Most pilots by now are aware that at some point in the future, today’s ATC system is expected to morph into something called NextGen, Administrator Marion Blakey’s term for what was previously known as the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NGATS).
Next Generation Air Transportation System
At a Senate hearing on FAA financing last week, Delta Air Lines COO Jim Whitehurst, speaking for the Air Transport Association (ATA), reiterated one of ATA’s longstanding assertions that tracking departures and time in the system is the best way to measure the costs that aircraft impose for ATC services. The association first proposed such tracking in March 2006.
Several recent developments have begun to allay concerns that the FAA’s NextGen ATC modernization effort was stagnating because of lack of direction and sense of urgency.
The NextGen Concept of Operations was released on June 13 and the NextGen Enterprise Architecture on June 22. The Joint Planning and Development Office (JPDO) considers the two documents to be major milestones in the development process.
Bombardier Aerospace unveiled a series of updates to its CRJ900 regional jet during a June 5 event at the Signature Flight Support FBO at Washington Dulles International Airport. The 76-seat CRJ900 NextGen on display there became the first to enter revenue service on June 7, when Northwest Airlines subsidiary Mesaba Airlines flew it to Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport from Minneapolis.
A consortium of academia and industry participants has launched a four-year program to evaluate the air traffic management (ATM) processes required to handle the forecast doubling, and perhaps tripling, of air traffic by 2025.
The FAA has expanded its Airspace Flow Program, which gives airlines the option during the peak summer season to accept delays for flights scheduled to fly through storms or to fly longer routes to maneuver around them.
At the FAA’s Joint Planning and Development Office Day on Capitol Hill recently, Administrator Marion Blakey introduced two NextGen future ATC documents. First was the agency’s 41-page 2008-2012 Flight Plan, which announced projects such as the statewide Alaska ADS-B project.
The FAA has issued guidance on altitude and speed constraints in Rnav procedures. In the document, InFO 07011, the agency said that adherence to speed and altitude is especially important when flying Rnav procedures. The agency emphasizes that the phrases “resume normal speed,” “maintain” and “speed your discretion” do not cancel published speed restrictions, but rather those most recently issued by ATC.
Chairman of the House subcommittee on space and aeronautics Rep. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) introduced the Federal Aviation Research and Development Reauthorization Act of 2007 with co-sponsor Rep. Bart Gordon (D-Tenn.) last month. The bill, which has already passed Rep. Udall’s subcommittee, reauthorizes some existing projects, introduces some new ones and aims to strengthen the oft-handcuffed Joint Planning and Development Office (JPDO).
There was good news for Alaskan pilots last month, when FAA Administrator Marion Blakey introduced the agency’s draft 2008-2012 Flight Plan, along with the NextGen Concept of Operations, to Congress.