NextGen ATC: The future is a.) now b.) tomorrow c.) 2025 d.) never e.) all of the above
By Elliot Borin, Air TaxiFlights.com
It is, to begin with, something of a misnomer.
The implication is futuristic, something out there somewhere, beyond a distant not-quite-visible horizon. Maybe not exactly as far removed from this day's ToDo List as figuring out how to refreezing the polar ice caps after their globally warmed meltdown, but still pretty well down the road.
Nothing, in fact, could be further from the truth. For significant elements of the NextGen Air Traffic Control System's technology, the future is now -- Area Navigation (RNAV) procedures, for example, are already being used at Atlanta, Las Vegas, Philadelphia and Washington Dulles and Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) is out-of-the-incubator and actively deployed in parts of Florida, the Gulf Coast and Alaska and will be rolling out to other air corridors by year's end.
Other key components of the system will -- barring a total (and totally unlikely) freeze in FAA and airport infrastructure spending -- be coming online in selected markets within 36 months.
Mandatory commercial carrier -- and in some cases general aviation -- installation of onboard NextGen digital communications and surveillance equipment is a mere six years to 11 years away and the entire system, or at least those parts of it which will survive an unending series of budget reviews, political compromises and public debates, is expected to be fully deployed and functional in 2025.
In this series we will attempt to give an overview of the three key considerations -- technology, politics & economics -- defining and shaping the air traffic control system that will eventually guide our generation -- not just our children's -- across America's skyways.
Preparing these articles would not have been possible without the generous cooperation of Victoria Cox, FAA senior vice-president for NextGen & Operations; Steve Bradford, the FAA's chief scientist for NextGen; Tammy L. Jones, FAA Office of Communications spokesperson; and the insights provided by numerous aviation industry writers and analysts who have traversed various parts of this route ahead of us.
We would like to thank everyone who's brains we picked and assure both them and you, the reader, that all opinions, interpretations, predictions and conclusions expressed here are solely those of the editors of ATCMonitor.com and AirTaxiFlights.com unless they are expressed within quotation marks and attributed to a specific individual.
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