"Chief NextGen Officer Report Released"
Michael G. Whitaker, Washington, D.C.
June 3, 2014

NextGen Advisory Committee


Good morning. Thank you for joining us today.

Before I begin the FAA Report, I would like to introduce some new names and faces at the FAA and elsewhere.

But first, I want to welcome Florian Guillermet, the newly appointed Executive Director of SESAR. Many of us have had a chance to work with Florian in his previous role, so we’re thrilled to have him in his new role.

From the FAA, I want to officially congratulate Teri Bristol in her new role as the Chief Operating Officer of the Air Traffic Organization. Many of you worked with Teri in her role as Deputy COO, and before that in Tech Ops. She is a key member of our Next Gen team, to say the least. We are thrilled to have Teri officially in her new role. Teri and Ed Bolton are working together closely on NextGen implementation and harmonization, and she is already having a positive impact in this role. Congratulations Teri.

I am also pleased to introduce Rich Swayze, our newAssistant Administrator for Policy, International Affairs & Environment.Rich comes to us from the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee, where he was a senior staffer covering aviation and transportation issues. His arrival is well timed with what we have on our agenda. Before joining the Senate staff, Rich worked at the GAO. Welcome, Rich.

In a similar vein, next month, we will have a new Assistant Administrator for Airports, Eduardo Angeles. Eduardo previously served as General Counsel to Los Angeles World Airports, and before that he worked at the San Francisco City Attorney’s Office, which acts as counsel to San Francisco International Airport.

I want to thank Ben DeLeon, our current Deputy Assistant Administrator for Airports, for his terrific work over the last several months.

That leaves only the chief counsel and deputy chief counsel as key leadership positions to be filled on our senior leadership team.

With all these new people and new roles, that means Ed is not the “new guy” any more. And I am definitely not the new guy since today marks my one year anniversary with the FAA. As part of my role as Chief NextGen Officer, I am required under the 2012 reauthorization act to submit an annual report to Congress with respect to the status of NextGen – what we refer to internally as the CNO Report.

So it seemed fitting that I would submit the CNO Report after being in my position for one year and that’s what we did – so this morning we submitted that report today to Congress.

The report highlights progress we’ve made in the last year, and also previews the work we are doing with the NAC around the priorities.

Today, our agenda closely follows the contents of the CNO Report.

We will be talking today about the progress we have made in completing the foundational infrastructure of NextGen. I will give an overview of that progress, and Ed will talk about how we are measuring that progress.

The CNO Report also discusses the NAC priorities which we will be talking about at some length today.

Congress has taken a keen interest in these NextGen priorities. We are providing periodic status reports to the House Aviation Subcommittee, formally and informally through meetings, roundtables, and listening sessions concerning the collaboration between the FAA and the NAC, with more to come.

The CNO Report discusses ADS-B in some detail, keying off the fact that we completed the installation of the ground transceivers the first quarter of this calendar year. I will talk a bit more about ADS-B in my report this morning.

The CNO Report also provides an update on Performance Based Navigation, which will be the focus of several discussions today. We will be hearing from the NAC on the PBN Blueprint for Success; and we will also have briefings from the FAA and industry representatives on implementation experiences, including the Houston Metroplex, which as Bill mentioned, went live last week. We’ll also hear about Denver, which was implemented earlier this year. These are two really big success stories for NextGen.

So the CNO Report tracks most of our agenda items today, but there are a few other items I will touch on briefly, including:

  • The Budget and Reauthorization
  • UAS Test Sites
  • And, Ed and Florian will give a brief update on NextGen/SESAR cooperation.

Let me begin by talking a bit about where we are in NextGen – reflecting back on the past year and where we are in this 20-year-long endeavor known as NextGen.

The fact that NextGen was planned as such a long-term undertaking presents us with a significant communications challenge.

It is difficult to convey the scale of the undertaking – changing out the hardware, software and procedures in the entire NAS, all while keeping it running and keeping it running safely.

NextGen involves a large number of programs – “systems-of-systems” is often the term used – and it can be mind-numbing to keep track of them all and to understand how they interrelate.

Adding to that communications challenge is the fact that NextGen is front-loaded with infrastructure replacement, which doesn’t in itself deliver significant benefits to industry, but which is essential in enabling and providing the platform for those future capabilities that we think of as NextGen –as Florian mentioned – building the iPad to allow the apps we associate with NextGen, like DataComm, SWIM, advanced metering, reduced separation and increased surface and runway efficiency.

We have tried to make some improvements in how we communicate about NextGen in a couple key ways:

  • First and foremost, we have tried to emphasize that we are nearing the completion of the foundational phase, the replacement of the basic operating equipment in the NAS:
    • The ground installation of the baseline ADS-B infrastructure was completed last quarter.
    • ERAM will be completed in the first quarter of next calendar year, which means we will be able to decommission the Host system.
    • With TAMR we will have refreshed the technology in our major TRACONs by 2016.

These are important milestones, and we are working hard both to keep these programs on track, and to communicate the fact that we are reaching an important inflection point with NextGen.

One way we communicate this is that Teri, Ed and I, together or in various combinations, now provide detailed quarterly briefings on the progress of these programs to key stakeholders like the NAC, as well as the DOT, OMB, the Hill, the GAO, the airlines and others. This is an important part of our communications strategy.

We are tracking, quarter-by-quarter, our progress over the next 24-36 months toward the completion of these milestones.

Those briefings create some of the accountability that we were just talking about and show where we are in tracking key programs toward completion.

Another part of our communication challenge is that we at the FAA tend to talk in terms of programs, when what the users of the system really care about is capabilities. You want to know how these programs will deliver benefits.

ADS-Bis a good example of this. We completed the installation of more than 630 radio transceivers nationwide. This is an extremely important milestone in our implementation of NextGen, and I’m proud of the work that has brought us to this point, but what does that mean? What does ADS-B actually do? I think people have a difficult time understanding that.

You may think that many of the benefits of ADS-B won’t be realized until 2020, when aircraft in the U.S. are equipped with ADS-B Out, but we are seeing benefits today. So let me talk a little about what capabilities ADS-B will deliver going forward.

We now have ADS-B coverage nearly everywhere there is radar coverage. And in some places where there isn’t radar coverage, such as the Gulf of Mexico, mountainous regions of Colorado and low altitude airspace in Alaska.

With ADS-B, controllers get an update of the aircraft position almost continuously, compared to five seconds or much longer than five seconds with radar. This improves the precision of our tracking and leads to enhanced safety and greater efficiency.

Transmitting data every second may not sound like a big deal, but it is when you’re talking about knowing the exact location of more than 30,000 commercial flights a day. And it’s important in congested airspace to increase metering to reduce delays.

ADS-B Out is more accurate and improves our tools to create more efficiency, and ultimately results in a smoother flow of air traffic.

We are using ADS-B data in a new NextGen capability that will help conduct metering operations more efficiently and at more facilities.

More precise and efficient spacing of aircraft means airlines are in better position to take advantage of fuel-saving NextGen procedures, such as optimized profile descents. We need that ADS-B precision in order to bring you this capability.

What makes ADS-B capabilities possible are the upgrades to our air traffic control software system – ERAM and TAMR. Our legacy system has been limited by its processing speed, and by the number of radar inputs it could accept. In the terminal environment, some facilities only receive a single input.

With ERAM and TAMR, we can process more data, more efficiently, from more sensors. This allows us to fuse radar and ADS-B in our facilities already.

All of this leads to a greater capacity for air traffic controllers to more effectively handle their aircraft in their sectors. It leads to improved efficiency for our entire airspace.

Surface Surveillance

ADS-B also facilitates better sharing of surface data.

We’re improving the ability to see the surface of the movement area by using ADS-B and multilateration at nine additional airports in the next three years.

This new system replaces the legacy surface surveillance system at these nine sites.

This will bring better situational awareness to controllers and to airline dispatch offices. It will improve safety by giving users a common picture of surface movements.

Oceanic

ADS-B In is also providing better capabilities in oceanic airspace.

We’re partnering with United Airlines to document the fuel saving benefits of ADS-B over the Pacific Ocean. This capability enables pilots to see traffic information in the cockpit. It enables pilots to achieve more efficient flight levels and achieve more efficient fuel burn.

This year, we expect that ICAO will officially approve this procedure, which should encourage greater interest in using this technology.

General Aviation

ADS-B is also having an impact with General Aviation.

This spring we launched a general aviation weather safety campaign. Nearly 75 percent of weather-related GA accidents are fatal.

General aviation pilots with proper equipment have taken advantage of ADS-B to receive free traffic and weather information in the cockpit. These services are available nationwide.

This technology provides significant capabilities:

  • Flight Information (FIS-B): This service broadcasts graphical weather to the cockpit based on what ground-based weather radar is detecting. In addition, it broadcasts graphical and text-based advisories including NOTAMs, temporary flight restrictions, and reports on significant weather and thunderstorm activity. Equipped general aviation aircraft can receive this information at altitudes up to 24,000 feet.
  • Traffic Information (TIS-B): This air traffic advisory service provides the altitude, ground track, speed and heading of aircraft flying within a 15-nautical-mile radius, up to 3,500 feet above or below the receiving aircraft’s position. TIS-B transmits traffic data based on radar detections and will provide more situational awareness to pilots throughout the NAS.

Summary

I wanted to spend just a little time on the immediate benefits from ADS-B – in advance of the 2020 ADS-B Out equipage compliance date, which will deliver many more benefits. And certainly well in advance of ADS-B In and DataComm, which will fundamentally change the way we operate in aviation.

Then, if I may, I’d like to cover just a few non-NextGen–related items from the FAA.

Budget Recap/Reauthorization

In December, Congress passed a two-year budget, which provides us with some degree of certainty and temporarily avoids the cuts we would have had to make under the sequester. But unless there’s another fix, the sequester will be with us again in 2016. If the sequester is not solved, the FAA will be forced to cut programs as well as services in existing infrastructure and NextGen.

Regardless of how the 2016 budget plays out, the levels of funding that we have and that we anticipate are still well below what was anticipated just a few years ago.

We still need to find ways to operate more efficiently and provide services within our budgetary limitations. We still have to right-size the NAS.

The current FAA authorization is set to expire in September of next year. As we gear up for reauthorization next year, we need to ask ourselves some basic questions about the mission of the FAA.

The budget uncertainty of the last year has prompted a lot of discussion about how best to provide funding certainty for the FAA in the future. Many of those discussions surround whether there should be changes to the structure of the Air Traffic Organization. Many have asked whether it makes sense to privatize that function and support it with a funding structure that is more stable. 

Regardless of how that very interesting debate is resolved, our mission is the same – to continue to deliver the highest level of safety and services we can, given the actual budgets appropriated. We have to prioritize our work, knowing that we cannot continue to provide all of the services we have in the past. We’re having a robust discussion with our stakeholders about what we might be able to consider to stop doing, or do differently, through innovative business methods or technologies. 

The aviation community is diverse and its members do not always see eye-to-eye. Nevertheless, we have to build a consensus on the direction we’re going. I believe that consensus around the future direction of the FAA is absolutely critical if we are going to resolve our long term funding challenges.

To that end, the Administrator has asked the agency’s Management Advisory Council, to help us answer these questions and provide us with recommendations. The MAC, as we call it, is made up of 13 members from industry, labor and government. They have spent a lot of time gathering the input of our stakeholders and bringing their views to the table. I know many of you have been interviewed in this process

The FAA is committed to supporting our aviation system’s infrastructure needs and ensuring that our system remains the safest and most efficient in the world. As we grapple with the future of what the FAA looks like, how it is funded, and how we provide services, we’ll be reaching out to you for further ideas and input.

UAS Test Sites

I would also like to briefly mention where we are with respect to the UAS test sites.

As part of the current reauthorization, Congress mandated that the FAA would work to integrate unmanned aircraft systems into our nation’s airspace.

  • This spring we launched the first two test sites for unmanned vehicle research – two months ahead of the Congressional deadline.
  • UAS are cleared to fly at the test sites in North Dakota and Alaska. In each case they are using a type of quad copter.
  • In North Dakota, the unmanned Draganflyer will check soil quality and the status of crops. And then during the summer it will collect data to help develop an automated count of certain wildlife populations.
  • The University of Alaska will conduct flights of the unmanned Aeryon Scout – a 2.5 pound helicopter with cameras. It will test the ability to locate, recognize and count wildlife populations.
  • These test sites will help us identify operational goals as well as safety issues that we must consider when planning to expand the use of unmanned aircraft into our system.

International Highlights – (Bolton/Guillermet)

We intend to have as a standing agenda item at the NAC an update on our cooperation with international partners.

·        I’d like to invite Ed Bolton and Florian to share with you the areas of cooperation between NextGen and SESAR.- Joint Presentation with SESAR – Ed Bolton/Florian Guillermet

NextGen Highlights – (Bristol)

I mentioned earlier that we are updating on a quarterly basis our progress in key programs.

  • Teri Bristol will share with you a look at our seven major NextGen programs we are tracking closely to advance and enhance NextGen through 2016. She’ll also share with you the progress we’ve made on NextGen priorities since we last met in Phoenix.–Presentation by Teri Bristol on seven major programs and NextGen priorities.

Finally, let me close by thanking the participants of the subcommittee and the working groups – from industry and from FAA – who have been working diligently on the NextGen prioritization work. We’ve made a lot of progress since February.

I’m pleased to see the energy and enthusiasm from both within the FAA and industry on developing a plan for our four focus areas.

I know we will have much more on each of these areas after the break, but I just want to acknowledge all of your good work, and the leadership that Bill and Steve and Margaret have provided.

Thank you again for your attention this morning, and that concludes the FAA Report.

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