Rarely in the world of academia does a student get to write a paper on something they are actually interested in. That is exactly what has happened in my case this term. From my days in the United States Air Force I’ve been fascinated by aircraft, aircraft technology, and how the daily operations of the worlds flights are coordinated. Nextgen is the future of aircraft travel technology, and this paper will explain its past, present, and future.
What is Nextgen?
NextGen stands for Next Generation Air Transportation System. NextGen is a transformative change in the way aircraft flight is managed, and the operations of how we fly. NextGen enhances safety, reduces delays, saves fuel and reduces aviation’s adverse environmental impact. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has been in the process of intergrating new and existing technologies for many years now.
This is a comprehensive effort to conduct the largest aircraft travel transformation in the history of flight. This transformation includes integrating satellites navigation and super advanced digital communications. Airports and aircraft in the National Airspace System will be connected to NextGen’s advanced infrastructure and will continually share real-time information to provide a better travel experience. (FAA.gov, 2012)
NextGen’s astonishing transformation includes six core transformational programs: Collaborative Air Traffic Management Technologies, Data Communications, System Wide Information Management, NextGen Network Enabled Weather, NAS Voice System and Automatic Dependent Surveillance–Broadcast. These programs will facilitate the largest air transport transformation in history.
According to the FAA website, there will be a continuous roll-out of improvements and upgrades, the FAA is building the capability to guide and track air traffic more precisely and efficiently to save fuel and reduce noise and pollution. NextGen is better for our environment, and better for our economy. NextGen for Airports
The United States’ air transportation industry is and has been on the verge of bursting at the seams for more than a decade now. What NextGen means to the U.S. air traffic system is new capabilities that will improve safety and accessibility at airports. Also, Nextgen will allow for future air traffic growth, NextGen capabilities will help commercial airports accommodate the demand for additional capacity in a safe, efficient and environmentally responsible manner. (FAA.gov, 2012)
The FAA provides an example of what NextGen means to the U.S. air traffic system: “the sharing and use of newly available surface surveillance data to track aircraft and vehicles will enhance safety and enable airports to make better use of existing capacity. And while airport surface improvement is one of the main near-term areas of emphasis, work is also underway on other initiatives, such as improving operations on closely spaced parallel, converging and intersecting runways.”
On any given day, more than 87,000 flights are in the skies in the United States. Only one-third is commercial carriers, like American, United or Southwest. On an average day, air traffic controllers handle 28,537 commercial flights (major and regional airlines), 27,178 general aviation flights (private planes), 24,548 air taxi flights (planes for hire), 5,260 military flights and 2,148 air cargo flights (Federal Express, UPS, etc.). At any given moment, roughly 5,000 planes are in the skies above the United States. In one year, controllers handle an average of 64 million takeoffs and landings. (Natca.org, 2012) These are mind boggling statistics that would frighten even the most seasoned air traveler at best. I have several air traffic controller buddies who make greyhound seem more feasible everyday.
Gate to Gate
According to Sarah Brown with the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) using traditional technology controllers could only clear two aircraft into Steamboat Springs, Colorado an hour; but by using NextGen technology Wide Area Multilateralation (WAM) their capacity was increased to 10 aircraft an hour. This increase in landings directly affects the local economy through landing fee’s, increase in passenger revenue, tourism, and a myriad of other revenue generating sources to include: parking fee’s, car rentals, concessions, land rentals, and tenant fee’s. By increasing an airports capacity NextGen not only means faster, safer travel but also it means increased revenue’s for all parties involved.
As FAA officials discuss the switch from ground based to satellite surveillance and navigation systems this vast improvement will ultimately lead to increased “gate to gate” air travel. (Brown, 2012) Not only does NextGen improve travel for airline passengers but the new technologies will provide more access for general aviation as well. Why NextGen Matters
Typically in aviation it takes a catastrophic event to set change in motion. To use a phrase I heard a previous instructor use “it takes metal on metal to force a change in the aviation industry”. The FAA states, “NextGen will help us be even more proactive about preventing accidents with advanced safety management to enable us, with other government agencies and aviation partners, to better predict risks and then identify and resolve hazards.” Also, “NextGen boils down to getting the right information to the right person at the right time. It will help controllers and operators make better decisions. This data will assist operators in keeping employees and passengers better informed.”
In today’s modern society every industry preaches safety, safety, safety my question is why does it take such catastrophic events to take the safer route? Safety matters, which is why NextGen matters!
In all industries and business the bottom line is revenue, regardless if its Microsoft, Delta Airlines, Dow Chemical, or Colonial Pipeline. While some company’s vision may be noble, they are in business to make money. NextGen’s transformation is no different. NextGen is creating vast economic opportunities for those tasked to implement the changes such as General Dynamics to those in receipt of the technologies such as airports.
Our nation’s economy depends on aviation. NextGen lays a foundation that will continually improve and accommodate future needs of air travel while strengthening the economy with one seamless global sky. NextGen will help communities make better use of their airports. More robust airports can help communities attract new jobs, and help current employers expand their businesses. By doing this the U.S. will strengthen its economy and help communities realize all the benefits that aviation can bring. (FAA.gov, 2012)
NextGen is one of the largest air transport system undertakings the world has ever seen, while such an undertaking has its nobility it is also strife with problems. The sheer lack of funding for such an immense task has been holding back the implementation of the transformation. With such a delay new technologies become outdated in the fast past world of technology. However, since I was a child I’ve been fascinated with airplanes and air travel so much so that I joined the Air Force. The advances in the technology used and proposed in NextGen leads me to believe in the continued growth of our National Air System.
About FAA NextGen. (n.d.). General Dynamics FAA NextGen. Retrieved from http://www.gd-faanextgen-jobs.com/About.aspx Flight Planning. (n.d.). FAA: NextGen to Guide You ‘gate to Gate’ Retrieved from http://www.aopa.org/flightplanning/articles/2011/110228nextgen_to_guide_you_gate_to_gate.html National Air Traffic Controllers Association – Homepage. (n.d.). National Air Traffic Controllers Association – Homepage. Retrieved from http://www.natca.org/ Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen). (n.d.). Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen). Retrieved from http://www.faa.gov/nextgen/