Next Generation Air Transportation System


Next Generation Air Transportation System

The Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen) is the name given to a new National Airspace System due for implementation across the United States in stages between 2012 and 2025.[1] The Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen) proposes to transform America’s air traffic control system from an aging ground-based system to a satellitebased system. NextGen GPS technology will be used to shorten routes, save time and fuel, reduce traffic delays, increase capacity, and permit controllers to monitor and manage aircraft with greater safety margins.[2] To implement this the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) will undertake a wide-ranging transformation of the entire United States air transportation system. This transformation has the aim of reducing gridlock, both in the sky and at the airports. In 2003, The United States Congress established the Joint Planning and Development Office (JPDO) to plan and coordinate the development of the Next Generation Air Transportation System.

Contents

Description

The FAA estimates that increasing congestion in the air transportation system of the United States, if unaddressed, would cost the American economy $22 billion annually in lost economic activity by 2022.[3] The NextGen system, which is a transformation of the entire National Airspace System (NAS) of the United States, is intended to better meet future traffic loads, reduce gridlock, and maintain safety. It replaces legacy ground based technologies[which?] to newer satellite-based technology.

Elements

NextGen consists of five elements:

  1. Automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast (ADS-B). ADS-B will use the Global Positioning System (GPS) satellite signals to provide air traffic controllers and pilots with much more accurate information that will help to keep aircraft safely separated in the sky and on runways. Aircraft transponders receive GPS signals and use them to determine the aircraft's precise position in the sky. These and other data are then broadcast to other aircraft and air traffic control. Once fully established, both pilots and air traffic controllers will, for the first time, see the same real-time display of air traffic, substantially improving safety. The FAA will mandate the avionics necessary for implementing ADS-B.
  2. System Wide Information Management (SWIM). SWIM will provide a single infrastructure and information management system to deliver high quality, timely data to many users and applications. By reducing the number and types of interfaces and systems, SWIM will reduce data redundancy and better facilitate multi-user information sharing. SWIM will also enable new modes of decision making as information is more easily accessed.
  3. Next Generation Data Communications. Current communications between aircrew and air traffic control, and between air traffic controllers, are largely realised through voice communications. Initially, the introduction of data communications will provide an additional means of two-way communication for air traffic control clearances, instructions, advisories, flight crew requests and reports. With the majority of aircraft data link equipped, the exchange of routine controller-pilot messages and clearances via data link will enable controllers to handle more traffic. This will improve air traffic controller productivity, enhancing capacity and safety.
  4. Next Generation Network Enabled Weather (NNEW). Seventy percent of NAS delays are attributed to weather every year. The goal of NNEW is to cut weather-related delays at least in half. Tens of thousands of global weather observations and sensor reports from ground-, airborne- and space-based sources will fuse into a single national weather information system, updated in real time. NNEW will provide a common weather picture across the national airspace system, and enable better air transportation decision making.
  5. NAS voice switch (NVS). There are currently seventeen different voice switching systems in the NAS, some in use for more than twenty years. NVS will replace these systems with a single air/ground and ground/ground voice communications system.

Benefits

With NextGen, many pilots and dispatchers will be able to select their own, usually direct flight paths, rather than follow the existing interstate highway-like grid in the sky. Each airplane will transmit and receive precise information about the time at which it and others will cross key points along their paths. Pilots and air traffic managers on the ground will have the same precise information, transmitted via data communications.

Major demand and capacity imbalances will be worked collaboratively between the FAA air traffic managers and flight operations. The increased scope, volume and widespread distribution of information by SWIM, will improve decision-making and let more civil aviation authorities participate.

The impact of weather on flight operations will be reduced through the use of improved information sharing, new technology to sense and mitigate the impacts of the weather, to improve weather forecasts and decision making. Better forecasts, coupled with greater automation, will minimise airspace limitations and traffic restrictions.

The new procedures of NextGen will improve airport surface movements, reduce spacing and separation requirements, and better manage the overall flows into and out of busy airspace, and to provide maximum use of busy airports.

Targeting NextGen at the whole of the NAS, rather than just the busiest airports, will uncover untapped capacity across the whole system. During busy traffic periods, NextGen will rely on aircraft to fly precise routes into and out of many airports to increase throughput.

Implementation

In October, 2009, U.S. Department of Transportation Inspector General Calvin Scovel and U.S. Government Accountability Office Director of Civil Aviation Issues Gerald Dillingham told Congress that the FAA faced considerable challenges in implementing a satellite-based NextGen ATC system, ranging from delays in approving new procedures and technology to skepticism among airlines regarding investment in new equipment. Testifying before the House of Representatives aviation subcommittee, Scovel warned that "the cost, schedule and benefits for NextGen are uncertain". Dillingham added that the "FAA faces cultural and organizational challenges in implementing NextGen capabilities".

Both said the agency needs to move away from developing RNP procedures for airports that merely "overlay existing routes" and toward implementing procedures that allow more direct flight paths that will increase efficiency and lower fuel burn and carbon dioxide emissions.[4] Dillingham said ATC system stakeholders have told GAO "that the process of approving and deploying RNP navigation procedures remains extremely slow and that the FAA's review and approval of a given original RNP design often takes years".

In June 2010, European and American authorities reached a preliminary agreement on interoperability between their future air traffic management systems, SESAR and NextGen.[5]

In March 2011, the FAA released the latest version of its implementation plan.[6]

As of July 2011, JetBlue and Southwest Airways had installed onboard equipment, partly with federal funds.[7]

References

 This article incorporates public domain material from the Federal Aviation Administration document "Fact Sheet".


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