FAA Seeks Big Bucks Infusion for NextGen
In one of the strongest signals yet that the Obama Administration has gotten the industry message that the decades-old ATC system is sorely in need of replacement, the White House is asking Congress for a $1.14 billion budget in Fiscal Year 2011 for the FAA’s Next Generation Air Transportation System, a 31-percent increase from the FY 2010 figure. The NextGen program incorporates more than two dozen projects that will transform the ATC system by 2025, although the current goal is to have much of it rolled out and in operation by 2018. NextGen will replace today’s radar-based system, which relies on extensive voice communications between controllers and pilots, with a GPS satellite-based system. Last month the FAA turned on ADS-B in the Gulf of Mexico, where lack of radar coverage had isolated aircraft to within 20- by 20-mile boxes, reducing that separation to five miles and significantly increasing airspace capacity. ADS-B already operates at the UPS hub in Louisville, Ky. Next up for ADS-B is Philadelphia later this month and Juneau, Alaska, in April. The FAA plans to deploy it nationwide by 2013.