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Do you have questions about the FAA's large-scale modernization of the National Airspace System? We have answers. Here are the most frequently asked questions about NextGen.


Cost and Benefits


Environment and Noise

Technology and Operations

What is NextGen?

The Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen) is the FAA-led modernization of America's air transportation system to make flying even safer, more efficient, and more predictable.

This modernization effort is one of the most ambitious infrastructure projects in U.S. history. Instead of making minor upgrades to aging infrastructure, the FAA and its partners continue to implement major new technologies and capabilities in shaping a modern, resilient, and secure National Airspace System that serves more than 2.7 million passengers and 44,000 flights per day.

NextGen is not one technology, product, or goal. The modernization effort encompasses innovative and transformative technologies that are being developed and implemented after thorough testing for safety.

NextGen is about halfway through a multi-year investment and implementation plan. For several years now, it has continually introduced new technologies to improve air travel. The FAA plans to continue implementing cutting-edge technologies, procedures, and policies that benefit passengers, the aviation industry, and the environment through 2025 and beyond.

All of NextGen's upgrades are being implemented while the FAA and NextGen stakeholders continue to deliver on our shared top priorities: emphasizing safety, increasing efficiency, improving environmental performance, and enhancing the passenger experience in the busiest — and safest — airspace in the world.

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What's transformational about it?

NextGen has always been described as a transformation of the air traffic management system. While several of its technologies are "transformative," the technologies themselves are not the transformation. The transformation comes from using these technologies in ways that improve how operations are conducted and how services are provided.

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Why is the FAA investing in modernization?

All airline passengers want to get to where they are going as safely and quickly as possible. That becomes a bigger challenge with each passing year as the demand for air travel continues to grow.

The FAA is proud of its history of operating the world's safest, busiest airspace. The agency has again recognized the need to improve the system so that it is more efficient, more predictable, and able to handle more capacity while maintaining the highest safety standards and reducing environmental impacts.

The FAA is working on modernization with many partners to reap shared efficiencies throughout the system — from helping a single aircraft burn less fuel while arriving at its destination more quickly to making the overall system safer, more efficient, and more resilient.

Thanks to NextGen, the U.S. air travel system can recover more quickly from disruptions such as severe weather or air carrier computer issues. Creating more efficiency at every phase of flight results in a better travel experience and more benefits to passengers, air carriers, the FAA, and other airspace users with less impact on the environment.

Modernizing the U.S. aviation infrastructure is an investment in the future of the American economy and workforce. Aviation accounts for more than 5 percent of the U.S. Gross Domestic Product, contributes $1.6 trillion in total economic activity, and supports nearly 11 million jobs. Aviation manufacturing continues to be the nation's top net export.

An FAA-sponsored 2010 study found that flight delays cost the U.S. economy nearly $33 billion in 2007 alone, with passengers absorbing $16.7 billion in lost time, missed connections, and unexpected food and lodging expenses. They also cost airlines $8.3 billion in additional labor, fuel, and maintenance. What's more, people who avoid air travel because of delays cost the economy nearly $4 billion.

One of the long-term goals of NextGen is to evolve U.S. air traffic control from a system based on knowing where an aircraft is to one based on knowing where each aircraft is headed and where it will be at designated points along its projected flight path for improved efficiency and capacity. That goal is called trajectory-based operations, and our path to achieve it is detailed in The Future of the NAS report.

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How do efforts to modernize the U.S. air transportation system fit into similar efforts around the world?

To foster worldwide harmonization in air traffic management (ATM) systems, the FAA and its international counterparts work through the International Civil Aviation Organization to develop a globally connected, seamless air transportation system.

Engaging with the international aviation community through partnerships and regulatory harmonization is the foundation of the FAA global leadership initiative. The NextGen International Office, a division of the Interagency Planning Office, focuses on coordinating and sharing information with global partners. Its ultimate goal is to support seamless interoperability and harmonization, and to provide a mechanism to make ATM systems safer and more efficient for air navigation service providers and airspace users.

To ensure the United States retains its role as the world leader in aviation, the FAA and industry partners are working to make sure that the National Airspace System is interconnected worldwide through data exchange standards, as well as other globally uniform operational and technical standards, procedures, avionics capabilities, and implementation timelines. This will enable airspace users to realize NextGen's maximum benefits.

The FAA is also working with foreign partners to ensure that they are aware of the requirement that aircraft operating in most U.S. airspace where air traffic control services are provided be equipped with Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast Out — a technology that tracks aircraft positions more precisely than radar — by January 1, 2020.

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Where is this system in use?

NextGen technologies and procedures are in place across the country in the skies above and on the ground, in air traffic control facilities and in aircraft cockpits throughout the United States.

Data Communications departure clearances, for example, are available at 62 airports nationwide. At Chicago Midway, more than half of all flights are now being cleared for departure through Data Comm's digital text messages instead of voice communications, which means aircraft get airborne quicker.

More than 9,300 Performance Based Navigation takeoff and landing procedures and cruising routes are saving time and fuel throughout the National Airspace System. They are enhancing air traffic control and flight operations at airports across the country. At Minneapolis alone, airlines have reported using 2.9 million fewer gallons of fuel annually since the introduction of new PBN arrival procedures.

Aircraft flying over the Gulf of Mexico equipped with ADS-B Out (Automatic Dependent Surveillance–Broadcast) are being tracked in real-time. Before this NextGen technology, aircraft were nearly invisible to air traffic controllers when flying over large bodies of water. A total of 120 FAA air traffic control facilities are using ADS-B to separate aircraft, and new ADS-B procedures are being developed and tested that will make trans-oceanic flight more time- and fuel-efficient.

Learn more about NextGen new technologies and view our NextGen Performance Snapshots.

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What's the timeline?

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How much does it cost?

The deployment of NextGen's many technologies and capabilities requires federal investment in research and development, procurement, airspace and procedure design, training, program management, operations, and other areas.

Starting with our initial 2007 investments and continuing through to 2030, NextGen is projected to cost the FAA and taxpayers about $20.6 billion and aviation industry partners about $15 billion for new equipment and training.

Here is the breakdown of direct costs to the FAA and taxpayers:

  • $16 billion for facilities and equipment
  • $3.1 billion for operations
  • $1.5 billion for research and development

According to a 2016 MITRE avionicsCoster report, the total equipage cost estimate for commercial aircraft from 2015 – 2030 is $4.9 billion, a decrease of $500 million as reported in the 2014 Business Case for NextGen.

Estimated Avionics Equipage Costs in Billions* (2011 — 2030)
Operator Type Baselined Improvements Anticipated Improvements Total Improvements
Commercial $4.5 $0.8 $5.3
General Aviation $4.6 $5.2 $9.8
Jet, Turboprop $2.2 $0.6 $2.8
Piston $2.5 $4.6 $7.1
Total $9.1 $6.0 $15.1

*Amounts are in 2015 dollars.

The 2016 update to the Business Case for NextGen provides the most detail on NextGen's projected costs.

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What are the measurable benefits?

The FAA estimates that NextGen's implemented improvements have accrued $4.7 billion worth of benefits from 2010-2017, which consists of $2.6 billion in decreased passenger travel time, $1.8 billion in lower aircraft operating expenses, and $300 million in safety benefits. The FAA will continue to refine benefits reporting as new information and operational data become available.

With the initial costs behind us, NextGen is poised to provide greater benefits every year.

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Who is working with the FAA on modernization?

The FAA's partnerships with aviation community stakeholders are essential to gain maximum benefits, plan for future improvements, give meaningful consideration to community concerns, and overcome challenges in making the transformation from the legacy air transportation system to NextGen. The FAA work with the aviation community through the NextGen Advisory Committee (NAC). The objective of the NAC is to provide independent advice and recommendations to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and to respond to specific taskings received directly from the FAA. The advice, recommendations, and taskings relate to concepts, requirements, operational capabilities, the associated use of technology, and related considerations to operations that affect the future of the Air Traffic Management System and the integration of new technologies. In addition, the NAC recommends consensus-driven standards for FAA consideration relating to Air Traffic Management System modernization, which the FAA may adopt.

The FAA also collaborates with the aviation community through the Equip 2020 Working Group to help aircraft owners make the appropriate equipage decision regarding Automatic Dependent Surveillance–Broadcast (ADS-B) Out before the mandated deadline. Aircraft flying in most controlled airspace must be equipped to broadcast their position via ADS-B Out by January 1, 2020. The group has identified and resolved many barriers to equipage, including cost and availability of equipment for most aircraft types.

Another critical piece to NextGen's success is collaboration among the operational workforce — including pilots, dispatchers, air traffic controllers, traffic managers, and the FAA Command Center — as it begins to use and embrace enhanced tools and processes that depend on exchanging information between internal FAA systems and external stakeholders.

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What has the NextGen Advisory Committee achieved?

NAC members produced a plan to focus on NextGen capabilities that could provide near-term benefits in four areas: Performance Based Navigation, Data Communications, Multiple Runway Operations, and Improved Surface Operations. As of the end of Fiscal Year 2017, the FAA and the NAC have completed 157 of 163 planned commitments together, delivering a multitude of capabilities and benefits to NAS users across the country.

One example of how the FAA and its partners adapt to changing needs is a new focus on improving operations in the Northeast Corridor, the busy airspace between Washington, D.C., and Boston that includes Philadelphia and New York City. At its February 2017 meeting, the NAC made the Northeast Corridor its fifth priority area for NextGen. With FAA support, the NAC is asking stakeholders to collaboratively define what they view as the region's primary challenges and opportunities, as well as how success will be defined. This fall, the FAA will use that input to define joint implementation commitments for the Northeast Corridor, including government and industry milestones, and to define how implementing those priorities would create measurable benefits.

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Does modernization just benefit air carriers?

NextGen is for anyone who flies in airspace where air traffic control services are provided, which is most U.S. airspace. This includes private pilots with small or experimental aircraft, business jet operators, and helicopter operators as well as air carriers.

NextGen's state-of-the-art technologies and procedures are transforming the nation's air transportation system, providing greater efficiency for all pilots and passengers and helping protect the environment. It means moving away from ground-based to satellite-enabled technologies for navigation and surveillance systems and from analog to digital communication. For instance, NextGen provides increased situational awareness, especially for general aviation pilots. In properly equipped cockpits, pilots can see the same visual display of nearby aircraft that air traffic controllers see.

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How will passengers be affected?

If you have flown on an airline in the last few years, you've probably benefited from NextGen without even knowing it. Safety remains the top concern for the FAA, and NextGen has processes in place to ensure that its efficiency and capacity improvements maintain or enhance safety.

NextGen enables more aircraft to safely fly closer together on shorter, smoother routes. It also eliminates airport chokepoints by making aircraft taxiing, departures, and arrivals more predictable.

These improvements foster fewer and shorter arrival or departure delays, and fewer flight cancellations caused by weather or other traffic management reasons, which means less wasted time and inconvenience. Passengers will spend less time waiting on the tarmac and in holding patterns thanks to gate-to-gate improvements in air traffic management. If there is a delay, passengers will be able to wait more comfortably in the terminal instead of on a crowded airplane.

Here are a few ways how NextGen improves the flying experience for passengers and air carriers:

  • Standardized and secure data-sharing is providing greater information access for improved flight planning and execution.
  • Digital communications between pilots and controllers help aircraft at 56 airports take off sooner.
  • Better aircraft tracking means more efficiency in the system, which could help create more routes and flight options between cities.
  • Flight crews and controllers use NextGen technology to avoid severe weather that can cause turbulence.
  • Shorter flight routes through more precise and accurate navigation help the airlines get you to your destination sooner.
  • Aircraft can smoothly descend to the runway by using new navigation procedures and advanced avionics.

With the foundation of our nationwide modernization of the air traffic control system in place, the FAA continues to build upon that infrastructure with new technologies, systems, and procedures. These will make flying even safer and more efficient from gate to gate.

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How will airspace modernization help the environment?

At the heart of NextGen is a commitment to provide environmental protections that also enable sustained aviation growth.

NextGen is one of the world's most substantial programs aimed at saving fuel and reducing aviation's environmental impact. Operational and infrastructure improvements made through NextGen require environmental review in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act. The FAA and NextGen have also outlined plans and initiatives for improvements in technology, policies, standards, and operations to achieve its 2020 goal of carbon-neutral growth. These include domestic and global investments in:

  • Accelerating the development and integration of new aircraft and engine technologies to reduce fuel burn and emissions
  • Developing sustainable alternative aviation fuels (even using plants and food industry waste) to reduce environmental impacts and enhance energy security
  • Eliminating the only remaining leaded fuel used in the United States
  • Implementing operational improvements in navigation, surveillance, communications, and air traffic control that enable reductions in fuel burn and emissions
  • Ensuring we have appropriate policies and environmental standards to support advantageous technologies and operational innovations so that we may accelerate their integration into the commercial fleet, the airport environment, and the entire national aviation system

Learn more about NextGen's goals, policies, and initiatives to protect the environment.

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What is NextGen doing about airplane noise?

Over the last two decades, the FAA and the aviation industry have significantly reduced aircraft noise for people living near airports. Advances in aircraft technology, operational procedures, and noise abatement programs at airports work together to mitigate noise.

We continue to work with aircraft and engine manufacturers and airports to further reduce aircraft noise. As individual aircraft noise levels have decreased, however, we've seen increases in the number of operations at many airports, particularly at night and in the early morning hours.

The number of people living around airports also has increased. When NextGen or other air traffic procedures are developed, we try to route flights over water, industrial areas, or other non-residential areas as much as possible. Although NextGen procedures generally provide noise relief for a majority of people and communities, they sometimes result in flight pattern changes that can concentrate noise for some community residents who live directly under those flight paths. As a result, we've seen an increasing level of public debate, political interest, and even litigation related to aircraft noise. The FAA has stepped up its public engagement efforts across the United States in response to these trends.

We strive to make sure that all voices are heard when something is done that affects a community, but the FAA can't solve noise issues alone. All aviation stakeholders, from local airport authorities to the airlines, need to take an ownership stake on noise issues. That means working together to engage communities early and often, and meeting them where they live. By listening to people's concerns, we can make an earnest effort to find workable solutions.

The FAA actively promotes three broad strategies to manage aviation noise:

  • Reduction of noise at its source, such as through quieter aircraft engines, aerodynamic improvements, and/or operational procedural modifications
  • Federally funded noise mitigation programs, which primarily include property acquisition and sound insulation for eligible homes, schools, and other noise-sensitive facilities such as health care facilities and houses of worship
  • Noise compatibility planning, which is a structured approach to enable airports, airlines and other user groups, the FAA, and neighboring communities to reduce the number of people exposed to significant noise

The FAA's research roadmap includes work on aviation noise impacts (sleep, cardiovascular health, children's learning, and annoyance), mitigation efforts (such as improving the process for determining sound insulation eligibility), standard setting, noise stringency, review of noise certification procedures, and improved noise modeling.

The FAA is also conducting research projects to quantify the impact of aircraft noise on sleep disturbance and cardiovascular health with the Aviation Sustainability Center at the FAA Center of Excellence for Alternative Jet Fuels and Environment.

Learn more about FAA efforts to measure and reduce airplane noise.

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Does the FAA accept feedback from people who live in communities where changes are being implemented?

As the FAA carries out its mission to provide the safest, most efficient aerospace system in the world, it is accountable to the American public.

The views of communities — including local residents, the general public, and aviation stakeholders — are important to the FAA as we work to improve the National Airspace System's safety and efficiency. The FAA is committed to inform and involve the public, engage with communities, and give meaningful consideration to community concerns and views as we make aviation decisions that affect them.

Learn more about modernization projects across the country and how you can get involved in discussions about the evolution of the U.S. air transportation system.

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What are some of the new technologies the FAA is working on?

NextGen already helps air carriers fly shorter routes, assists air traffic controllers and pilots track aircraft more precisely (which can save lives), reduces aircraft separation over the ocean by 50 miles or more, and improves operations at New York City.

The FAA and the NextGen Office are working with partners on many other exciting projects, including:

  • Knowing exactly where an aircraft will be in the future
  • Tracking spacecraft headed to and from orbit
  • Accommodating more unmanned aircraft systems throughout U.S. airspace
  • Creating 4-D turbulence forecasts for pilots
  • Turning plants and food industry waste into jet fuel
  • Eliminating the only remaining leaded fuel used in the United States

The FAA also is collaborating with NASA and other industry partners to develop advanced automation concepts and tools that provide air traffic controllers, pilots, and other airspace users more-accurate, near-real-time information about weather, routing, and traffic in the National Airspace System. Two demonstrations are testing those concepts:

Air Traffic Management (ATM) Technology Demonstration-1 (ATD-1) integrates Time Based Flow Management (TBFM), Controller Managed Spacing (CMS), and Flight Deck Interval Management developed by NASA to efficiently manage arrival aircraft from just before top-of-descent to the runway.

ATD-2 integrates surface, departure, and arrival concepts and technologies to demonstrate the benefits of such a traffic management system for metroplexes, which are populous areas with crowded airspace and multiple airports. ATD-2 will include the FAA's three major operational decision support systems: Traffic Flow Management System, TBFM, and Terminal Flight Data Manager. NASA's Spot and Runway Departure Advisor and Precision Departure Release Capability are also part of ATD-2. Initial projections of 10 congested airports show that ATD-2's metroplex departure scheduling could reduce overall departure delays by 40 percent and enable aircraft to wait out delays at the gate instead of on the tarmac with engines running.

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How important is GPS technology?

You may have heard NextGen described as the shift from ground-based to satellite-based technology. GPS satellites and the corresponding aircraft equipment are the reason we can transition from tracking aircraft using radar to Automatic Dependent Surveillance–Broadcast and provide a more accurate and precise way to fly from one place to another instead of using ground-based aids for Performance Based Navigation.

Basic GPS service lets users on or near the Earth's surface know where they are within 25 feet 95 percent of the time. For aircraft that use the satellite-based augmentation system known in the United States as the Wide Area Augmentation System (WAAS), their positions are accurate within 10 feet. Aircraft equipped with GPS/WAAS are able to fly shorter routes and take off and land more safely and efficiently.

For general aviation, it gives pilots more flexibility as well because they can land during limited visibility at airports not equipped with a ground-based Instrument Landing System or at an airport closer to their destination.

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How does modernization shorten flight paths?

The shortest distance between two points is, of course, a straight line. But due to geography and past technological limitations, commercial aircraft have followed inefficient zigzag paths between ground-based radio beacons for decades. Air traffic controllers monitored those flights on radar and directed aircraft individually by radio communications if they needed to change flight paths.

NextGen uses modern technologies to determine aircraft positions more precisely so that they can fly more-direct paths. A GPS satellite-based tracking system called Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast, or ADS-B, accurately determines the position of an aircraft, and this information is broadcast over a network to air traffic controllers and pilots. Aircraft and ground computer automation help to offload from humans some of the work and information processing to support choosing the most efficient paths to fly while maintaining a safe distance from other aircraft. These technologies and other capabilities to manage traffic flow work together help make air travel safer, more dependable, and more efficient.

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What is Performance Based Navigation and how does it improve airspace efficiency and capacity?

Performance Based Navigation (PBN) is an advanced, primarily satellite-enabled form of air navigation that creates precise 3-D flight paths from takeoff to landing. The new route structure makes more-direct paths possible to improve efficiency, and more routes can fit into the same airspace, which increases capacity. PBN's repeatable and predictable paths also enhance safety.

The FAA has published more than 9,300 PBN takeoff and landing procedures, and cruising routes, including hundreds to enhance air traffic control and flight operations at airports in metroplexes, which are metropolitan areas where crowded airspace has to serve the needs of multiple airports.

With PBN, the paths an aircraft can fly depend on equipment performance levels and pilot training. Aircraft equipped with self-monitoring avionics flown by trained pilots can use the precise and accurate satellite-based landing paths to operate safely near mountainous areas or in congested airspace.

The FAA has established where and how aircraft can fly using navigation specifications. These specifications identify the choice of ground- or satellite-based navigation aid and aircraft avionics that may be used to meet the performance requirements.

Instrument-rated pilots can now land at airports previously not possible by using GPS with the Wide Area Augmentation System. At an airport where a ground-based Instrument Landing System (ILS) may be out of service, PBN landing procedures serve as a backup. The FAA will seldom, if ever, install a new ILS, opting instead for PBN landing procedures, which save money. We also will cut costs by reducing the existing ground-based navigation infrastructure, which remains as a backup in case of disrupted satellite service.

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What is Data Communications and how does the program modernize U.S. airspace?

Data Communications (Data Comm) now helps equipped aircraft take off sooner through clear and quick typed communications between pilots and air traffic controllers.

Data Comm saves aircraft time waiting to take off, particularly when routes change, which reduces fuel use and engine exhaust emissions. It lowers the chances of delays or cancellations when weather affects the flight route. Pilots and controllers also can spend more time on other critical tasks, which enhances safety.

Data Comm tower services were implemented at 55 airports by the end of 2016 in the program's first segment, under budget and almost two and a half years ahead of schedule. Based on this success, air carriers requested and the FAA approved seven more airports to receive tower services, which were completed in 2018.

Here's how Data Comm works at airports: Tower air traffic controllers can send pilots of equipped aircraft departure clearance instructions to read, accept, and load into their airplane flight management system with the push of a button. Messages also are sent to flight dispatchers, giving everyone a shared awareness for faster reactions to changes, such as approaching thunderstorms.

Unlike radio, Data Comm messages sent by controllers are delivered only to the affected aircraft, which eliminates the chances that another pilot acts on instructions intended for another aircraft with a similar call sign. Pilot also won't miss a message because of busy radio chatter or malfunctioning microphone, and the text-based message format also avoids misunderstanding from variations in the way people speak.

Radio exchanges will always be part of air traffic control, and Data Comm preserves radio frequency bandwidth for instances when voice communication is necessary or preferred. In critical situations, voice communication will continue to be the primary form of controller-pilot interaction, but for routine communications between pilots and controllers, Data Comm will provide numerous benefits.

These benefits are expected to be even greater for air carriers and passengers when Data Comm starts serving aircraft at cruising altitude. Initial Data Comm services for cruising altitude are scheduled to start in 2019 and be available across the country by 2021. More types of air traffic controller messages will be available, including the ability to simultaneously reroute multiple aircraft around severe weather.

Data Comm is an essential part of a wider FAA goal of knowing where aircraft will be at any given time as quick, accurate, and precise message delivery will help to adjust traffic flow for maximum efficiency.

Economically, Data Comm is expected to save operators more than $10 billion over the 30-year life cycle of the program and the FAA about $1 billion in future operating costs.

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How does modernization improve operations in air traffic control towers?

NextGen is working to streamline operations in air traffic control towers at busy airports through a variety of improvements. Data Communications in the tower enables swift and clear delivery of departure clearance instructions to pilots in equipped aircraft. Another major effort is the Terminal Flight Data Manager (TFDM) being developed and deployed under a Lockheed Martin contract awarded in June 2016.

Among the improvements it ushers in, TFDM will provide air traffic controllers improved surface management tools to better monitor aircraft and ground vehicles at gates, on taxiways, and on runways for safety.

Electronic flight strips are another major advancement. Controllers will no longer need to physically carry paper flight strips detailing an aircraft's flight information across the room to other controllers. A swipe of a finger or click of a mouse sends flight data to another station.

Prototype electronic flight strips have been implemented in the Phoenix and Cleveland towers. TFDM is expected to start operating at Phoenix in 2020, with 88 more sites to follow.

Learn more about how NextGen Decision Support Systems are helping controllers maximize efficiency and reduce delays across the country.

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Do general aviation pilots really need ADS-B?

You really do need Automatic Dependent Surveillance–Broadcast (ADS-B) if you want to fly in most controlled U.S. airspace starting January 1, 2020. The FAA has made it clear that the 2020 deadline for ADS-B installations will not change.

ADS-B Out is the minimal equipage level that broadcasts more-precise location information about an aircraft than a regular transponder. ADS-B In provides pilots additional safety information, such as the same traffic and weather display observed by air traffic controllers.

ADS-B can be a lifesaver for pilots. Consider this July 2016 article from the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association:

"[A]n AOPA eBrief poll asked readers, 'Have you ever had a close call but averted a collision because you had traffic information from ADS-B In equipment?' Nearly 3,000 readers responded to the nonscientific survey, and 456 — about 15 percent — replied in the affirmative. Many of these early ADS-B adopters ... are enthusiastic about ADS-B traffic."

"ADS-B In is going to greatly increase your situational awareness and enhance your personal safety," Ken Byrnes, flight training department chairman and an associate professor of aeronautical science at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Florida, told AOPA.

"I have plenty of examples showing where it has saved lives," he added.

ADS-B In provides unprecedented levels of situational awareness for general aviation pilots. Pilots see what air traffic controllers see — all the aircraft in their immediate airspace. The traffic picture displayed in the cockpit of ADS-B In-equipped aircraft includes position information provided by air-to-air reception or relay from the ground. The once-per-second ADS-B Out broadcast rate is not only automatic, it also depends on equipment on the aircraft for air traffic surveillance.

Compared to radar, which was authorized for its first civilian use in 1947, ADS-B gives controllers a more accurate picture of all the aircraft in their airspace and works where radar often doesn't — even in remote or mountainous areas. With a better view of the traffic they are managing, controllers can eliminate wasted space between aircraft, which increases airspace capacity and decreases the need for holding patterns.

With ADS-B, pilots and controllers see highly accurate traffic images. These images update in real time and don't degrade with distance or terrain. Pilots with access to this information will be able to safely fly closer to other aircraft, and they'll need less assistance from air traffic controllers.

Have more questions about ADS-B? Check out the ADS-B FAQ.

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How can I ask a question about airspace modernization?

This FAQ page answers many common questions about NextGen's ongoing rollout. The full NextGen site offers more explanation on many facets of our research, development, and deployment plans.

If you have another modernization question that you think should be added to this page, email it to

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