Most pilots by now are aware that at some point in the future, today’s ATC system is expected to morph into something called NextGen, Administrator Marion Blakey’s term for what was previously known as the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NGATS).
Joint Planning and Development Office
Our community will face greater change in the next 10 years than we experienced in the last 50. We will see new communications, navigation and surveillance equipment, as well as changes in piloting requirements and procedures. A new class of very light jets (VLJs) will emerge, and owner pilots will be operating them in airspace previously the pur-view of professionals.
Several recent developments have begun to allay concerns that the FAA’s NextGen ATC modernization effort was stagnating because of lack of direction and sense of urgency.
The NextGen Concept of Operations was released on June 13 and the NextGen Enterprise Architecture on June 22. The Joint Planning and Development Office (JPDO) considers the two documents to be major milestones in the development process.
A consortium of academia and industry participants has launched a four-year program to evaluate the air traffic management (ATM) processes required to handle the forecast doubling, and perhaps tripling, of air traffic by 2025.
At the FAA’s Joint Planning and Development Office Day on Capitol Hill recently, Administrator Marion Blakey introduced two NextGen future ATC documents. First was the agency’s 41-page 2008-2012 Flight Plan, which announced projects such as the statewide Alaska ADS-B project.
Chairman of the House subcommittee on space and aeronautics Rep. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) introduced the Federal Aviation Research and Development Reauthorization Act of 2007 with co-sponsor Rep. Bart Gordon (D-Tenn.) last month. The bill, which has already passed Rep. Udall’s subcommittee, reauthorizes some existing projects, introduces some new ones and aims to strengthen the oft-handcuffed Joint Planning and Development Office (JPDO).
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.
The House of Representatives issued its long-anticipated version of the FAA reauthorization bill last night, and user fees are not included. In lieu of user fees, however, the bill allows the FAA to raise fuel taxes a few cents per gallon and to charge a variety of miscellaneous fees, such as $130 to register an aircraft, $50 for an airman certificate and $45 for a medical certificate.
As the FAA’s major programs such as NextGen make their way through initial planning and implementation, at least a few members of Congress feel that the agency needs some assistance with R&D. Chairman of the House subcommittee on space and aeronautics Rep. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) introduced the Federal Aviation Research and Development Reauthorization Act of 2007 with cosponsor Rep. Bart Gordon (D-Tenn.) last week.
While preparing for traffic to double and perhaps even triple in the coming decades, the FAA has made clear that putting up the ground-based infrastructure to support that traffic will be expensive, ultimately costing billions of dollars.