"NextGen and the Public-Private Partnership"
Michael Huerta, Seattle, Washington
May 24, 2012

NextGen Advisory Council

Thank you, Dave (Barger), it’s good to be here and nice to see everyone.  We had a great meeting in February in Florida, and I’m looking forward to the discussions today.   

The future of the national airspace system depends a great deal on NextGen.  We need to recognize that this isn’t something the FAA can do alone, and we need all our industry partners to be a part of this process.  Our collaboration is critical. 

Organizational Update

We have a lot of work to do, and I remain squarely focused on our main mission: running the largest and safest air traffic control system in the world, and ensuring the safety of the traveling public.

To do this, I have asked my senior leadership to focus on three main areas this year as we face the challenges ahead:

  • Number one, is making the safest aviation system in the world even safer and smarter, and I put the emphasis on smarter.
  • Number two, is accelerating the benefits of new technology—and here I have really emphasized benefits for the public now.
  • And number three, is making sure that we empower our employees to embrace innovation and to work efficiently.  We have more than 47,000 we want to empower to embrace the changes and challenges ahead as we make our system smarter.


As you are aware, Congress passed, and the President has signed, a four-year reauthorization for the FAA that puts an end to four-and-a-half years of stop-gap extensions.

It brings us through fiscal year 2015.  The reauthorization provides the FAA the continuity and focus for our critical tasks – and this, of course, includes the implementation of NextGen.

With reauthorization come many new requirements, from Unmanned Aircraft Systems to NextGen procedures and equipage.  Other requirements are nearly completed or are well underway.  The new authorization also includes
23 new rulemakings on safety and other issues. 

We are all aware of the challenging budget environment we are now facing.  Authorized funding levels remain flat over the next four years.   In line with the President’s direction on efficient spending, we are taking a critical look at what we do, and identifying ways to do it more efficiently. 

The reauthorization emphasizes the implementation of new Performance Based Navigation procedures, and mandates development of these procedures at America’s 35 busiest airports by 2015.  We are already working on this at several airports as part of our Metroplex initiative.  There are also new deadlines for ADS-B In, and additional performance metrics and streamlining of environmental processes that support NextGen.  

As I mentioned, the legislation also addresses Unmanned Aircraft.  These systems certainly have become a particular interest with the public and the legislature.  These systems are cutting edge technology, and we are committed to safely integrating them into our national airspace. 

There is a lot of interest in unmanned aircraft, and a lot of work remains to be done.  We’ve established the FAA UAS Integration Office to lead that work, and we’re identifying six test ranges that will support the integration of Unmanned Aircraft.  And, we continue working on a rule for Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems.

NextGen Equipage

Let me now say a few words about NextGen equipage incentives, which are of particular interest here at the NAC. The reauthorization requires the FAA to produce a plan for providing operational incentives and an equipage incentive program.  There is no funding provided for this effort, but we recognize the idea is to encourage a public-private partnership.  Work for both types of incentives is underway.  

At the FAA, we’ve decided that we need to focus on specific, localized opportunities to test operational incentives.  Earlier this year, we asked for the aviation community’s technical feedback on 10 varying options for operational incentives which would be implemented in the next two years.  The FAA appreciates the honest feedback on these proposals – it helps us to define the next steps.   

For financial incentives, the goal for an equipage program would be to accelerate achievement of the benefits of the operation of NextGen in our national airspace.  And, as a part of our due diligence, we’ve scheduled a public meeting for May 30 to facilitate a dialogue with industry. We are also consulting with other federal agencies that have implemented similar partnerships to understand what options may exist for establishing an effective program.


Let me turn now to Metroplexes.  One way to bring NextGen benefits right now to many stakeholders, using existing equipment, is the Metroplex initiative.  When we met last in February, you provided advice on operational improvements to Tier 1 metroplexes.  We are working within the agency to assess these recommendations, and we expect to respond in October.  This will give us time to fully absorb and study the recommendations. 

We’ve already had useful discussions with the Integrated Capabilities Work Group.  This has helped us get to a better understanding of what NextGen can accomplish.  Today, we’ll discuss the Tier 2 locations.

While the Metroplex initiative is about creating more direct, fuel efficient routes and improving how we use congested airspace, DataComm is about improving the way we communicate.  We are committed to moving forward with DataComm, and we continue to make progress in finalizing the scope and planning for its implementation. 

In fact, we recently selected three sites for testing Data Comm.  These are: Memphis with FedEx, Newark with United, and Atlanta with Delta.  This collaboration between the FAA and the airlines is the kind of public–private partnership that is crucial to moving us forward. 

NextGen Performance Snapshots

We are implementing a lot of changes, and it’s important to keep track of how these changes help improve our airspace.  The NextGen Performance Snapshots are a real NAC success story.  In March, we launched the performance snapshots web page based on metrics recommended by the NAC, and approved by FAA’s NextGen Management Board.  The performance snapshots provide a “rear-view mirror” look at post-implementation performance at specific locations.  It also provides descriptions of some major operational successes.  Currently, the snapshots focus on 21 metroplexes, as well as Core 30 airports and airspaces. 

The metrics are based on ICAO key performance areas.  We’ll be reporting on metrics focused on capacity, efficiency, safety, and the environment.  Later this year, we’ll add predictability, efficiency and access. 

I’d like to also address two areas that are always raised during discussions on the performance snapshots: targets and causality.  First, the snapshots will incorporate targets in later releases.

The second is causality.  We all know that it is difficult to determine exact correlation between cause and effect.  Both government and industry play crucial roles in how NextGen operates.  The full benefits of NextGen will only come if we both deliver on our respective tasks.  The performance snapshots will help both government and industry assess the effects of NextGen implementation as we perform our individual, yet collective, roles.  And, as you heard earlier this morning, Greener Skies is demonstrating what is possible when everyone plays their part.

While deciding what is most important to measure is a challenge in and of itself, we can’t stop there.  The perfect metric won’t help unless reliable and complete data are available.

We each have pieces of the puzzle on why things work, or don’t work, for that matter.  We all need one another – we ask you to continue to help us identify and obtain the necessary data to move forward.  Let’s keep this issue of data in mind today as we consider both metrics and other non-technical barriers to implementation. 

NextGen Implementation Plan

Let me also mention that we have copies of the 2012 edition of the NextGen Implementation Plan for you.  Please take a look.  I’m hoping you’ll be as pleased as I am to find that the discussions and the work we’ve done are captured here in this edition of the plan. 


I’d like to close by acknowledging all of the staff work within our individual organizations and at the NAC Sub-Committee that helps prepare us to grapple with the important higher-level policy discussions.

I am confident that we’ll leave here today with a greater collective understanding of where we are going, and how we can work together to remove barriers in both government and industry.

In fact, I look forward to the facilitated discussions that can help provide overarching principles on Best Equipped, Best Served, and what this group feels the cultural barriers are in implementing NextGen, and how to overcome those to enable us to move forward with a shared responsibility and shared progress, and also help shape any future undertakings we may consider.   

I know that by continuing to work together, we can make additional progress this year. 

Thank you again for attending today and now, let’s turn to the agenda.