Today, the foundation and enabling elements of a modern aviation infrastructure are in place and delivering benefits. Born from an inspired vision of a National Airspace System (NAS) for the 21st century, and empowered through collaboration with the aviation community, NextGen enabled the rebuilding of our aging infrastructure into a system that is prepared to accommodate new technologies, new entrants, and a broader transformation, including our long-term goal of Trajectory Based Operations (TBO).
Before NextGen, the technological elements enabling the management of the NAS limited its function and contributed to inefficiencies. Air traffic controllers and pilots communicated primarily by voice, which was immediate but time-consuming and prone to errors. Aviation routes and procedures followed earth-based infrastructure, which was less direct and more time-consuming. Our radar surveillance was less precise and limited by geographic barriers and blind spots at lower altitudes. Air traffic control was reactive and primarily focused on a specific area rather than a unified national flow. Information services from disparate producers relied on fixed network connections and custom, point-to-point, application-level interfaces, which increased dependence among systems and reduced collaboration.
Now, Data Comm supplements voice communication providing air traffic controllers and pilots with the ability to quickly and accurately send and receive digital text-like messages. Aircraft positioning accuracy has increased with the advent of GPS as a navigation sensor so that flight paths can be created and specific aircraft procedures flown without relying on ground-based navigation aids. Automatic Dependent Surveillance–Broadcast enables aircraft to broadcast position, speed, and other surveillance data every second, enabling safer and more efficient flying. Decision Support Systems enable a proactive, strategic, national flow of air traffic that is more responsive and efficient. System Wide Information Management (SWIM) offers a single point of access for aviation data that reduces implementation and operating costs and creates collaboration opportunities that address some of aviation's most complex problems.
The NextGen transformation is on course. Airspace users realize early benefits from modernization. Through Nextgen, the FAA has improved the important functions of managing our national airspace. Communications, navigation, surveillance, automation, and information management are now modern, 21st century activities, working toward our vision of managing air traffic more strategically through Trajectory Based Operations.
Read more about where we are today in the NextGen Report.