The FAA, citing “tangible and important” progress, has released its 2011 updated implementation plan for the Next Generation air transportation system.
FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt said in the report that during the past year, the aviation community has begun to see NextGen in action, and begun to understand how its implementation will enhance safety, access, efficiency, and environmental benefits throughout the National Airspace System.
In the year since the March 2010 update, the FAA reported that deployment of the ground infrastructure to support Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) surveillance is on time and on budget.
“We cleared the way to begin integrating ADS-B into FAA air traffic control facilities nationwide, and to train our workforce,” Babbitt said in his letter opening the report. “We also issued our ADS-B Out rule requiring aircraft operating in most controlled airspace to be equipped to broadcast their position to the ADS-B network by the start of 2020.”
A further milestone is expected to be reached when a newer, cleaner-burning biofuel wins approval for use by commercial aircraft, possibly early this year.
The FAA said it is striving to streamline its internal processes to ensure that the NextGen capabilities emerging from its test and research centers begin producing operator benefits quickly and safely. AOPA has often commented that the transition to NextGen must be benefits-driven for users.
The FAA provided a new roadmap by which to measure that progress, estimating that by 2018, NextGen will reduce total delays by about 35 percent. That equates to about $23 billion in cumulative benefits to aircraft operators, the traveling public, and the FAA. Aviation fuel consumption is seen being reduced by about 1.5 billion gallons of aviation fuel during the same period. Carbon dioxide emissions would decline by 13.9 million tons.
The FAA expects to consider recommendations this fall on how to proceed with technology that will bring ADS-B information into the cockpit. Data communications technology is also moving ahead, with investment decisions due this fall and initial capabilities for tower-controller-to-flight-crew communications projected for 2015.
A key component of the updated plan focuses on NextGen investments for operations and airports, providing an overview of current and planned capabilities and the benefits that they would enable. The FAA is studying financial and operational incentives to speed the transition.
AOPA has been an active participant in the move toward NextGen and is represented on the ADS-B Aviation Rulemaking Committee (ARC) and on numerous RTCA groups, including the NextGen Advisory Committee, and its subgroups and working groups.
NextGen will impact AOPA members as new technology is developed and in some cases—such as ADS-B Out—mandated. Throughout the process, AOPA will work to ensure that the transition to a satellite-based, modernized system is driven by the benefits it will offer users of the National Airspace System.