"NextGen Task Force Report"
J. Randolph Babbitt, Washington, D.C.
September 15, 2009

RTCA NextGen Forum


Remarks as prepared for delivery

Good morning. Thank you, Bill [Carey]. This has been a unique process. The Task Force should be pleased with what it accomplished. The efforts of this group have resulted in a sharpened focus for the way ahead. No matter how you interpret the report or its recommendations, one message comes through with great clarity:  Everyone agrees that NextGen can’t come soon enough.

Just about everyone involved — from the Congress to the aviation community — has been struggling to define the future of the National Airspace System. For years, we were criticized for not pinning down requirements. Then the critics focused on an inability to meet schedules. Then the criticism shifted to “I-wasn’t-part-of-the-design-team.” Mixed in there was a drumbeat of thinking too small and alternatively, thinking too big.

But even with all of that said, I’m hopeful  that the work of the task force will put all of this to rest.

We need to keep in mind the need for a sense of urgency. We have to get this launched. We need consensus. We need mutual understanding, trust and commitment. The FAA has to say, “We’re going to do X,” and then we have to make good on our word. And the user community has to say, “We’re going to do our part,” and then it has to do it — whether that be equip or train or participate in other ways in the rollout of NextGen capabilities.

I think the task force report puts us in the place we need to be. But I can’t say this strongly enough:  This is not a reality TV show. That really is the taxpayer sitting there 16th in line. That really is Congress waiting there on the tarmac. The reality is — we need to fix that.

I’ve flown enough to know that NextGen is a success story waiting to happen. We need to advance well beyond the preliminaries. We as a group need to commit together to giving it the juice it needs. Lest there be any doubt, I’m making that commitment for the FAA right here, right now. And I have the support of the Secretary and the President. They want this up and running, and they are fully supportive. The green light can’t get any greener than that.

As I said a moment ago, I’m confident that the report which brings us here is going to give us the lift we need to get NextGen in the air.

The Task Force has forged a consensus across a wide spectrum of users, and I applaud you for that. This is an excellent head start. You’ve given us a short list of recommended operational capabilities. Task Force efforts have provided us with a unique opportunity to align our implementation plan with the desires of the aviation community.

The report contains several important themes. But most importantly, I think the report gives us the traction we need to build confidence in the FAA’s ability to deliver early benefits. When we show that we can, will and do deliver the goods, the rest will come naturally.

The report also points to the need for delivering NextGen capabilities where they matter. RNP and RNAV approaches are good. RNP and RNAV approaches in high traffic areas are great. We need to be candid with ourselves. We’ve got a lot of these approaches, but we’ve got a lot of them that aren’t in the right spots.

For those who worry that the FAA is focusing on near-term expediencies at the expense of longer-term deliverables, let me assure you that is not the case. The focus of the Task Force was maximum benefit from today’s tools. NextGen requires us to forge ahead with delivery of tomorrow’s capabilities and we have every intention of doing that. ADS-B is a case in point. Lessons learned from implementing the recommendations of this task force will help us derive maximum benefit from ADS-B once the supporting infrastructure and standards are in place.

We’re also focusing on the human element. Across the country already, we’re putting people in place throughout our Aviation Safety organization — NextGen specialists, whose job it is to facilitate understanding of the big picture. They’re going to make sure that the approval aspects of NextGen are in gear. They’re going to make sure that our workforce sees and knows and understands where we’re headed with NextGen. Let’s face it:  equipment and procedures aren’t going to amount to much if the players don’t know where it all fits and how it all works. I’m going to make sure that when NextGen shows up at the door that our safety workforce knows exactly what’s in the box.

I must emphasize that you the industry has spoken. You have provided a set of recommendations that is clear, actionable, and achievable. While this might require us to modify our current plans and processes, we are ready to commit appropriate resources and get to work on implementation of Task Force recommendations.

Let me close by thanking the Task Force for your personal time, commitment and effort in making this happen. When we look back a few years from now, we’re going to see this report as a turning point — not just for technology but for the whole of aviation as well. Thank you for your service to the flying public.

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