Performance Reporting and Benefits
NextGen is vital to ensuring the National Airspace System (NAS) safely accommodates air traffic growth and new types of aircraft, as well as protecting aviation's essential role for Americans and the U.S. economy.
Improvements from new NextGen technologies, capabilities, and procedures realize benefits in safety, efficiency, and capacity. The benefits graphic below highlights the total benefits measured from more than 20 NextGen capabilities through more than 200 implementations across the nation. Fuel savings can also be equivalent to reducing carbon dioxide emissions.
*Per DOT guidance, the FAA values benefits using not only aircraft operating cost savings, but also passenger travel time savings.
Achieved Benefits by Year by Type
Of the estimated $9.5 billion in accrued benefits to the airlines and flying public, the graph below depicts the amount of benefits accrued each year from 2010 to 2022 by type of benefit.
NextGen continued to deliver benefits during COVID but at lower levels due to the drop in flights and congestion.
Many NextGen benefits result from improving a system under stress and experiencing a delay. Airline flights during early COVID sank to unprecedented levels, which resulted in dramatically reduced delays. NextGen implemented capabilities are focused on improving the NAS when demand approaches limited capacities across the system. NextGen’s value is greater when demand is high, and as demand grows in the future, the value of NextGen programs will grow exponentially.
NextGen benefits have been measured in detail since 2010 and accrue each year. They are calculated by analyzing performance before and after implementing NextGen capabilities. Once a detailed evaluation is completed after implementation these benefits are continued into future years if the systems and/or procedures remain in use by controllers and pilots. As with the impacts of COVID annual benefit adjustments are made for changes in demand.
In 2016, the FAA started examining many of these benefits in partnership with the industry through the Joint Analysis Team (JAT) under the NextGen Advisory Committee (NAC).
The JAT was created to increase the transparency of benefit estimates and come to an agreement on benefit values and measurement methodology. The NAC has committed to using the JAT to evaluate specific capabilities in the NextGen Priorities Joint Implementation Plan at select locations.
Key capabilities evaluated by the JAT include:
- Controller pilot data link communications (Data Communications) tower service
- Performance Based Navigation standard terminal arrival procedures with optimized profile descents
- North Texas Metroplex redesign
- Established on required navigation performance
- Time Based Flow Management’s en route departure capability and integrated departure/arrival capability
- Simultaneous converging instrument approaches
- Wake recategorization
The FAA has gained industry understanding and trust through the JAT for our post-operational benefit methodology. The one benefit not necessarily used as a meaningful measure of benefits by the airline community is the valuation of passenger travel time. Per Department of Transportation guidance, the FAA applies passenger travel time savings to projected flight delay savings.
Beyond the JAT, the FAA has completed post-operational benefit analyses using JAT methodologies for more than 10 capabilities across 60 sites.
Not all NextGen implementations produce measurable benefits, and some have proven too difficult to quantify. For example, shared data from System Wide Information Management has produced a new industry to third-party data analysis in support of airlines. Learn where these and other capabilities have been implemented at an airport near you.
These are the categories measured to determine NextGen benefits:
- Gate departure delay
- Taxi-out time
- Arrival performance
- Flight time, including predictability
- Completion factor
- Fuel burn
Delay savings result from measured changes in throughput (measure of capacity) or shorter routes. Higher fuel savings derive from improved flight profiles. To compare before and after NextGen implementations, calculating these measures requires “normalization” for changes in demand, weather, and runway configurations.
Normalizations for demand have been a key success for the JAT and agreeing on performance changes associated directly with NextGen implementations. As demand in a time period increases, so will associated delay. We can estimate the delay associated with changes to levels of demand during the day and then compare performance to similar demand periods. During the COVID-19 pandemic, delays plummeted with the demand, and this change was clearly not driven by NextGen capabilities. Weather and runway configurations also impact delays. With NextGen, we have tools to improve capacity in lower ceilings and visibility, sometimes only in specific runway configurations. With normalization, we can attribute performance improvements to NextGen’s capabilities.
Some NextGen programs, like new Required Navigation Performance procedures, provide benefits even in low demand with shorter routes.
Cumulative Benefits Of Early NextGen Improvements
Communication, Navigation, and Surveillance are the sources for nearly $5.3 billion in benefits. Automation accounts for about $2.3 billion, and separation takes credit for an estimated $1.9 billion.
The chart above highlights NextGen benefits accrued by year and segregated into three capability groups: communication, navigation and surveillance; automation; and separation.
Benefits measured after implementation continue to accumulate in subsequent years. The cumulative increases result from continued benefits from previous implementations plus new implementations.
Total achieved benefits measured thus far represent key implementations. Learn about achieved benefits by year and type or by domain of the capabilities measured, and capabilities the FAA measures as part of NextGen performance reporting.
Total achieved benefits measured thus far represent key implementations but are only a portion of the expected future benefits. Implemented capabilities to date will continue to produce benefits, and more recent implementations like En route DataComm will support additional benefit increases. As measurable capabilities expand and mature on the NextGen infrastructure, future benefits are expected to continue to grow annually. These include NextGen’s contributions to reducing carbon dioxide emissions.
The pandemic delayed the complex choreography of engineering, ongoing recurrent and new training for air traffic controllers, and program management assets necessary to expand NextGen capabilities. The FAA has reduced activities that are not directly tied to safely operating the NAS. With budget challenges, training and infrastructure replacements, new implementations will be less than pre-COVID planning. But still, benefits continue to accrue and will increase as air traffic re-emerges and FAA implementation activities fully resume.
Industry is also facing financial challenges with equipping fleets, an essential component to realizing NextGen benefits. With the NAC, stakeholders are engaging on the best steps forward. Information sharing is continually improving transparency and decision-making.
The underlying basis for NextGen improvements to the NAS remains firm, and benefits projections are closely linked to implementation and equipage schedules as well as returning demand. The FAA continues working with industry to form a consensus on NextGen enhancements’ data, methodologies, and value. This work influences how we prioritize future implementations to maximize benefits.