NextGen Committee Recommends Aircraft Equipment

 - June 6, 2011, 6:52 AM
JetBlue Airways CEO Dave Barger (l) and FAA Deputy Administrator Michael Huerta chair the May 19 meeting of RTCA NextGen Advisory Committee at JetBlue Hangar 81 in New York. (Photo: RTCA)

A high-level U.S. industry and government committee has recommended to the FAA that three capability areas requiring operators to equip their aircraft–automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast (ADS-B), required navigation performance (RNP) and data communications–be prioritized in rolling out the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen).

The RTCA NextGen Advisory Committee (NAC) also recommends an incremental approach to NextGen deployment that would require nearly all air carrier and general aviation operators to attain a minimum capability level, in the process becoming eligible for operational or financial incentives. Rather than a blanket approach, it said the FAA should deploy infrastructure and procedures supporting ADS-B, RNP and data comm regionally, where the benefits can be realized in the near term.

Consideration of financial or operational incentives that would help operators “close the business case” for investing in new equipment is scheduled for the committee’s next full meeting on September 29 in Washington, D.C. Investment in NextGen equipment won’t come cheap. For example, the “very preliminary” cost estimate for the first of three capability packages proposed by the NAC ranges from $2.8 billion to $3.6 billion for air carriers and general aviation combined.

Representing the sweep of civil and military aviation, the NAC was formed last fall under the auspices of RTCA, a not-for-profit corporation that functions as a Federal Advisory Committee to FAA. Its chairman is JetBlue Airways CEO Dave Barger. Michael Huerta, FAA deputy administrator, is the designated federal official.

The NAC’s third and most recent full meeting was held May 19 at JetBlue Hangar 81 at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York. JetBlue is among NextGen “early adopter” airlines; in February it announced an agreement with the FAA to provision 35 of its Airbus A320s for ADS-B.

The committee has recommended to the FAA the following aircraft capabilities packages:

• Package A: Bring all air carrier aircraft to a minimum baseline of GPS and RNP 0.3 capability and all general aviation aircraft to GPS-WAAS-LPV capability. Estimated cost to air carriers: $681 million to $982 million; for GA: $2.1 billion to $2.6 billion.

• Package B: Equip all aircraft for ADS-B out position reporting, “to support the FAA’s progression toward ADS-B in,” the display of air traffic in the cockpit. Estimated cost to air carriers: $650 million to $767 million; GA: $2.4 billion to $2.7 billion.

• Package C: Equip all aircraft with VDL-2, FANS 1/A+ or ATN Baseline One data communications. Estimated cost to air carriers: $220 million. No cost estimate was made for GA.