Delivery of the $40 billion NextGen ATC modernization will likely remain highly vulnerable to the vicissitudes of politics unless those charged with implementing the system work to protect its funding streams, senior industry leaders told the recent Air Traffic Control Association (ATCA) conference and exposition.
Joint Planning and Development Office
Prominent aviation industry figures fear that a list of priorities developed to keep the NextGen ATC modernization effort on track during a time of funding pressure and ongoing “sequestration” budget cuts in the U.S. could undermine the ambitious, two-decade effort.
The RTCA NextGen Advisory Committee (NAC) has recommended a list of priorities for the Federal Aviation Administration as it rolls out the NextGen ATC modernization in the U.S. against increasing budgetary pressure.
Several decades ago there was an advertisement with three elderly ladies in a fast-food joint. They look at a burger and ask, “Where’s the beef?” One panelist at a NextGen symposium hosted by the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) International and the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (Natca) in late June suggested that selling NextGen to the end users may present a similar perception problem. “Where is the hype?” he asked. “I just don’t see the hype.”
Ten years into the NextGen ATC modernization effort, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration faces ongoing cost, schedule and technical risks in achieving its objectives of managing increasing air traffic more efficiently, according to the Department of Transportation (DOT) inspector general’s office.
Unmanned aircraft system (UAS) operators in the U.S. would have to file and fly instrument flight plans and equip their aircraft for position reporting with transponders and automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast Out (ADS-B Out) transmissions based on GPS.
The FAA’s NextGen air traffic control modernization program will require a consensus among all aviation segments to succeed, NBAA president and CEO Ed Bolen said yesterday at a House aviation subcommittee hearing on the progress of NextGen initiatives. Bolen was invited to appear before the subcommittee to represent RTCA, an organization charged with providing consensus-based recommendations to the FAA for NextGen. He is a former RTCA chair and currently serves as its vice chair.
The Department of Transportation’s Office of Inspector General said in a July 19 memo, “While FAA is taking steps to improve the management of NextGen, such as establishing a new program management office, overall progress with implementation has not met expectations.”
It’s clear that the final release of the FAA’s Authorization Act has given a new fillip to the agency’s NextGen implementation activity. The 2012 Plan, released in March, has a much more upbeat flavor than its 2011 predecessor, which essentially looked backwards at accomplishments in 2010, when most activities were still in their early stages. Back then, the potential future benefits of NextGen were just that–potential.
The FAA’s ambitious ATC modernization effort known as the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen) faces an unsettled 2012 and beyond after a number of setbacks in 2011.
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