NextGen is a wide ranging transformation of the entire national air transportation system — not just certain pieces of it — to meet future demands and avoid gridlock in the sky and in the airports. It moves away from legacy ground based technologies to a new and more dynamic satellite based technology. Technologies and activities that support this transformation are currently part of the FAA’s investment portfolio and represent a step beyond our legacy modernization programs. These new capabilities and the highly interdependent technologies that support them will change the way the system operates, reduce congestion, and improve the passenger experience. This multi-agency initiative is led by the Joint Planning and Development Office.
Transformational NextGen Programs
Automatic Dependent Surveillance Broadcast (ADS-B) is, quite simply, the future of air traffic control. As the backbone of the NextGen system, it uses GPS satellite signals to provide air traffic controllers and pilots with much more accurate information that will help 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, which is combined with other data and broadcast out to other aircraft and air traffic control facilities. When properly equipped with ADS-B, both pilots and controllers will, for the first time, see the same real-time displays of air traffic, substantially improving safety. The FAA will issue a rulemaking that will mandate the avionics necessary for implementing ADS-B across the national airspace system, and will work closely with stakeholders to determine the timeline.
- The FY08 budget request includes $85 million for ADS-B. Over five years the President’s Budget request totals $564 million for ADS-B.
System Wide Information management (SWIM) provides the infrastructure and services to deliver network-enabled information access across the NextGen air transportation operations. As an early opportunity investment, SWIM will provide high quality, timely data to many users and applications – extending beyond the previous focus on unique, point-to-point interfaces for application-to-application data exchange. By reducing the number and types of interfaces and systems, SWIM will reduce redundancy of information and better facilitate multi-agency information-sharing. SWIM will also enable new modes of decision-making, as information is more easily accessed by all stakeholders affected by operational decisions.
- The FY08 budget request includes $21.3 million for SWIM. Over five years the President’s Budget request totals $173 million for SWIM.
NextGen Data Communications
NextGen transformation cannot be realized through today’s voice-only communications. This is particularly true in the areas of aircraft trajectory-based on operations, net-centric and net-enabled information access. Initially, data communication provides an additional means for two-way exchange between controllers and flight crews for air traffic control clearances, instructions, advisories, flight crew requests and reports. With 70 percent of aircraft data-link equipped, allowing for the exchange of routine controller-pilot messages and clearances via data can enable controllers to safely handle more traffic. This improves air traffic controller productivity, enhances capacity and safety.
- The FY08 budget request includes $7.4 million for NextGen Data Communications. Over five years the President’s Budget request totals $126 million for NextGen Data Communications.
NextGen Network Enabled Weather
Seventy percent of NAS delays are attributed to weather every year. The goal of this investment (combined with the other technologies outlined here) is to cut weather-related delays at least in half.
The NextGen Network Enabled Weather (NNEW) will serve as the core of the NextGen weather support services and provide a common weather picture across the national airspace system. These services will, in turn, be integrated into other key components of NextGen required to enable better air transportation decision-making.
It is anticipated that tens of thousands of global weather observations and sensor reports from ground-, airborne-, and space-based sources would fuse into a single national weather information system, updated as needed in real-time.
- The FY08 budget request includes $7 million for NextGen Network Enabled Weather. Over five years the President’s Budget request totals $102 million for NextGen Network Enabled Weather.
NAS Voice Switch
Today there are 17 different baselines of voice switches in the NAS with some of them in the inventory more than 20 years. The NAS Voice Switch (NVS) will replace these switches and provide the foundation for all air/ground and ground/ground voice communications in the future air traffic control environment.
- The FY08 budget request includes $3 million for the NAS Voice Switch. Over five years the President’s Budget request totals $157 million for NAS Voice Switch.
NextGen Demonstrations and Infrastructure Development
At this early stage of NextGen, it is critical to better define operational concepts and the technologies that will support them. For the first time, in FY08, FAA is requesting funding for these defining activities. This funding will support two demonstrations and a series of infrastructure development activities. The primary purpose is to refine aspects of the trajectory-based operations concept.
- The FY08 budget request includes $50 million for NextGen demonstrations and infrastructure development. Over five years the President’s Budget request totals $170 million for NextGen Demonstrations and Infrastructure Development.
The Benefits of NextGen
Trajectory Based Operations
In the future, many pilots and dispatchers will be able to select their own flight paths, rather than follow the existing interstate-like grid in the sky. What enables this is information. In the high performance airspace of the future, 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. Our investments in ADS-B, SWIM, and Data Communications are critical to trajectory based operations.
Collaborative Air Traffic Management
Major demand and capacity imbalances will be worked collaboratively between the FAA air traffic managers and flight operators. The increased scope, volume and widespread distribution of information that SWIM provides will improve the quality of the decisions and let more operators participate.
Reduce Weather Impacts
With NextGen, the impact of weather is reduced through the use of improved information sharing, new technology to sense and mitigate the impacts of weather, improved weather forecasts, and the integration of weather into automation to improve decision-making. Better forecasts, coupled with new automation, will minimize airspace limitations and traffic restrictions.
High Density Airports
When it comes to the airspace around the Nation’s busiest airports (Chicago, New York, Dallas/Fort Worth, Los Angeles), NextGen will provide capabilities beyond those in other areas. New procedures will improve airport surface movements, reduce spacing and separation requirements, and better manage the overall flows into and out of busy metropolitan airspace to provide maximum use of the highest demand airports.
Flexible Terminals and Airports
Focusing all resources on the largest, most complex airports would fail to uncover untapped capacity in the system, and that’s what this initiative is about. During busy traffic periods, NextGen will rely on the ability of aircraft to fly precise routes into and out of many airports to increase throughput.
Without NextGen there will be gridlock in the skies. By 2022, we estimate that this failure would cost the U.S. economy $22 billion annually in lost economic activity. That number grows to over $40 billion by 2033 if we don’t act. Even as early as 2015 our simulation shows that without some of the initial elements of NextGen we will experience delays far greater than what we are seeing today.