Implementing NextGen Technology a ‘mindset’

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News Article: Implementing NextGen Technology a ‘mindset’

The comments of Messrs. Barger, Jones and Anderson about a “mindset” against the technology of NextGen are most telling, but may not have gone far enough in determining the ultimate source of delay. Technology’s advances are always exciting, but the concept of systems and software replacing human function is potentially scary. The introduction of Traffic Collision Avoidance System (TCAS) is a good example; both pilots and controllers questioned whether a “black box” should be relied upon to avoid collisions. The executives’ questions about the slowness of implementing NextGen reflect the same sort of concerns within the FAA and by some involved in the decision-making process.

The reluctance to bring this more efficient air traffic control system may be even more institutionally based. Controllers have controlled traffic; a redundant statement meant to emphasize the historic function of the men and women at the scopes and in the towers. Ultimately, the freedom of NextGen facilitates the movement of aircraft over lines and through operations that shift the job of the FAA personnel from “controlling” to “managing” the system. That C change is very threatening to a profession that has equated their job with pilots and portends to relegate the controller to a flight manager. The job task analysis of the NextGen line AT manager is very different from the older generation controller The profile of the NextGen personnel will require new recruiting and/or retraining. Those are substantive, long lead assignments for the FAA and ones that should be receiving attention NOW.

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