While Managing a Challenging, Massive Redesign of the ATC System, the FAA Must Find Concrete Proof of NextGen’s Worth

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ARTICLE:  Efforts Grow To Convince Airlines Of NextGen’s Worth


On a very general, macro level, no one is opposed to increasing Air Traffic efficiency with lower system costs, but when the numbers get micro, the capital costs associated with installation of the equipment and actual AT design and the attendant actual benefits are considered for a major block of airspace, the debates (and divisiveness?) begin.

Aviation Week explores that transition from macro to micro and it is clear that the promised improvements have yet to be fully proved. For example, one of the cognoscenti in this arena predicts that the cost of implementation for the Communications, Navigation and Surveillance (CNS) suite of equipment alone could cost $370,000 per plane and that the total capital investment by the private sector is measured in the billions stratosphere. Competitive issues, for example, does being a first investor in the new technology have any real benefit? Or given the need for system-wide implementation in order to obtain the return, will the carriers strategize that last to pay is a better approach?

In the absence of full disclosure of real costs and reasonable benefits, the industry will attempt to defer until the knowledge becomes more credible and more widely accepted. With such a massive project, the FAA is challenged to manage the evolving technology and at the same time try to implement some programs to demonstrate the real (as opposed to forecast) values.

This Aviation Week essay speaks well to the need to create the test cases that will justify greater consensus. Unless and until that happens, the players will hold their cards close to their chests. With such ambiguous positions, Congress will be reluctant to give the FAA a full green light.

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