September 12, 2012

Statement of Michael Huerta, Acting Administrator

Before the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure on NextGen


Good morning, Chairman Petri, Ranking Member Costello and members of the subcommittee. As you just heard from Deputy Secretary Porcari, NextGen is happening now.

It’s not something we are doing alone. It’s a public-private partnership that will enhance the safety of our aviation system and lay the groundwork for the United States to continue to operate the safest aviation system in the world.

I’ve made it a priority to step up our collaboration with our stakeholders externally to increase the focus on NextGen and to bring benefits to the traveling public now.

The FAA has a long history of engaging with industry to develop consensus around policy, programs and regulatory decisions.

We have worked closely with industry partners, such as RTCA, and have incorporated important advice from that organization in our NextGen planning. We’ve also established a broad-based panel – the NextGen Advisory Committee—to provide guidance and recommendations on how to equip for NextGen and how to measure our success.

We value the advice of the Joint Planning and Development Office, which handles interagency coordination and long-term planning for NextGen. And we work with the experts at the Institute Management Council, which oversees the NextGen Institute. As always, we work with airlines that are enthusiastic about our pilot programs and help us to gain valuable NextGen data.

Let me share a few examples of our partnerships for NextGen and the progress we are making around the country.

In Seattle, Washington, as part of the Greener Skies initiative, we are partnering with Alaska Airlines, the Port of Seattle and the Boeing Company.

We have created new NextGen approaches for airlines flying into Seattle Tacoma International Airport. These flight tracks are shorter, more fuel efficient and environmentally friendly. That’s a lot of hard work by all of our partners, and thanks to that, we reached a milestone this summer. For the first time,Alaska Airlines is flying customers into SeaTac using these new NextGen approaches.

In fact, these procedures will help all equipped airlines flying into SeaTac to significantly cut total fuel consumption annually, reduce carbon emissions and deliver other important benefits.

And in addition to our partnerships, we have also taken steps to change the way we do business and improve the efficiency of our internal workflow.

The results are apparent in our work tackling the problem of congested airspace over busy metropolitan areas around the country.

The old way of doing business was to improve air traffic procedures at one airport, separate from the others. But we’ve taken a different approach. We are looking at metro areas as a whole and bringing all our stakeholders to the table – airports, airlines, our air traffic controllers and federal agencies. We are working together to improve air traffic flow around all of the airports in a metroplex. We are creating new and more direct routes that will relieve congestion and improve safety and efficiency.

By changing the way we approach the problem, we are improving our airspace in three years. Under our old way of doing business, these changes would have taken five to 10 years.

We’re seeing great progress in Houston, Atlanta, Charlotte, California, north Texas and right here in metropolitan Washington, D.C. And more regions will follow.

We have learned lessons from the past regarding our large acquisition programs and we have developed best practices moving forward.

We have elevated and strengthened our NextGen organization, and we have created a new Program Management Organization specifically focused on implementing major technology programs, such as ERAM – which is our En Route Automation Modernization program. This will strengthen and improve the coordination among NextGen initiatives, ushering them from the drawing board to live operation.

This new approach, as well as our improved working relationship with our unions, is already showing results. ERAM already is operating at nine en route centers around the country. We plan to use it at a total of 20 centers. And now five centers are using ERAM as the primary technology to direct air traffic. This sets the stage for taking advantage of more NextGen capabilities throughout the air traffic control system.

This is truly an exciting time in aviation history.

NextGen is fundamental to ensuring that we continue to operate the world’s safest air transportation system for many years to come. It will allow us to deliver more on-time and more fuel-efficient flights.

It’s a better way of doing business – for the FAA, the airlines, the airports and the traveling public. Thank you very much for the opportunity to appear before you today. This concludes my testimony and I am happy to take any questions you may have.

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