April 26, 2012
By Dan Namowitz
The FAA marked a major milestone toward implementing the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen) when it published more than 3,000 Wide Area Augmentation System (WAAS) instrument approaches, said a “snapshot” of progress made public at a Washington, D.C., conference.
WAAS and GPS working in tandem are enabling new approaches and greater precision, giving aircraft access to 2,500 runways—sometimes with minimums as low as 200 feet, said the report distributed at the Aviation Week NextGen Ahead Conference held April 23 through 25.
Acting FAA Administrator Michael Huerta, House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman John Mica (R-Fla.), and Vicki Cox, the FAA’s deputy administrator for NextGen, were keynote speakers at the conference that offered a “NextGen showcase.”
Conference panelists from AOPA included Melissa Rudinger, senior vice president of government affairs; Heidi Williams, vice president of airspace and modernization; and General Counsel Ken Mead. They participated in a panel discussion on “rethinking funding and financing.” Williams spoke on an international collaboration panel, and Rudinger led a discussion of NextGen’s Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) technology. She emphasized AOPA’s position that the FAA must demonstrate user benefits for general aviation in light of upgrade costs that aircraft owners will face.
Addressing FAA funding in “an already constrained environment,” Rudinger encouraged the agency to explore alternative ways of financing its capital accounts, such as bond issues. Discussion focused on ways for the FAA to maximize efficient use of other tools in its financial toolbox, such as loan guarantees for general and commercial aviation avionics leases or acquisition.
On the international front, AOPA noted the emphasis that is being placed on “access and equity” as air traffic control modernization initiatives progress in the United States and in Europe.
In a NextGen nod to GA, the FAA offered WAAS coverage as one of five performance snapshots by which to measure the progress toward air traffic system modernization.
“We were gratified to see WAAS offered as an example of key successes in NextGen to date,” Williams said.
Dan Namowitz is an aviation writer and flight instructor. He has been a pilot since 1985 and an instructor since 1990.
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