-based system. With the new standard in place, avionics manufacturers can now design and build in-aircraft ADS-B equipment needed for NextGen.
Plans to jump-start NextGen equipage by giving preferential treatment for installation of new avionics systems will fundamentally alter the FAA’s “first-come, first-served” mantra for providing ATC services, according to Department of Transportation inspector general Calvin Scovel III.
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.
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.