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FAA Issues Update on NextGen Work

May 7, 2012

FAA’s updated NextGen Implementation Plan, now available online, includes tweaks to its strategy for modernizing departure and arrival procedures, particularly in 21 “metroplexes” (metro areas encompassing multiple airports), and communications technologies.

The latest plan shows “good progress,” said Steve Brown, NBAA senior vice president operations & administration.

“Each annual update provides a bit more detail on important projects that are being funded,” Brown said. “They’ve appropriately prioritized what they need to do first, and they’ve followed recommendations from the industry advisory committees we participate in, so we’re happy about that.”

General aviation highlights include expanded implementation of Wide Area Augmentation System Localizer Performance with Vertical Guidance (WAAS/LPV) approaches, as well as Area Navigation (RNAV) Required Navigation Performance  (RNP) – satellite-based technologies that help aircraft operate more safely in low-visibility conditions and improve situational awareness of other aircraft. According to FAA data, general aviation operators are the primary users of LPV procedures, and 30 percent of the general aviation fleet is LPV-equipped.

“Practically speaking,” Brown explained, “those are the capabilities where equipment is available to be purchased and installed. [Operators] can fly more direct routes, which lowers their cost of operation, as well as produces fewer emissions.” As of February, 2,772 WAAS LPV approaches were active at 1,410 airports—with 354 approaches added in FY2011, FAA’s plan reports.

ADS-B has been enabled along the coastal U.S. and the Canadian border, where more than 300 radio stations were operational by the end of 2011; by early 2014, FAA aims to have “the total complement of about 700 radio stations” up and running.

As for NextGen Data Communications (or Data Comm), the “much more distant [NextGen] capability,” as Brown put it, FAA says it is on track to make a final investment decision on the radio system that would transmit Data Comm messages.