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NBAA Attendees Briefed on NextGen Rollout
ORLANDO, FL, October 7, 2008 – During a Monday afternoon session at NBAA's 61st Annual Meeting & Convention, Attendees were updated on the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA's) efforts to increase the capacity of the National Airspace System (NAS) through near-term projects of the Next Generation Air Transportation System, or "NextGen". A panel of agency officials and industry partners answered questions from operators in an effort to clear up any misunderstandings about how the new technologies and procedures of the multi-phase program are being rolled as the U.S. transitions from a system of air traffic control system to one of air traffic management.
At the outset, Gisele Mohler, manager of the FAA's NextGen Implementation Group, assured the general aviation audience that the Agency was truly interested in industry feedback and that recent NAS capacity enhancements demonstrate that "we have listened to you."
For example, the FAA has invested extensively in area navigation (RNAV) and Required Navigation Performance (RNP) technologies. The agency recently debuted numerous individual RNAV-based standard instrument departures (SIDS) and Standard Terminal Arrivals (STARS), and introduced seven new tools for collaborative decision-making (CDM).
Mike Romanowski, director of the FAA's Air Traffic Organization (ATO) Office of NextGen, said near-term NextGen efforts are designed to maximize the current capabilities of RNAV/RNP. He reported that 11 ADS-B stations became operational in south Florida in September, and that the system will be a "huge safety advance" for the helicopters that fly in the Gulf of Mexico, where lack of radar coverage has slowed operations in instrument flight rules (IFR) weather until now.
Monte Belger, the former FAA executive who now is vice president of transportation system solutions at Lockheed Martin, said he is "very optimistic that this [NextGen implementation] can be done." Technology is not the challenge, he said. The real question is how to pull off transition. Belger urged that FAA to accelerate development of RNVA/RNP procedures and cited a joint Boeing/Lockheed Martin project to test new technologies in Daytona Beach, FL as an example that industry is investing its own money to make NextGen a reality.
During a question-and-answer session after the FAA presentation, agency officials noted that different kinds of operators will have different incentives for embracing NextGen: some will want to realize cost savings; others desire the enhanced operational efficiencies the new technologies will enable. Belger suggested that business aviation should tell FAA what benefits it wants.
In response to an operator concern that the U.S. and Europe may be going down different paths regarding ATC modernization/transformation, Eurocontrol's Hendriks declared, "We must get our act together" to ensure that NextGen and Europe's Single European Sky ATM Research (SESAR) programs are compatible. RTCA President Margaret Jenny assured operators that much work is going on to ensure harmonization of equipment requirements for operators.