Airspace access a pillar of NextGen plan

February 4, 2010

The FAA plans to implement procedures and infrastructure to make general aviation operations in non-radar airspace and at small airports safer and more efficient, the agency said in a report Jan. 31.

When government and industry groups came together last year to produce recommendations for modernizing the air transportation system, AOPA worked to include improved access to GA airports and non-radar areas in the final report to the FAA. The FAA responded to those recommendations, sharing its plan to develop more LPV approaches and deploy Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) infrastructure.

The agency set a goal of developing 300 new Wide Area Augmentation System (WAAS)-enabled LPV approaches per year through 2015 and expressed a commitment to continue deploying ADS-B ground infrastructure in the coming years.

“The FAA has embraced industry recommendations to ensure that pilots benefit from WAAS and ADS-B equipage,” said AOPA Vice President of Operations and International Affairs Craig Spence. “The recommendations would improve pilots’ access to non-radar airspace and to airports that are currently constrained by a ‘one in, one out’ policy during IFR operations. We will continue to work with the FAA to determine how to proceed.”

Currently 5,400 runway ends are capable of receiving LPV approaches, and almost 2,000 have been developed. As it moves forward with developing the approaches, the FAA will have to determine how to integrate airport improvements such as lighting and obstruction clearance that may be needed for the airport to be able to have a precision approach.

The deployment of ADS-B ground infrastructure will provide radar-like coverage to areas not reached by radar; the most recent deployment has provided surveillance for operations over the Gulf of Mexico.

“Almost as important, the FAA is eager to explore state and local cost-sharing partnerships to expand surveillance services into low-altitude, non-radar airspace,” Spence said. “Partnerships such as the one that brought Wide Area Multilateration to Colorado have been extremely effective in enhancing safety and reducing delays.”

AOPA has long been involved in the transition to satellite-based navigation and surveillance in the NextGen air transportation system; the association participated in the RTCA NextGen Mid-Term Implementation Task Force, which was charged with recommending near- and mid-term improvements to the air traffic control system. The FAA’s response to those recommendations lays out a basic plan for moving forward; further details can be found in the president’s proposed budget and in the forthcoming NextGen Implementation Plan.