Great Observations by a Wall Street Analyst About NextGen’s Personnel and Training Needs

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ARTICLE: Building the Runway to the Skies of Tomorrow

Hilary Kramer

Although an expert investment and asset management analyst for Forbes and other publications, Ms. Kramer‘s assessment of NextGen is spot on. The FAA faces immense challenges to implement its Air Traffic Control (ATC) system of the future.

The article begins with the premise that the US and international aviation systems are critical to the continued expansion of the global technology. The Forbes report then notes that the successful deployment of NextGen depends on integrating GPS satellites and related systems. Then, Ms Kramer makes an insightful observation—to wit:

“But while technology is the inanimate core of NextGen, the benefits of these new systems and technologies will never be realized without air traffic controllers and other aviation industry professionals who undergo efficient and successful training, which is arguably the most critical element to NextGen. (After all, the new technology is rather useless if no one knows how to properly operate it.)”

Historically, the ATC professional has been titled “controller”, indicating that the persons in the towers and on the radar scopes DIRECT the flights within their sector. The essence of NextGen is that new technology will provide the flight crew with infinite options in designing an optimal flight route. That approach is a significant alteration for the ATC staff in the En Route Facilities. Future ATC professionals will no longer control/direct traffic, but will be MANAGING the requests to fly from A to B.

As Ms. Kramer has so aptly noted, that sea change requires a very different skill set. The NextGen ATC personnel will have to be recruited for their ability to analyze, process and manage air traffic route profiles. Their training must be structured to help refine those skills and requirements.

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