Four Positive Reports about NextGen Raise Hopes for Funding

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ARTICLE: NextGen Procedures Go Live in Houston Metroplex

ARTICLE: FAA lab using virtual reality to improve aviation safety

ARTICLE: ALPA Lauds Value And Progress of NextGen

Urges Strong Economic Support By Stakeholders And Commitment From Congress

ARTICLE: FAA: NextGen makes progress, but funding risks threaten investment

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Four banner headlines, all with generally positive news about the technological future of Air Traffic also known as NextGen, is a welcome change in the perception of this critical addition to aviation infrastructure. The press reporting has dealt largely with macro reviews by the DoT IG, the GAO and other third party experts which have raised doubts about the investment of billions of taxpayer dollars and user investments in this new program.

What is different about this series of reports is that two of them address specific implementation efforts; one is inspired by the largest group of operators in the system; and the last is from the FAA executive in charge of implementing this complex system. If this trend, particularly if more specifics of NextGen implementation benefits are the topics, continues, the sphere of supporters is likely to grow.

The first story discusses in detail the implementation of NextGen elements (Performance Based Navigation, Optimization of Airspace and Procedures, Area Navigation Standard Terminal Arrivals, 20 new RNAV Standard Instrument Departures, six new conventional STARs and 6 modified Instrument Landing System transitions) in the Houston Metroplex. The article quantifies the benefits—an annual fuel savings of $9.2 million for aircraft flying in the airspace, three million gallons of fuel saved per year and 31,000 metric tons of carbon savings annually.” The controllers appreciate the 50 new procedures and their representative Jeff Woods, National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) National OAPM Study Team Lead, said there will be more “predictable routing in and out of the affected airports, there’s a reduction in level loss.” That’s good.

The second article was published by the Atlantic City Press and it describes the work of the FAA Tech Center. The technology and procedures of NextGen are being tested in a virtual reality laboratory. There controllers are subjected to higher levels of traffic than is expected in the field and their ability to handle the stress safely is measured. Such laboratory experiments must increase the confidence of management, the unions and the users BEFORE the hardware and software is sent to the towers, centers and TRACONs.

The Air Line Pilots Association’s president is the source of the third article and arguably his members’ perspective should be given high credibility in that the pilots are extraordinarily knowledgeable about the system and have strong technical education and support. Capt. Moak said:

“Parts of NextGen are here now,generating efficiencies, improving safety, and saving time and money every day
with every flight at major airports…We saw examples, one after another, of
efficiency improvements, fewer delays, better traffic management, lower fuel
use, and reduced noise and emissions. With FAA’s continued leadership, I am
convinced we will see this trend continue and strengthen.”

That’s an extraordinarily positive endorsement based on what ALPA has seen. He added a very specific call to Congress and the industry to support the funding of NextGen.

The last positive source is a report by the Deputy Administrator/Chief NextGen Officer, who has as his primary task the oversight of NextGen, to the Congress documenting the progress on implementation. The four page review, submitted to Congress under Section 204 of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 (P.L. 112-95) , highlighted the following accomplishments:

· completed installation of the ground infrastructure for Automatic Dependent Surveillance – Broadcast

o Traffic Information Service–Broadcast

o Automatic Dependent Surveillance–Rebroadcast

o Flight Information Service–Broadcast

· systematic approach to PBN deployment through our Metroplex initiative

o Denver Metroplex

o Houston Metroplex

· by the middle of 2015 to have all 20 en route centers operating with En Route Automation Modernization

· by the end of 2016, we expect to have made substantial progress deploying Terminal Automation Modernization and Replacement

· System Wide Information Management (SWIM)

o August 2013, Miami Terminal Radar Approach Control

Those are substantial implementations and the report further quantifies the benefits to the users and to the environment. The Report also points to the future and that is where (apologies for the mixed metaphor) the rubber meets the road.

The simultaneous publication of four positive independent stories about NextGen should help to create an atmosphere supporting this technology. The stakeholders and the traveling public should take heart from these good waypoints and use that momentum to push Congress for full, certain funding.

{APOLOGIES for Word Press’ changing of the font size; cannot be corrected; no significance intended}

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