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United States Department of TransportationUnited States Department of Transportation

Key Programs

These NextGen innovations enable the transformation of air traffic management operations.

Trajectory Based Operations (TBO)

Trajectory Based Operations, the long-term goal of NextGen, is an air traffic management method for strategically planning, managing, and optimizing flights throughout the operation. It relies on information exchange between air and ground systems, the aircraft's ability to fly precise paths, and time-based management. It results in a unified flow that will improve predictability, efficiency, throughput, and flexibility, where operations are easier to manage and we best use available capacity in our nation's skies.

Phases of TBO

The FAA is implementing TBO in four phases: infrastructure and initial, full, and dynamic TBO. After successfully deploying infrastructure to support TBO, initial TBO begins to integrate NextGen operational changes and capabilities for specific geographic areas. The FAA selected the Northeast Corridor, the nation's busiest airspace, as the first region. The next deployment will extend it to the Northwest Mountain (Denver focus) and Mid-Atlantic (Atlanta focus) regions. Transition to full and dynamic TBO will be evolutionary, with benefits increasing as TBO is introduced across the nation.

Change Management

TBO changes how we operate and will require new skill sets for controllers, managers, pilots, and dispatchers. The FAA plans on managing change by focusing on five key areas: leadership mobilization, stakeholder engagement, communication, training/education, and organization/workforce alignment. A holistic, human-centric approach is necessary to promote new set of skills needed for TBO while employees stay proficient with conventional techniques.

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Data Communications (Data Comm)

Controller Pilot Data Link Communications or Data Comm uses typed digital messages to supplement voice communications between air traffic controllers and pilots. Used initially on the ground for departure clearances, the capability is expanding for aircraft in flight. The FAA expects Data Comm to save operators more than $10 billion during the program's 30-year lifecycle, while the FAA will save about $1 billion in future operating costs.

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Performance Based Navigation (PBN)

Performance Based Navigation (PBN) moves through airspace that varies depending on equipage, navigational aids, and pilot training. Performance standards for certain airspace are conveyed to pilots through navigation specifications published by the FAA that identify the aircraft avionics and choice of ground- or satellite-based navigation aids that may be used to meet performance requirements. PBN allows equipped aircraft to fly shorter and more efficient flight paths, which reduce fuel consumption and engine exhaust emissions while improving the ability to stay on schedule.

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Automatic Dependent Surveillance–Broadcast (ADS-B) In and Out

Automatic Dependent Surveillance–Broadcast (ADS-B) uses satellite technology instead of radar to identify and monitor aircraft. Aircraft in most airspace served by air traffic control is required to be equipped to send ADS-B information, and they have the option to equip also to receive broadcasts. Among its benefits, pilots and air traffic controllers can see the same real-time display of air traffic, which increases situational awareness for improved safety.

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Decision Support System (DSS) Automation

Air traffic controllers use three Decision Support Systems to optimize traffic flow across the National Airspace System.

  • Traffic Flow Management System is the primary automation system used by the Air Traffic Control System Command Center and nationwide traffic management units to regulate air traffic flow, manage throughput, and plan for future air traffic demand.
  • Time Based Flow Management is a system that allows traffic management units to schedule and optimize the arrival load for major airports by using time instead of distance.
  • Terminal Flight Data Manager supports airport decisions by integrating flight, surface surveillance, and traffic management information using System Wide Information Management.

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System Wide Information Management (SWIM)

System Wide Information Management is the NextGen digital data-sharing platform. Producers can publish non-sensitive data once, and approved consumers can access aeronautical, flight, surveillance, and weather data through a single connection. Sharing current, relevant, reliable, and consistent information on demand allows for faster responses to changes in weather, traffic, and other factors.

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NextGen weather harnesses computing power, forecasting advances, translation of weather information into airspace constraints, and modernized information management services. With this combination, NextGen Weather can tailor National Airspace System aviation weather products, helping controllers and operators develop reliable flight plans, make better decisions, and improve on-time performance.

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Other Improvements

Some NextGen changes involve only new FAA policies and procedures that improve efficiency or increase capacity. Wake recategorization is revising wake turbulence separation standards to increase airport capacity, which reduces delays. Low-visibility operations can be improved through enhanced or synthetic flight vision systems to sustain operations through less-than-ideal conditions.

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Every new capability is implemented after being approved for safety. The FAA manages NextGen-unique safety risks during research and development, prototyping, testing and evaluation, and flight trials and demonstrations. Resources are available to access centralized safety information for insight into overall safety risks.

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Environment and Energy

One goal of NextGen is to reduce the environmental effect of aviation while sustaining growth. The FAA and aviation community are developing alternative jet fuels to reduce emissions, and for piston-engine aircraft, an unleaded gasoline substitute. They are also involved in making certifiable aircraft and engines that are quieter and consume less fuel, lowering emissions.

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